Dear Houston: Thank You

September 25, 2018

I wrote these words for Mabel & Moxie, a parenting website I contribute to monthly, right after we left Houston. I’d been writing them in my head for weeks before we left, and it was therapeutic to put them down on (digital) paper. I essentially wrote the summarized version of our last 3 years in Houston, ending with a thank you to the city that made us a family. This is an excerpt, the thank you letter to our Houston home, which we still miss very much. 

Leaving Houston was a blur, and so were the 2 months that followed. I’m barely coming up for air now, and blogging feels like a luxury I’ve had to forego for a long time. This is what I would have shared at the time, we are so grateful to the city and the people who made Houston our home. 

Last week, we left Houston, the place where we became a family and then grew our family, to return to Dublin, the place we left as a very hopeful couple. I always knew that leaving the place where we brought our kids home would be impossibly difficult, but it was always far enough in the future that I could push the surge of emotion away. Last week it became reality and we left Houston for the foreseeable future. We left the place where we brought our kids through the door for the first time, said goodbye to the doctors who reassured us in the very early stages of parenting when I know I looked like a deer in the headlights trying to adjust, and hugged our adoption caseworkers one more time.

There’s an episode of Call the Midwife, I think the Christmas special from last year, in which Dr. Turner and his family moved out of the only home they’ve ever known. He says to his son as they’re leaving, “The memories don’t live in the house.” I’ve repeated that line over and over, attempting to sear into my memory the exact smell of the parking lot where I was sitting in my car when I saw the first picture of my daughter. I repeated it as I made my way, one more time, through the labyrinthine parking lot at the hospital where my son was born. I repeated it when I said a very tearful goodbye to my church mom’s group who literally held me up during each of our failed adoptions before our son finally came. I repeated it as we headed for the airport at 4 a.m. with two pajama-clad babies in their car seats behind me. The memories don’t live in the place, but that place surely helped make those memories. And what incredible memories they were.

While the overall goodbye process was emotionally exhausting, it was therapeutic. I managed to see those special Houston people and places one more time before we put our suitcases in the car and made our way east to Dublin. While it was sort of a goodbye tour, it was even more of a gratitude tour. We couldn’t be more grateful for an adopted city to call home while we fought to grow our family, and Houston — people, places, jobs, opportunities, adoption agencies, hospitals, even coffee shops — treated us so well.

The memories aren’t in the place, but we will take with us everlasting memories of a place that was utterly life-changing for us. I’ll never forget the first time we drove our daughter down the 10-lane highway to our house, and how terrified my husband was to drive faster than 65 miles per hour as trucks and SUVS zoomed by us. I’ll never forget the first time we walked into our favorite coffee shop, where we’d later celebrate two adoption day lunches with our friends and families. I’ll never forget the beeping sound of the two NICUs where we laid eyes on our two children for the first time. And I’ll never forget the blue door and the metal threshold and the polished concrete floor we brought them home to for the first time, where they crawled and cooed and giggled first. Our Houston home.

Dear Houston: A Thank You Letter to a Place That Made My Family
Finally, I’ll never forget the feeling of watching Houston grow tiny beneath us as the plane ascended into the air, one child strapped to my chest, his chubby hands bopping my sides, and a toddler buckled in next to me, exclaiming, “Let’s do it, team!” as we took off. Moving to Houston was a flying leap of faith that it could be the place where we could finally become parents; taking off as a family of four felt victorious and redemptive.

We will return one day, with both our kids in tow, perhaps looking for answers or information on their backgrounds, or perhaps just to walk down memory lane with them. We’ll show them the church where they were dedicated and where our friends stood in as family behind us and blessed our little family. We’ll sit in the parking lot where we found out Maya was coming, and we’ll eat at the Thai restaurant we were sitting when we got the call that Noah had arrived. We’ll take the elevator up to the NICUs where they each were born, and we’ll show them the tiny apartment where we spent late nights feeding and early mornings reading stories. As our daughter still calls it, we’ll take a reunion tour of our “Houston home.”

Thank you, Houston, for giving us a home to become a family, and for scooping us up and taking care of us along the way — through ups and downs, extreme grief, and finally, to a family of four. Until we meet again one day, thank you.

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