When I was waiting to travel to meet Zinashi for the first time, I saw a necklace that I thought embodied what I felt about meeting her. It was a starburst design, with the word “joy” inscribed on it, with the inscribed side meant to be worn against the skin, as if absorbing joy. But the budget was tight with so many travel expenses looming, so I decided not to get it. My mom, knowing I wanted it, gave it to me as a gift, and I ended up wearing it to travel to Zinashi, and then on the day we met. The sentiment that necklace expressed did indeed end up being true, and the joy I felt becoming a mother was unmatched by any other joy I’d had in my life to that point.
Shortly after we brought Zinashi home with us from Ethiopia, I entered an online giveaway for a beautiful little necklace. At first glance, it was plain, but held to the light, it sparkled, and the meaning of each stone included – one visible at the front and two attached at the clasp – spoke of adventure and a journey and good things to come. From the moment it arrived in the mail and I slipped it on my neck, I knew it was the necklace I was to wear to wait for my next baby. I had no idea who she was or when she would come, but every time I wore the necklace, I thought of her and said a prayer that she would be kept safe until we could get to her. On the day we met Elvie at last, I was wearing that necklace, along with the one I wore when meeting Zinashi. But there was a separate reason I was wearing my Zinashi necklace, and I knew I would wear Elvie’s necklace again someday for the same reason.
One week after we met Elvie, we invited Zinashi’s family to Addis Ababa to spend some time with Zinashi and with us as a family. I had no idea the very first time I put on that starburst necklace that it wasn’t destined to remain mine, but it wasn’t. I knew as I packed for our trip to adopt Elvie that I wanted to put the necklace that had carried me to the joy of motherhood around the neck of a person whose heart must ache every time she thinks of the one sweet face that is so far away. So I wore that necklace again as I traveled to Ethiopia, this time to give as a gift to a special member of Zinashi’s family. I know that the necklace itself does not hold joy, but it is my wish for Zinashi’s family that, even in her absence, they feel the joy that she brings just by being in the world and being herself.
And so I plan to do the same with the necklace I wore to meet Elvie. Someday in the not-too-distant future, I’ll get on a plane with my daughters, and we’ll land in Ethiopia, ready to visit the family that waits to see our sweet Elvie in good health. I’ll be wearing that second necklace, and my shaking hands will clasp it around the neck of the person who gave up a daughter so that daughter would have a chance to live. I’ll tell her thank you, and I’ll know that this small token is truly the least I can do to thank her for what she did for Elvie and for our family.
The truth is that I am lucky whether or not I have a particular necklace around my neck. Every day I get to see my daughters grow stronger and more beautiful. These necklaces gave me something tangible to hold onto until I could see my babies’ faces. I hope that, in some small way, they will do the same for their Ethiopian families in between the times we can be nearby, that by having these small treasures, they’ll be reminded that we treasure their daughters and will not forget where they came from and who gave them their beginnings.