Sunday, August 31, 2008
We had stopped home for just the night last week, before catching our flight for the West Coast. Fitz had cleaned out the refrigerator while we were away,and it was completely empty so we ordered some pizza for dinner. When it arrived (our usual 2 large cheese, one large meatball) I called the kids up to eat. Pipo was absorbed in the television, and did not come up right away. When he did, the meatball pizza, his favorite, was gone. He came to me very unhappy. I was in the middle of sorting clothes and packing for 9, and had no patience for crying over lack of meatballs. There was plenty of cheese pizza left. I sent him outside to Fitz, who was doing schoolwork on his laptop out on the porch. I continued with my packing, and eventually sent all the other kids up to bed. When Fitz came in later, he told me that Pipo had cried outside for over an hour about that meatball pizza.
My initial reaction was impatience and anger. We were doing all this work to take a great trip, and treated the kids to pizza to make things easier, and this is his reaction? Then Fitz told me another part of the story. When we had arrived home that night, Pipo did the first thing he always does... he went and opened the refrigerator. I didn't think much of it at the time. I knew it was empty, and I told the kids that we would be getting pizza. We didn't need to shop because we would be gone for the week.
Now though, I thought about exactly what this meant to our son. Every time he comes home form anywhere, he looks in the refrigerator. Fitz does this too, and I thought it was just a 'guy thing'. But for Pipo, the need to look in that refrigerator is so much greater. He spent so much of his young life hungry, and he needs to know that there is food available. Even 2 and a half years down the road, he still doesn't always trust that the food will be there.
Before bringing Pipo home, I read everything I could find on adopting older children. There has been much written about food issues, and I myself had taught Russian orphans who had food stealing and hoarding issues. We prepared ourselves for this, and when Pipo arrived, we treated him as the 'new baby' in the house, feeding on demand. I cooked a lot of spaghetti and hot dogs those first few months. We talked to the school about it, sent in lots of snacks and assured him that he could take breaks to eat any time he wanted. it definitely worked, and we never saw any of the major food issues that we had read about.
This pizza incident brought home the fact though, that early food deprivation scars run deep. As Pipo has gotten older, more stories about Haiti come out. He has told us that being so sick wasn't always bad, because at least in the hospital he knew he would get food. At home with his grandmother he couldn't always count on that. I look back at those early pictures of him and see the distended belly, and it breaks my heart to realize how malnourished he was. And I know now, that checking the refrigerator is not a habit... it is a deep internal need that all the love and assurance in the world won't erase.
We bring children into our hearts and homes, and at times we think all our love and affection, and the 'things' we can give them will eventually "fix" all those wounds. But some wounds run so very deep. Some will always be with them. We can do our best to ease them, and help them cope with them, but we will never erase them. The past is something that can't be erased.
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On the same note, please join me in praying for Haiti. The damage cause by hurricane Gustav has just made things so much worse for the people there. Roads have been washed out, crops destroyed and people who have suffered hunger most of their lives are now in an even more desperate situation.