“This is my twenty-first year in elementary school,” the story begins. “For twenty-one years, I’ve carried in cupcakes, enclosed checks, and provided emergency phone numbers. I have staple-gunned and hot-glued. I have given standing ovations, volunteered at the school library, and stood in the cafeteria line as the servers dropped balls of Thanksgiving-flavored foods from ice-cream scoops onto my wet tray.”
Melissa Fay Greene is known for award-winning nonfiction and eloquent journalism, but she is also a mother. She and her husband Don Samuel are the parents of four children by birth and five adopted as older children from foreign orphanages.
As the younger non-English-speaking ones multiplied, Donny began referring to their end of the upstairs hallway as “the international concourse.” And if one child complained and a second one piped up, he observed: “Another country heard from.”
“While parents our age graduated from elementary school,” writes Melissa, “we—like the dimwitted students of yore—have been held back, forced to repeat grades with people a lot younger.”
This wealth of experience has given rise to insights of the minor sort:
“I can state with some confidence that the elementary school musicals repeat once every five years.
“Because this is our fourth Cinderella.
“And only one of our nine children ever got a speaking part.”
And it has given rise to wisdom:
“We’ve steered by the light of what brings us joy, what makes us laugh, and what feels right and true. In shaky times, I’ve thought, ‘Did we take on too many?’ ‘Is the whole family at risk of capsizing?’ ‘What do the experts say?’ But we and the children seem to be thriving; it seems we have been right to trust love, laughter, and happiness.”