Love at the Border

An Adoption Memoir from Mexico

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With Priscilla and Isabella outside of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mexico City, Mexico
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An excerpt from Love at the Border: An Adoption Memoir from Mexico…

She bit me!” howled Isabella. I dropped what I was doing and ran into the family room. Isabella held out her arm for me to inspect. My fingers tenderly touched the red welt outlined by teeth marks on her forearm as Isabella stood stunned, her brown eyes wide, shifting from her arm to my face. I snapped my head around and stared incredulously at Priscilla. “Did you really bite her?” I asked. It was one of those mother-states-the-obvi- ous-questions and, when I affirmed the fact, Isabella wailed again. “She bit me.”

Priscilla backed away from the sofa clutching a needlepoint pillow to her chest. Her black eyes welling up, she covered her face with the pillow.

My husband’s footsteps echoed down the stairs in hurried thumps. Richard’s office was on the third floor. When he heard Isabella’s cries of pain he rushed into the room, Spanish dictionary in one hand, glasses in the other, and started to say something. He then realized he needed to check the dictionary, so he put his glasses on.

After a two-year journey, we had adopted seven-year-old Priscilla from a Mexican orphanage only weeks earlier, thrilled to finally have a sibling for eight-year-old Isabella. But when Priscilla realized her home was now in suburban Philadelphia, she cried and pleaded in Spanish, begging to return to Mexico.

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Squeezed in behind the sofa, Priscilla was now crying along with her big sister and plopped down in a defeated heap on the floor. With both girls sobbing in stereo at full volume, Richard broke into the mix with an authoritative, “Nos disgustan con tu comportamiento.” Grammar errors aside, we thought we communicated, “We are disgusted by your behavior.” I gave us an “A” for effort because it was close enough.

The Spanish words hung in the air a moment. I think we were all surprised. Richard and I had tried to learn some Spanish in order to communicate with Priscilla. My night-owl husband had done his homework, poring over a dictionary and his high school Spanish textbook. Up to this point, we communicated like cavemen — pointing, gesturing, and saying words like: la cuchara (spoon); comida (food); basura (trash).

After hearing her native tongue in a fully formed sentence that was a strongly worded admonishment, Priscilla blinked, took a deep breath and let out another mighty sob. She stood up, tears streaming down her cheeks, then ran for her room and slammed the door. I walked Isabella to the bathroom, my arms around her shoulders. “Why don’t you get ready for bed?” I said softly.

She nodded, still sputtering and hiccupping, her lower lip protruding in an exaggerated pout. As I closed the bathroom door, she turned to look at me with eyes that were angry and sad. I nodded my head and tried to give an encouraging half-smile. Who was I kidding?

After both girls had fallen asleep, I retreated to my bedroom and closed the door. I sat down on the green-flowered coverlet at the edge of the bed, crossed my arms tightly across my chest and began rocking back and forth. Our creaky old house had no air conditioning and it was a hot July night, yet my insides were shaking as if I were chilled, and my stomach churned with a regret and dread that I had never before experienced. It was too late to begin crying. If I made a sound, it might be screaming, so I sat there thinking about the only question that turned over and over in my mind. What had I done to my family?

The knob turned with a squeak, and Richard came in. He closed the heavy wooden door with a thud. Wordlessly, he sat down on the bed and put his arms around me. I looked up to see his brown eyes rimmed in dark shadow. Priscilla hated me, and our family was changed forever.

Adapted from Love at the Border, an Adoption Memoir from Mexico, published by Chasing Kites Publishing House, 2019

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After ten plus years, my book Love at the Border, An Adoption Memoir from Mexico is available on Amazon. I began this adoption journey so that my daughter would have a close relationship with a sibling as I have shared with my sisters. You will have to read the book to see how things turned out for Isabella and Priscilla.

One of my heroes that helped along the way was Nancy Verrier whose book Primal Wound unlocked some of the secrets and strategies I desperately needed in raising my two girls. Here is a bit of what she had to say about my book:

Anna Maria DiDio has written an honest and informative book about international adoption. This is very important because in their own excitement prospective adoptive parents don’t always understand the way the child perceives the experience of being placed in the arms of strangers…. This book is very important in the adoption literature as a trustworthy narrative about the joys and difficulties of adoption, one from which prospective adoptive parents can read and learn.

Nancy Verrier, LMFT, adoptive mother and author of The Primal Woundand Coming Home to Self

Purchase the print, Kindle, or audio version here on Amazon.

Visit my website amdidio.com for more information.

What questions do you have for me about adoption? Let’s start a conversation below.

Written by

Adoption L.I.F.E. Coach, writer, gardener, baker, fundraiser, and washed-up athlete. It’s all there. Reach out if I can help: www.amdidio.com

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