By Dawn Onley
On the red clay dirt that dots their home, they run without a care in the world, slowing only when a car pulls up in the driveway so they can catch a glimpse of the visitors.
Inside, a middle age woman with a broad smile and a sunny disposition comments that there are more kids coming in everyday and so few takers. The kids range in age from toddler to late teen. Even in an area that has seen its share of oppression and depression, the babies are still the first to go. Everyone wants an infant. No one wants an older child.
The kids live together, attend school together, eat together, and sleep together. They are the only family many have ever known.
At this orphanage in Cape Town, South Africa, the director knows each of the kids by name, by age, by circumstance. She knows when they are happy or sad. She knows which are disease-stricken and which are in need of a spirit-boost. Although she shares no biological relationship with the orphans, these are her kids.
There is one that I am drawn to. She looks to be about seven or eight years old, with a round face and deep brown eyes. She comes to me and holds my hand. I want to adopt her instantly. The woman gives me some information on her, but warns me of the bureaucratic red tape, the time and expense involved in international adoptions.
In retrospect, I wasn’t ready anyway. At the time, I’m barely out of college, working my first job and more in love with the idea of being a mother than the reality of what being a mother would mean. Add to that the complexities of being a single mother. Add to that a seven- or eight-year-old and her needs.
I wanted to bring her back. It hurt me that I couldn’t. I turn my head to fight back tears as we leave the orphanage. What will become of them, I wonder. Will they ever have a home to call their own?
Although it’s been more than two decades since that first trip to South Africa, I think of that little girl sometimes and others like her because it was here that my childhood thoughts of adopting were confirmed. I knew I would adopt. The timing just wasn’t right in 1994.
I wonder if she was ever adopted. She should be in her late 20s now.
I still see her eyes.