By Trudy Cusella
I’m a believer: Dreams come true, even very old dreams.
When I was a teenager in the mid-’50s, I volunteered at Father Baker’s home for unwed mothers. I worked in the nursery with babies awaiting adoption. We held, cuddled, rocked, fed, burped, changed, swaddled and comforted healthy newborns. We made up their bassinets and stocked cupboards with supplies.
I loved my work. Happy young couples arrived daily to adopt a child, having a choice of gender, eye color, height and weight.
One spring morning, a new baby arrived from the delivery room.
“Mulatto,” Sister whispered, shaking her head. “No one will want him.”
“What is mulatto?” I asked.
Sister glared at me and said, “His mother is white. His father must not be.”
If babies weren’t chosen, they were sent to an orphanage. In my experience, no baby had suffered this fate. I finished my chores and went to check him out. He had a sturdy little body, big dark eyes, a pouty little mouth, tight, tiny black curls and smooth tan skin.
“Who could not want him?” I thought. I lifted him out of the bassinet. I moved my lips over his forehead and into his soft curls. I rocked him long past the time my shift was up. He was like every other baby I had ever held – perfect and wonderful.
I increased my volunteer hours so I could spend more time with the baby. With teenage fervor, I wished and prayed that I could take him home.
I grew up in a household where I was taught to fear differences. When we encountered “coloreds” my father’s message was clear. “They’re not like us. Stay away. You might get hurt.”
Holding that baby boy whose only variance was a few shades of skin color, I began to question the family teachings.
I came into work one summer morning and the baby was gone. My beautiful boy was sent to an out-of-state orphanage for children with little hope of adoption. In a teenage pique, I quit my volunteer job, never went back and never forgot.
In winter 2012, my daughter, son-in-law and their 6-year-old son had just about given up hope in their quest to adopt a baby. It had been almost two years of waiting and wondering, false hopes and disappointments. Modern-day adoption is an extensive, exhausting and expensive process.
Finally, my daughter received a call. The birth mother of a newborn boy had chosen our family. She is Latino and the birth father is African-American. Within six months, the adoption process was complete and the baby was officially ours.
I watched my grandson shake a rattle in the direction of his baby brother. The baby kicked his feet, reached up and giggled. I was transported back to the infant home, colorblind and perplexed. Not a teenager anymore, but just as baffled now as then, by ignorance and unwarranted fear.
I looked in his joyful brown eyes and wondered: Can we do this? He’s not like his brother – blonde, green-eyed and universally accepted. And yet, he is just like him – glorious, endearing, irresistible and he is my heart. And my life is a little bigger and a lot brighter because he is in it. I knew that I’d been given a second chance.
Because of the world we live in, it won’t be easy for him. But I am his grandma and this baby boy represents an old and cherished dream-come-true. Now it is my turn to help make his dreams come true and to teach him to be a believer.