I remember it as if it were yesterday. We received a phone call from St. Vincent asking us if we wanted to take another little girl from the island. Five years before we had adopted a little girl from a village there and the people remembered “the white couple who took the baby whose mother died” and now they were calling about another little girl. Abby was 7 months old when I first held her. Not wearing a diaper, she wet all over me as I held her. The women of the village laughed at me saying, “She doesn’t know her baby.” I found out later that women wear their babies for about 3 years and women and their babies are so close to one another during that time that the mother learns the movements her baby makes and knows when the baby needs to relieve herself. When the baby makes her special move the mother unwraps her from her back, holds her out, she eliminates and then is wrapped back onto her mother’s back.
Abby’s biological mother did not get to know her very well. She was very depressed and tended to leave her lie by herself most of the time. She was neglected to a fault. She did not gain weight and had very little stimulation so she was “dull” in her affect. Hettie Guy, the Head of Infant Education on the southern Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, called my husband and I to see if we would take her. It took over a year to get her to the United States, but in February 1987 Abby’s dad lead a work team to St Vincent for 2 weeks and brought her back home with him when he was finished with the work. Coming from 80 degree weather on the island to freezing weather getting off the plane at Kennedy Airport in New York, he had to buy her a snowsuit in the airport. She had never worn a diaper, washed in a bath tub, or seen snow let alone fly in a plane, ride in a car or live in a house the likes of ours. She had also never worn shoes and she could run barefoot across a gravel driveway without even flinching.
Once out of New York and back in the country roads of rural Pennsylvania she rarely saw another black person. On St Vincent everyone is black. She had all her worldly possessions in a paper sack: a ball and a bottle. She wore a yellow two piece outfit with the pantaloons over a bare bottom. My DH quickly bought some disposable diapers before getting on the plane. She hated the diapers and learned that everyone in America went into a room and “pottied” into a porcelin container. Since that is where everyone went Abby decided that is where she would go, too. She used the toilet from the second day we had her and we promptly bought her proper “big girl” underwear which she tolerated much better than the paper diapers that crinkled when she walked.
I remember when we got her home and sat her in the same high chair her daddy used as a child and that her now three siblings used before her. She bowed her head and waited for prayers before she would touch a morsel of food. Whatever she lacked in other areas of her life, she more than made up for in spiritual training. She always had a reverence for God and a knowing about what was truly important.
Abby is 26 years old today. She is my baby. I stop and wonder how that can be. She makes her way in the world on her own. She is steady and sure and honest. She walks with her head held high at a beautiful 5 foot 8 inches in height in flats. She has sparkling dark eyes and relaxed wavy hair from the mixture of her West African black and Arawak Indian blood lines. She is artsy and philosophical and sells wares for the home. She is an expert decorator.
Love you, Sweet Daughter, Happy, Happy Birthday,