It was 5 years ago this week that I met my daughter. I didn’t know it at the time. She was a one-and-a-half year old orphan in a Missionaries of Charity home in rural Haiti. I was a thirty-four-year-old lawyer from Manhattan visiting rural Haiti for a week. Right now, Bebe’s asleep in my bedroom in our apartment in Manhattan, with the light on and a just-read copy of Alice in Wonderland on the bedside table. She is dreaming out loud, as I hear her murmur every few minutes, jumbled syllables and unrecognizable names spoken with such conviction. I wonder if her dreams have taken her down the rabbit hole tonight. Over the last five years, mine certainly have. For it was down the rabbit hole I fell when I took my first step to Bebe, and I didn’t emerge until three years later, when a plane landed at Fort Lauderdale airport from Port-au-Prince, with Bebe and me in Row 12, seats A and B. Sometimes all it takes is a look, a movement – the way a young girl with a face too knowing for her small body holds a cat and tries to smiles as if she were truly proud, or the way a child shoos a fly away from his eyes a little too slowly, as if he’s almost resigned to them – to make you take that fateful step. One tiny step, and down the hole you fall.
June 2, 2011