When we began this adoption journey we felt "alone" in the Uganda Holt program. Little did we know that there were 6 other families walking the same path with us. Through a series of emails and Facebook friend requests, I was put in touch with all the other families in the program. What an amazing support system and asset these families became to us over the years. They all traveled ahead of us and passed along their wisdom and insights every step of the way. They were there when I was mad, sad, excited, and depressed. They are the ones who could relate the most and for that I will be forever grateful for these people.
One family in particular, we had the privilege of meeting long before we ever brought Jaydn home. By circumstance (AKA GOD) we happened to only live 2 hours from each other- them in Tampa and us in Naples, FL. Our first meeting came as a result of a RED ROBIN craving Erika had so we met up about 30 minutes from our house and an hour and a half from theirs. We picked their brains about the ins and outs of the process and they graciously received our rantings with grace and understanding. I dare say Erika and I became instant friends.We kept in touch over the months and then our second meeting came by way of Disney's Hollywood Studios. They joined our family one day while we were in Orlando for the week. We rode Star Wars together, ate lunch in a drive in movie restaurant then played in the HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS playground before parting ways again hours later. Our third meeting took place in Naples when they traveled down for a mini vacation and again we met up for lunch, this time at CPK. It was so wonderful to see a family on the other side of the tunnel we were in the middle of, reminding us that light was coming. I needed to be with them as much as possible to give me the breaths of hope I so desperately needed along the way.
Much like Erika and I, our girls share a special story too. In the baby pictures I received of Jaydn there was always another little girl, a little younger, sitting nearby. I came to learn that her name was Esther. She left the orphanage in Uganda to be with her forever family in December of 2009. She now lives in Tampa, FL with her mom Erika, dad Johnny and her two brothers Phaelan and Gavin.
Erika and I have always said that we would reunite these two early friends someday and even though we moved from FL before that could happen, we were not going to pass up the chance. So while we were in FL for the dedication, we drove up to Tampa to see Jaydn and Esther together again. I cannot even tell you what joy this time together was for this little mama. Usually when Jaydn is in unfamiliar territory she starts out with a scowl and warms up over time. But not this day. As soon as she saw Esther she lit up. You could say that it was because she was black. You could say it was because she was Ugandan. But I say its because she knew her. There was an instant connection. Jaydn was all smiles the entire time we were there. I couldn't stop watching as they interacted with so much camaraderie it was undeniable they remembered each other. I hated for it to end but we had to get back on the road. As we loaded up the car, Esther tried to climb in with us and then cried when she realized she wasn't going to be able to come along. It broke my heart.
But the story of Jaydn and Esther (and Bethany and Erika) is not over...it's just the beginning.