When we were waiting to become family to Zinashi, we received photos from a traveling family that showed our girl wearing a hooded sweatshirt that was clearly too small for her, so much so that she couldn't lower her arms all the way to her sides. Yet she it was clear she insisted on keeping the hood up. It was her thing, that hood. But seeing her in a hoodie that was clearly too small for her made my mama heart ache, and I set out immediately after receiving those photos. She would have a hoodie, her very own hoodie, and by golly, it would fit.
It was July then, hardly the right time to shop for warm clothing in a city that was in the middle of the hottest part of the year, but I knew that there would be some store, somewhere that would be chomping at the bit to get their back to school line out, and so I went to several stores until I found it, a grey hooded sweatshirt that buttoned up, with a little bit of gathering at the waist to make it feminine. On the day we met Zinashi, I took it from my bag so she could try it on, and once it was on, she refused to take it off.
She took many naps in that jacket, sweating but determined, often with the hood up. It was hers. All hers. And she loved it. It was a sad day when she outgrew it, but it is hers forever, never to become a hand-me-down, lovingly placed in her memory box, with a note about why it is special tucked in with it.
I'm pretty sure I knew I was sunk he first time I looked into those sad, serious eyes. She had lost so much - everything, really - and in my heart what I wanted was to give her something back, knowing that it wouldn't make up for the hard road behind and ahead of her, but that at least it could give her some measure of delight in a world that seemed utterly broken. To this day, it is one of my favorite things to surprise her with something she will love, or to give her the satisfaction of experiencing something that she's waited for.
Which is a big part of why we are going to London and Nice at the end of September. The trip is for all of us, but I'm not sure we would have taken it had it not been for Zinashi. Shortly after we returned from Ethiopia last summer, she started to play at traveling, showing up in the living room with a suitcase packed, announcing that guess what? We were already on a plane on the way to London. Over and over again, she acted this out, and I found that I wanted more than anything to make another trip a reality for her. I know that probably sounds silly or indulgent to some. But it's so much bigger than that.
This past year, Zinashi has done some of her hardest work, at the same time that she was taking the fall for her baby sister over and over again. So much of what made this past year work was her sacrifice and willingness to be a helper to Elvie and to us. She loves Elvie deeply. It is an honor to be her mother, to see how tender and kind and caring she is.
And so we are taking this trip, for all of us, but thanks to Zinashi. We've all worked hard this year, but I think she's worked hardest. She earned this trip for all of us. And if there is anything I can do to delight her heart, I will do it.