I was driving out of the parking lot of a thai restaurant in a sketchy part of town when my son asked from the backseat, “Mom, will you always love me?”

This is not the first time he has asked this, and it won’t be the last, but it’s a tweak to the heart all the same. We have a routine, and he likes the reassurance. He needs the reassurance.

“Jax, I will always, always love you.”
“Every day?”
“Every second of every minute of every day.”

When he asks this, I know he’s feeling unstable. He knows I love him, but sometimes his place in the world feels tenuous, insecure, not permanent. This is not unusual in kids who were adopted at an older age.

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a quivering lip. His eyes met mine and he nodded his head up and down, like he was willing himself to feel better.

I pulled over by the overflowing dumpster, put the car in park and got out. Kicking away some trash, I walked to the backseat and hopped in.

“Hi, Mom.”
“Hi, Jax.”
“I could use a hug, Mom.”
“OK, little man.”


Years ago, I went to Rome and saw St. Peter’s Basilica.  My travel companions were climbing a claustrophobic staircase, and instead of following them, I went back inside the church and eavesdropped in the back of a tour group. The guide was so intelligent, so knowledgable about every detail, so specific. But at one point, off to the side by a small area of pews, the guide stopped talking and turned to face the group. He waited several seconds, and then quietly, so you really had to listen, told us how easy it was to find beauty in this church. It was simple, effortless. Beauty overtook you in every single glance and in every single angle. We all looked around. It was truly breathtaking. Then the guide asked, “But can we find beauty when it’s not apparent? When it isn’t easy? When it’s dingy and dirty and cold?” I don’t remember anything about this trip as well as I remember this moment.

I keep this memory with me because this is adoption. Adopting a child is finding something beautiful in something tragic.

I think about Jax’s birth mother frequently, a woman I know nothing about. I know she was pregnant with my son, I know she felt his kicks and his turns. I know she got bigger and bigger until her pregnancy was on display. I know she started labor and that she delivered a child. And I know she ended up empty and without him.

There is such tremendous sadness in that story.

Today, eight years later and six thousand miles away, I was sitting in the backseat of my running car, parked next to an overflowing dumpster in the parking lot of a thai restaurant in a sketchy part of town. I was hugging my child tightly, and he was hugging me tightly in return.

“Mom, you will always, always love me.”
“Jax, I will always, always love you.”

It was dingy and dirty and cold. And so very, very beautiful.