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I have the sort of mind that wants to explain this one, but I can’t.

We adopted a little girl six years ago this week.  She was 11 months old.   We’d had a picture of her for six weeks; a tiny, tentative, unsmiling creature.  Gaze averted from the camera.

Developmentally, she hadn’t had a lot of stimulation in her first year and she wasn’t particularly active.   She’d cried for four hours straight but fell silent when she was placed in my arms for the first time.  Mostly she was still, now and then uttering a thin, “hnnnn.  .  .

But she stared at us, hard, as if she was trying to remember something.

We bathed her and fed her.  We admired her and crooned to her and played with her toes.  I was out of my mind thrilled, but there was something else I wanted to know.  It wasn’t about bonding; I bonded the first time I held her.  So what was it?

In the meantime I was waiting for her to smile.   So we played and I waited.  She muttered some thin complaints.

It took a day or two, when suddenly one joyous morning she smiled at a game we were playing.  Instantly I had my answer.

Oh, I thought.  It’s YOU.  Oh my God.

I knew her; she was completely familiar and the smile confirmed it.  Instantly all the colors and shapes filled in and the picture was complete.

What picture?

For days I tried to make sense of everything:  our decision to adopt, the phenomenon of being matched to this child, the way she studied our faces, her trust .  .  . Everything had the quality of a dream.  To me it was like swimming to the bottom of a deep lake to find a jewel.   I’d probably never find it but the longing was intense and I was reluctant to come up for air.

Our friend Scott has two children adopted from the same country.   He’s a techie and a financial wizard, but curiously intuitive too.  He put it another way.  When he looked around the group of a dozen families and their new children he realized with a start:  he and his wife couldn’t have been matched with any baby but the one he was holding.

How clairvoyance works, recognizing someone you’ve never met, the nature of a power greater than us–all of it asks that you swim for the jewel.  You’re not likely to find it, but maybe in our flat, black-and-white world, maybe the search is where the beauty lies.

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