To My Son on his Cha Cha Day

Four years ago today we first held Tariku in our arms. We call it his “Gotcha” day and celebrate it as a kind of second birthday. T has taken to calling it his Cha Cha day, so I’m renaming it officially now. Because who doesn’t want a Cha Cha Day?

What are we doing to celebrate? Well, we’re watching Star Wars for the first time tonight. He begged, okay? It’s kind of hilarious, because four years ago I vowed he wouldn’t watch television until, like, he graduated college. Such an astonishingly short leap from there to, “Do you want Shrek or Darth Vader on your cake?”

Here is a letter I wrote to him this morning, for some time in the future. Or for before Star Wars tonight, depending on how he does with the cupcakes:

To My Son on his Cha Cha Day-

It’s been four years since your father and I first climbed the stairs of the care center in Addis Ababa. Four years since your nannies picked you up out of a blue baby chair (your father called it the “launching pad”) in the center of the room and placed you in my arms for the first time. I saw in an instant your deep curiosity and your overwhelming joy, two of the things I still love most about you. I saw for the first time your huge smile, which still brightens my every day.

I wonder if it was that first trip from Addis to Los Angeles that has made you such an adventurer, has caused your imagination to be so captured by the skies. Even before that, when we were still in Ethiopia, you spent hours staring up at the clouds. It’s the reason we chose your middle name- Moon. Because you seemed so entranced by it. Now, when we sit at LAX and watch the airplanes fly overhead, I look at you transfixed by those giant steel birds and imagine that one day I will stand in the same spot by myself and watch a plane take off and you will be on it. I wonder where you will travel. Wherever you choose to go will be a richer and more joyous place because of it.

You sometimes struggle and I don’t always know how to help. You have great big feelings and they shift so quickly that you have a hard time keeping up with them. Your body seems to do things on its own and it surprises and scares you. You want things passionately and don’t take kindly to not getting them. One of the things I love about you is how hard you try. I can see that you are feeling safer every day. One day soon you will grow into your big feelings and it will not be so uncomfortable to be the shining star you are.

You have already traveled so far; have already seen more in your short life than some people will ever see. Your birth mother named you “Tariku,” which means “history,” because she thought that you had already lived such a big story for such a little boy. You are the strongest person I know. And I am a stronger person for knowing you. It is the great privilege of my life to be your mother.

Happy Cha Cha Day!