There are some people -- OK, more than some -- who think we're nuts. That's because for more than 20 years, we've invited foreign teenagers into our home to become members of our family. This summer, "exchanging" came full circle.
Our first exchange daughter, Elena, is from Barcelona, Spain. She was with us when we moved to East Aurora 22 years ago, and is still very much a member of our family.
Elena is now a physician, and has returned to the Buffalo area several times to study. Our children have had an open invitation to stay with her and study for a year at the University of Barcelona. This year, our middle child accepted her offer, and traveled to Barcelona in early September.
During the spring, Elena told us that she was pregnant. Our first grandchild! Or at least it seemed that way to us. We were so excited that we decided to get passports so we could be ready to travel to Spain to greet that new baby.
In June, we got a phone call from our Brazilian exchange son. Bruno told us that he was going to be married, and asked if we could please be there. After much consideration of finances, my husband and I decided that we would forever regret it if we didn't go, and made plans to travel to Sao Paulo in July.
In the meantime, I started thinking: What if Elena's child isn't really our first grandchild? What about Guillermo in Uruguay, with whom we'd lost touch?
After all, one of the things that had impressed us about him was how devoted he was to Laura, his girlfriend in Montevideo, when he was here in 1994.
And Montevideo wasn't all that far from Sao Paulo, so maybe we could see him. I decided to "Google" him on my computer. It looked like Guillermo was attending the university in Montevideo. Unfortunately, my attempts to contact him failed.
So, off we went to Sao Paulo, where we had a wonderful time. The wedding was grand, the people were kind and the winter weather was clear and cool. The Portuguese, however, was very confusing.
After the wedding, Bruno's sister Monica -- whom we also hosted for a year -- kept us busy visiting people, places and things. She's very proud of her country, and, as a successful businesswoman with strong political contacts, is helping to build that nation up.
We returned home delighted with our trip, thinking that the only thing that could have made it better was seeing Guillermo. The summer passed, and our son -- the biological variety -- flew off to Spain.
Elena says he seems to be adjusting well to everything. At Christmas, Elena's sister Patricia visited Barcelona, and our son renewed his relationship with her. He was only 3 when we hosted her. After the holidays, he will travel to Munich to visit Kirsten, his German sister from just a few years ago.
Bruno has e-mailed us that his family is expanding, as frequently happens after a wedding. Another grandchild to visit. But will it be our second, or is the number higher?
A surprise e-mail closed the circle. Guillermo had been found! He "Googled" my husband, and found him at his work Web site. Yes, he is still with Laura; no, they have no children -- yet.
So, for now at least, our far-flung family is complete. It looks like our passports are going to get a workout.
JOANNE SKELLY- GEARHART lives in East Aurora.