We knew this was something we wanted to do – especially when we first laid eyes on Giovannie at an adoption event a few months prior. And we felt that we were mentally, emotionally and financially prepared for the responsibility – or at least as much as one can be when tasking oneself with the upbringing of an entire human being other than yourself.
Bradley and I got out of the car and he joined me at the back passenger side door where Giovannie was situated in a booster seat. I opened the door and Bradley reached in to unfasten the harness. He and I smiled at Giovannie – who, having sat in abject silence the entire ride home from the social worker’s office, didn’t seem as sold on us as we were on him.
I reached out my hand to him and he just stared at it as if uncertain what I expected him to do with it.
Bradley took a different approach. He reached into the car,
lifted Giovannie out of it and stood him up on the driveway.
Giovannie looked up at both of us. He looked up at Bradley, who tousled his hair. And then he looked up at me. I leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.
And then Giovannie crawled under the car.
“What did you do that for?” Bradley asked. “You scared him!”
“I scared him?” I asked. “You’re the one who reached into the car and pulled him out like he was a load of laundry!”
“I thought that maybe he wasn’t sure whether or not he was allowed to come in.”
“Why would he think that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it happened to him before. I don’t know.”
It’s entirely possible. While Bradley and I were very much interested in knowing his cultural background in order to incorporate elements of it into our daily lives and provide him with a sense of identity, we opted out of knowing about the specifics of his home life because we felt safe in assuming that it was less than favorable. So we decided to leave it at that and “simply” do better for Giovanni than whatever we figured that was. Besides, that information would always be available to us if we discovered that not having it somehow made us deficient in raising him.
“I’ll move the car,” Bradley suggested in a moment of thought-free panic as he rushed to the driver’s seat.
“Now why would you do a fool thing like that?” I asked. “We don’t know what’s under there and what could latch itself onto Giovannie’s clothes --- or Giovannie himself – and drag him wherever you move the car to.”
“You’re right. I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
I walked over to Bradley and placed a comforting hand on his left upper arm. “Calm down. Breathe. I’ll handle this.”
I took my shirt jacket off and laid it inside down on the pavement of the driveway. Then I laid down on top of it and looked under the car. Giovannie, the only thing I could ever actually recognize under there, was lying on his stomach with this head in his hands.
“Is he okay down there?” Bradley asked.
“Yes, but I can’t tell if he’s sleeping or crying,” I replied.
Bradley similarly took off his suit jacket, laid it inside down on the pavement of the driveway and looked under the car.
“I don’t think he’s doing either,” Bradley said. “I think it’s just his way of hiding.”
I reached my arm under the car and laid it near Giovannie.
“Giovannie,” I said softly. “I can’t even begin to imagine how scared, nervous or confused you may be by all of this. But I want you to know that your father and I chose you. We wanted YOU. And we’re very happy to have you here. This is your home now – if you want it to be. And from our previous visits, it seemed as if you did. So you can feel safe here. And know that we aren’t going anywhere. And as long as you want to be here – neither are you.”
We waited a few moments for a response.
“So if you want to stay under the car because that’s where you feel safe,” Bradley continued. “Then we’ll be right here.”
Bradley reached his arm under the car and we waited a few moments for another response. Bradley reached his other hand out to me and we interlocked our fingers together.
“Are you guys alright down there?” a voice asked. Bradley and I turned around to see Mr. Collins, our neighbor across the street.
“Yeah, we’re fine.” Bradley answered. “We just brought our son home and he’s hiding under the car.
Mr. Collins got down on his knees to look under the car – as if we were making this up.
“Is he okay down there?” Mr. Collins asked.
“As far as we know, he is. We figured that he’s just nervous and that he’ll come out in a few minutes,” I replied.
“Is there anything I can do?” Mr. Collins asked as he stood back up.
“I think we’ll be alright, but if you want to hang around and chat with us, that may help,” I suggested.
“How?” Bradley asked.
“I don’t know. But I don’t see how it could hurt.”
“Is everything alright over here?” Stacey, another neighbor asked us as she peered over us to check out the scene.
“Yeah,” I answered, looking up. “We just brought our son home from the social worker’s office.”
“And has soon as we got him out of the car, he hid under it,” Bradley added.
“They think he’s a bit nervous about coming inside,” Mr. Collins concluded with our conclusion.
“I see,” Stacey responded. “I was just jogging by and saw something under your car. I wasn’t sure what it was as I was approaching, but then I noticed it was a little boy. Is he going to be alright?”
“We think so,” Bradley replied. “But if he’s still under there as night falls, then we’ll have to figure something else out.”
“Is there anything I can do?” Stacey asked.
“Nope. We’ll figure it out, but thank you.” I answered.
Stacey’s wife Dina came jogging toward us from the opposite direction. “Stacey, what’s the hold up?” she asked.
“Terrence and Bradley just brought their son home from the social worker’s office and as soon as they took him out of the car, he hid under it and now they’re just waiting for him to come out from under it,” Stacey explained.
“How’d I miss this when I jogged by?” Dana asked.
“That’s a good question. You didn’t notice a child underneath a car?”
“I saw Mr. Collins so I figured that whatever it was, it was being handled. So I kept jogging.”
“Oy gevalt,” Stacey said as she and Dana started jogging in place. “We’re going to finish our jog, but I have my cell phone, so text me if you need anything.”
“Thanks, Stacey. Enjoy,” I said to her as she and Dana ran off.
“I should probably get going myself,” Mr. Collins said. “The Missus and I will check in with you guys later. Or tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Mr. Collins,” I said.
“We appreciate it,” Bradley added.
“No problem. I hope my being here somehow helped,” Mr. Collins responded as he headed back to his house across the street.
“We hope so, too,” Bradley I said in sync.
A few minutes later, Giovannie came from around the other side of the car. Bradley pulled him into a hug and I put my arms around them both.
“I guess it did help,” I said, coming out of the embrace.
“I don’t like spiders,” Giovannie said.
“What do you mean?” Bradley asked.
“There was a spider under there,” Giovannie explained.
Bradley and I chuckled. “Well, whatever got you from under there and into our arms is alright with us,” Bradley said with a wide smile.
“Are you ready to go home?” I asked Giovannie.
“Great. But the next time you feel the need to hide from us, can you do it under your bed instead?” Bradley asked, pointing to the oil spots on the front of Giovannie’s shirt that had seeped onto Bradley’s.