It feels momentous. Big. A milestone year. So much older than four. A big girl, now, doing big girl things.

(It’s strange to think of you this way, as five. Stranger, still, to write to you. Presumptuous, perhaps. But it helps, somehow, to remember you today.)

I’ve thought of you more often than I normally do, these past few days, with your birthday looming near.

Yesterday, for instance, as I was putting fresh sheets on Katie’s bed. My glance caught the other twin bed in her room, the one that, for now, serves as a home for her cache of stuffed animals, and I had a sudden vision of you. There. In that bed, playing and laughing, sliding right into this family as the oldest sister, Katie and Abby following your lead.

It isn’t that simple. I know this. My vision for what might have been errs toward the rosy, toward the beautiful, though I’m well aware of the inherent loss of adoption, of the pain present even in the best of situations. Your presence here, your life with us, would certainly have changed our family, would have changed you – in a multitude of ways, both good and difficult – more than the picture in my head allows.

Would you have been happy and healthy, here in this home, with these parents, with these sisters? I believed you would be. I believed it with everything in me. It was so clear, so black and white back then. So easy.

I’d still like to think you’d have flourished here, with us. I stand by the decisions we made five years ago: we were acting in love, as best we knew how.

But the story’s no longer so simple to me as it once was.

Just last night, Jonathan talked about the way his thinking has changed over time: “It’s become more nuanced. That’s a part of growing as an adult.” He spoke of political views, but it applies here, too.

It’s complex, this building of families in this broken and hurting world, when things are not always what they should be. Adoption is a second-best choice, a potentially good and beautiful answer to a desperate situation – but it is not the ideal.

You’d have had love and security, here in this home, here in this community. I know this without a doubt. But the loss of your birth family, the separation from your heritage and those who look like you – what would those have done to you? Does your extended family give you those things – the love, the security, the belonging- in ways I didn’t see back then because they were different from my own two-parent experience?

I don’t know.

There’s so much I don’t know.

I don’t even know why I’m saying all of this here, now, except that it’s been in my heart and on my mind lately. You’ve been in my heart and on my mind.

I do know this: I loved you. I only ever acted out of a desire, in the best of my limited understanding, to do right by you.

I love you still, as much as it’s possible for me to love somebody I don’t know anymore.

Happy fifth birthday, sweetheart. May you be surrounded by family today. May you experience God’s presence in your life. May you know you are deeply, deeply loved.

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