I finally started on Cava's Adoption Lifebook after months of putting it off. There were the excuses I made for myself (i.e. I'm not a craftsy sort of person), but the fact of the matter was, I knew I would have trouble writing in simple terms the story (or the few details we know of it) of how Cava ended up an orphan. Indeed, it broke my heart to write about how his single mother, who was too poor to keep him, put him in the baby house and of the years he spent in the system. He went from baby house to orphanage and, finally, to the boarding school where we met him. We know very little details about his parents and even those are rumors and speculation.
When I got all of the materials out to start the Lifebook, Cava was over-the-moon thrilled that I was. "This for me?" he asked and when I explained that it would be a book about his life and how he would have this when he was a Papa to show his wife and kids, Cava kissed me, kissed the book, and tears of joy welled up in his eyes. "Thank you, Papa. Thank you."
Sitting down at our kitchen table, I started. As I began to assemble and create the first few pages, Cava came in and stood right beside me, putting his hand on my arm. He looked at what I was doing and smiled. "Good job, Papa."
The first page is a map of Ukraine with an arrow that states "From Here" and then a map of North Carolina with an arrow that states "To There":
As I worked on forming the shape of his Lifebook, I had to keep in mind that this was his life and was to pull together all the pieces of his life that we knew and to tell it as straightforwardly as possible. I had to keep reminding myself that even the more difficult details needed to be in this book so that Cava would be able to understand who exactly he is, where he came from, and to be a source of healing for him as he grows up and continues to have questions about his past.
When I would write out small elements to paste in the book, he would come over and ask me, "What's that say?" I would read what I'd written, even the heartbreaking parts, and I would sit him in my lap as I did. He was always very quiet when I read the names of his birth parents and how he came to be put in a baby house.
He loved seeing the only baby photo we have of him and, while he didn't remember the two photos from the orphanage, he told me exactly how old he was in the photo of when he arrived at the boarding school where we met him. I asked him what he remembered of that day he arrived there, but Cava just shrugged and replied, "I don't know." I could tell from his expression that he didn't want to talk about it, so I let the subject drop.
Later, I asked him, "Cava, how does seeing these photos of Ukraine and the boarding school make you feel?" I was surprised to hear his reply, "Happy."
"Yes. Because you put them in a book because you love me."
"That's exactly right," I smiled and he came over so I could hug and kiss him.
All of the pages in this book are springboards to future discussions with him to help him make sense of himself and to bring us closer together. We don't want to hide anything from him because that would make him feel ashamed or that we were ashamed of who he is.
I'm just happy that even my working on this Adoption Lifebook has opened the door to talking with Cava about his past and about his life with us. I'm glad that he sees this book as an expression of our love towards him. All of this will help him heal and feel not only loved by us, but hopefully he will learn to love himself.
For those interested in creating their own Adoption Lifebook, here's a good website that lists valuable "Do's" and "Don'ts" for making one:
Or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org