As the Israelites wandered the desert, my children too lived in exile. Before they came to live in our Jewish home, they went from place to place, from person to person. They tried to create a home with substitutes. A foster mom and dad. A bedroom that used to a house a different foster child and after they leave will house another foster child, and one then another. An address they don’t memorize, a new school where they don’t know the children. Their home was in their hearts as they cried for a Mommy and Daddy that couldn’t hear voices of children living in a substitute family miles away.
The Dreamer tells me she doesn’t like foster care. She tells me that she doesn’t want to move again, she wants to stay here forever. Adoption means many things, but most of all it means permanence.
In A Home Called Exile Diana Anhalt writes, “Well, finally. I belong to this place. I no longer live in exile.” Her new apartment and family make her feel at home after a lifetime of wandering. And yet, she continues to be unsettled. “Because in the end, exile – and I use that world loosely – is simply one more characteristic of the human condition. I realized that all of us, starting with Adam and Eve, are, to one degree or another, outcasts in search of home.”
Even as my children settle in their new Berkeley life – filled with Jewish customs, bay area irreverence, and an abundance of animal, people, and love – my children will always struggle with family and home. They miss their biological family dearly, their hearts crying out for the loss they have endured so they can gain our family. “It’s hard for me to trust you,” the Dreamer will say, when I tell her she’s my family forever.
Manna fell from heaven for the wandering Israelites, and still they missed the intimacies of Egypt. We disparage the Israelites, yet I find their yearning for home the essence of humanity. My children yearn for parents unable to fulfill their childhood needs. The joy and love of our family cannot eclipse the deep sorrow of loss. We may provide them safety, love, and silliness, but we can never override their childhood trauma. We can only help build a loving, safe space, and hope their hearts will one day call it home.