When we arrived in D.C., we were thrilled to step onto U.S. soil for two reasons: 1) that meant we were finally home and 2) our son automatically became a U.S. citizen! We obtained a visa for him that allowed him to achieve citizenship upon arrival. Horray! To celebrate, we went to Dunkin Donuts and got a patriotic red, white, and blue rasberry-filled donut in the shape of a star in our nations capital! Doesn't get much better than that. Unfortunately, Zane hated the donut and spit it out. Oh well. I guess some American customs are better to leave behind, and donuts are definitely one of them.
After a 3 hour layover and lots of walking around the airport to stretch our legs, we boarded a small jet to New Orleans. We were surprised and delighted to receive first class seating thanks to a generous ticketer who appreciated our choice to adopt. We enjoyed the extra leg room and space for Zane to move!
We were greeted in New Orleans by one of the best looking greeting crews I've ever seen. As we passed through the gate to the waiting area, the three of us fist pumped (Zane style) and cheered, "Yay, yay, yay!" Of course, Zane had no idea that the crowd huddled in front of us was cheering back for him! I think he was surprised to get such a loud "YAY!" in response. After hugging both sets of grandparents who (thankfully) traveled from Houston to see us arrive, Jon, Anna and Eli Palmer greeted Zane with a new toy car. The Simon's kids held posters with greetings for Zane, and many of our church family and community showered us with hugs and kisses. It was the most wonderful homecoming I've ever experienced, and it was made even sweeter by the friends and family who came to meet our new son. Almost immediately, Zane wanted to get down and play with the other children there. He ran around with the boys, while the girls touched his face and gave him kisses. Every once in a while he glanced up and ran to Mark or me to let us know he still knew who he belonged to. It was during this time that I realized how far Zane had come in the last two weeks we spent together as a family in Ethiopia. He knew who Mommy and Daddy were, and he knew that as long as we were around, he was safe. It felt good to watch him light up and run to us, yet still be comfortable enough to play with the other children. We were truly amazed. We were able to talk and catch up with our friends and family for quite a while before getting our luggage and heading home...
Home...well that's another story. It turns out the issues we thought we were going home to were not nearly as bad as we invisioned them. Our neighbor aired out our car, and the smell from the water was gone. What we originally thought was rising water in the car, was actually just a leak in the sunroof. This is much easier to fix, and it's a lot less damaging to the vehicle. The ceiling that had fallen in due to an air conditioning leak was re-dry-walled and looked clean. The only remnant of the ceiling disaster was the smell of drywall and paint. We were so thankful that the situations with our house were not as big of a deal as we thought they were.
Despite the corrections to the house, Mark, Zane, and I spent one night in the house we thought would be our home upon returning to the United States. During the time that I was in Ethiopia, Mark took a new job with Hess Corporation. Originally, we thought we might be able to spend a week or two as a family in New Orleans, say our goodbyes, and gradually move to Houston. However, the one or two weeks we planned to spend as a family in New Orleans was spent in Addis Ababa waiting on embassy. Therefore, the next morning, our families arrived early at our house to pack and clean our house and get it ready to sell. By 1:00 p.m., our house looked professionally cleaned and staged, and we were on the road caravaning to Houston.
It's funny how things never go as planned, but they always turn out better than expected. What I thought was a delay in embassy clearance really was treasured time Mark and I had with Zane with no distractions in his birth-country. It was beautiful memories in places we never would have gone to otherwise, like the gorge or even the bakery up the street. What we think is disaster in our lives, like the leak in the ceiling or the flooding of our new car, were not really issues at all in the end. We got new drywall out of the deal and the assurance that our air conditioning is now in good selling condition. Our plan to say our goodbyes in New Orleans, while it would be nice for us to hang on to the way things were, really may have been more difficult for Zane, as he would have had to adjust twice to a new home, surroundings, and people. Now, we are all adjusting together to a new city, new apartment, and life as a family. We're all on an equal playing field so to speak. We're relying on each other and discovering new places together.
I don't know what the future holds for us here. A new house? New friends? New church? But one thing I have learned from this experience. Home is where family is. Whether in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, New Orleans, Louisiana, or Houston, TX, we've been home all along because we're together.