The adoption process is a strange one—for everyone involved. I have no experience with what it is like to be adopted myself, or to be an adoptive parent. My understanding of adoption comes solely from my experiences as a child into whose home another child was adopted.
When you are nine-years-old and your parents announce that after four years of applications, and waiting, and interviews, and more waiting, and random spot inspections of the house, and yet more waiting, that you are finally going to have a baby sister who is coming from another family and another country, it definitely registers in your mind. And it makes a special impression on you when you were just starting to feel like you had finally managed to get your two younger brothers properly trained and in line.
And now Mom and Dad have to go and decide to start messing around with a good thing.
That was my first reaction when I found out that I had a little sister arriving in a few months from Korea. Very little of the adoption process registered with me at the time due to my age. But the actual adoption certainly did.
My first memory of my baby sister Heather Erin Yoo-Rim MacLeod was of suddenly being awoken by blood curdling screams in the middle of the night just outside my bedroom door. Fortunately I was always more the inquisitive type and went to find out the source of this ungodly noise, instead of simply assuming that Banshees had invaded.
It was Heather being bathed after a very long flight from Korea to LA to New York (where my parents assumed custody of her) to Toronto, and finally a drive to Hamilton, ON.
As it turned out she had a pretty nasty rash, and I guess she wanted to make sure that we knew about it. With three older brothers, it certainly wasn’t the last time that Heather’s ability to insistently voice her opinion would serve her well.
All three boys had been given a choice: fly to New York to meet the new addition to the family, or get a new bike. It was a no-brainer.
In hindsight, while the thought of flying in a plane is certainly a dream of most young boys, it hardly compares to the immediacy of a new bike that you can ride around the neighbourhood for the rest of the endless summer.
I think my parents were smart enough to realize this, and made the offer for the sake of it. I can’t imagine them relishing the idea of taking three boys under the age of 10 on an international flight and traipsing around the busiest city in the world while filled with tension, excitement, and anxiety about the new member of the family they’d be taking home with them.
So it not only worked, but it worked out for the best--the boys got new bikes to bribe them into accepting their new sister, Heather found herself in a loving and happy (even if cruelly clean) family, and Mom and Dad got to spend some quality time with their new daughter before returning to the maelstrom of home.
Twenty-two years later, as I stood at the front of the church, waiting for my baby sister to walk down the aisle and marry her fiancé, my brothers by my side in the wedding party and our Dad the Minister presiding, it struck me that there could be no doubt that Heather is as much a MacLeod, and as much a member of our family, as anyone who has ever carried that name.