April Showers–Third Place Winner
We drive home in the rain. It’s still new to me, to see you wiggling in your carseat in the back row of our pollen-covered red Subaru. It’s a shock, still, to know that after years of longing and tears, you’re mine to care for. At least for now.
We’ve spent the day at my parent’s house, where my mother is immobilized on the couch with a back ache. She sleeps, mostly, and takes phone calls about how she is feeling. When she wakes, she peeks over at you and comments on your health and your sweet features, big round eyes, curls and coils that spill over your forehead already. But, it’s just me and you, really, like most days at home. You’re overtired from the drive here but eventually you melt down into my arms; your toes give a last little wave and then you sleep soundly. When it is time to leave, I realize we’re too late to beat the rain. The sky is sheathed in gray and it’s darker outside than it should be. I hurry to ready you and worry that I haven’t given you enough time to settle, to adjust to your seat for a long ride facing backwards. I give you one last smile before I turn the key and reverse down the driveway into the rain.
The tapping of raindrops comes on suddenly, but the rain is gentle for a time. I think of the day you were placed in my arms, in a conference room, of all places. It was a stunning bolt of love, to suddenly feel the little weight of you in my arms. Days later, we learned more about your first family, that they were heartbroken to see you taken away from them. They would fight for you. We would not fight back.
Simply, we would love you through the storm.
The sky darkens now. I look ahead, and like a small creature, I long for shelter. To curl up with you in a den of our own making. To hold you, warm and dry, forever. To hide you from the rain and never let you go. But we must drive on, darling. My fingers tight on the steering wheel, I gently push the gas and pray for sun, though I’ve learned on the road to you that many prayers will go unanswered. In exchange, an unexpected gift. A rainbow, a little baby boy wrapped in white on a cool March day.
We drive on and you seem to settle in to watch the slate gray sky empty out onto the glass in front of you. Your eyes follow the splashes and you are calm. The rain grows strong but you are stronger. I will keep you safe, but you, you will teach me not to fear the storm clouds, to feel at home in the rain.
Cristi Donoso Best (@whalesfordays) is a foster mother and speech therapist for children. She lives in Virginia with her husband and an exuberant little boy.