After our second meeting at ESWS we had one full day with the big kids before we were scheduled to take custody of YH. We decided we would spend that day doing exactly what the big kids wanted--sort of a last hurrah before it all got real. Really, really real.
Which is how we ended up spending a very long, expensive and surreal day at Lotte World, a GIANT amusement park inside a mall.
So, we returned home very poor and very tired. Some of us fell asleep on the subway. Not naming names.
And after we tucked the snoozy littles into their beds, Sean and I looked at each other and thought, "WHAT.THE.WHAT." One more sleep until we take custody of YH! One more!
And that one more sleep was hard to come by. Nerves. Worries. Anticipation. All of it.
The next morning my mom watched the kids for a few hours so that Sean and I could make a run to Lotte Mart to buy food items that we thought YH might enjoy.
Rice. Gim (dried seaweed laver). Tiny little yogurt drinks in impossibly wee bottles. Shrimp chips. Small buns in a bag.
(And a packet of Tim-Tams for me. Because, hello! Tim-tams!!!)
And we got frustrated and sweaty and snippy with one another.
"I don't *know* where we should get a coffee from--just pick someplace!!!!"
"Ugh--*this* place? No, no it's fine."
(Both of the above were me. I'm awesome.)
We made it back to the hotel with enough time to unpack our purchases, shower, and put on clean clothes to wear to ESWS. Nana came back to the room to watch the big kids again, and Sean and I set out.
With each footfall my mood changed.
I am so excited!
This is horrible, what are we doing????
I can't wait to hold him!
Ugh, I feel sooooo guilty.
I am so sooooo excited!
That poor little boy's heart is going to break.
And so on.
Until yet again, we were in front of the building where our lives would change. Where the S family's life would change. Where YH's life would change.
We walked in and immediately saw Mrs. S. She was smiling and waving at us all while trying to round up YH, who was running like mad around the offices on the first floor. He came over to us and we hugged him and Mrs. S, and then she introduced us to her daughter--a university student who loves YH very much. I hugged her too and told her how happy we were to meet her.
We gave Mrs. S flowers that we had purchased on the way over. We knew she wasn't taking a new foster baby home with her that day and we wanted her arms to be filled with beauty on the sad return trip to her now empty apartment.
She showed us a little backpack she had filled with YH's favorite toys, his hanbok (lovingly packed away in special wrappings), and a photo album filled with pictures from his life with them. And a wand, loaded with thousands more images and videos.
That's when I first started to cry.
As we talked YH moved easily among us. He smiled at Sean and I and would lean against us. We brought a small Pororo football with us and he delighted in throwing that around the waiting area.
Slowly, the room filled with the three other adoptive families taking custody of their children that day.
Across from me a Korean business man in a three piece suit held a little girl in a super-frilly dress with bows carefully arranged in her shiny black hair. He wept into her shoulder as she looked around the room at all the commotion.
Next to him stood a foster family with a little boy. The foster mother held her charge one last time, while the high-school aged foster sister stood by her side--tears streaming down her face, shoulders hunched.
Our social worker came over to tell us that a staff member would say a prayer over all the children and families, and then we would leave--a van was waiting for us out back.
"Now??? This is happening now?"
By chance, YH leaned over from Mrs. S' arms in the middle of the prayer. He reached out to me and I took him in my grasp just before the staff member said "Amen".
Mrs. Shin leaned in and said, "Go. Out the back. Go now."
And I turned to Mrs. S and her daughter with a bewildered look on my face. Surely, I should say something. Surely, our parting wouldn't be this abrasive.
Mrs. S was crying. She was worried YH would have a hard time falling asleep that night. She pressed a box of his favorite cookies into our hands.
We tried to express our gratitude to her one more time. We were hurried towards the exit of the building.
YH didn't look back.
And then, there we were in the parking lot. The driver loaded the three of us into his van. YH perched on my lap, oblivious. I nervously fed a steady stream of cookies into his mouth. He moved into Sean's lap and looked out the window at the city.
I held my breath, waiting for the screaming to begin at each new transition. Now, when we get out of the van and go into the hotel. It will happen now.
Ok, now. Now when we get into the elevator.
Now, now when we enter our hotel room.
The screaming didn't come. The screaming was put aside in favor of exploring every nook and cranny of our hotel room. Of playing with every toy, and chasing after Miss A and Sweet Bubs.
The screaming didn't come.
As night fell our son began to realize the permanency of the situation. This was no play date. He dug through the tiny backpack that Mrs. S had sent. He searched until he found a toy microphone, something we had sent in a care package months earlier. It plays music but it also has a feature where you can record your voice and play it back.
YH took his orange plastic microphone into a corner and hit "play". Mrs. S' voice, made tinny by the device, came to life.
As soon as he heard her voice he leaned in closer, a serious and sad look on his face.
He listened so carefully to her words, muttering "Ne" (yes) to himself, and to the disembodied voice of his foster mother.
He listened once all the way through. He didn't take his eyes of the microphone.
He hit play again.