While I possessed a secure sense of family life, my daughter Eva, adopted from the Ukraine at age three, had no idea of what family life meant. She had never even seen one in the years she lived in the children’s home. She just saw a stream of caregiving women coming and going.
Although I knew that, legally and emotionally, I would be her mother forever, I hungered for a religious blessing on our little family and on Eva’s name. I knew that the source of my yearning was more than emotional. I sought God’s blessing on our bond for all eternity, something the INS cannot give. As with a marriage ceremony, I sought a public declaration before God for being Eva’s forever mother and for Eva being my forever daughter. Since she had been baptized in her birth country, my minister fashioned a christening ceremony for us.
On the morning of Mother’s Day, I picked azaleas from our yard and dressed Eva in her pastel-flowered birthday dress (she had just celebrated her fourth birthday). Combing her dark blonde hair, I noted that not only was it longer than when I brought her home, but now the patchy, dull growth was thick and lustrous. In four months, she had grown two inches. The sheer responsibility and rewards of parenting swept over me.
We packed the confections and cookies (representing our combined Ukranian and Swedish cultures) into the car, along with flowers, matruschkas and painted wooden eggs. Eva thought we were merely bound for church and that something special would happen there. Perhaps she thought we would celebrate her birthday again. But my thoughts on the way to Bethany Covenant church were of my mother’s parents, Andrew and Ida Carlson, pillars of this church in which they raised three children, including my mother. Today, their great-granddaughter — their daughter’s namesake — would be christened here. The sense of legacy was profound.
After we delivered the goodies to the ladies arranging the reception, we took our seats in the sanctuary, alongside Aunt Marion and cousin Richard, who were to be Eva’s godparents. My mind flashed memories of holding my mother’s hand while walking into this church every Sunday. Then came memories of Mom herself, and of my Dad, neither of whom had the chance to meet their granddaughter.
The worship service began. When the moment of the christening ceremony arrived, Eva walked to the pulpit with me. “Have you ever had an idea that never goes away?” I asked the congregation. “Throughout my childhood, I wanted to be a mother, a blessing that marriage did not bring me.” All was flowing nicely until I began to describe the moment when I first saw my daughter. Tears clouded my vision and my throat tightened as joy choked the words midway. Quietly Eva had left the minister’s side and was standing to my right, looking up at me. I asked her if she wanted me to pick her up, and she nodded. I held her for the rest of the ceremony. I explained that although many doors seemed to close during my quest for this child, in the end, we found each other.
The christening ceremony followed my remarks. By the time Eva and I resumed our seats, I felt that all was well in our world and in my heart. Christening my daughter on Mother’s Day indeed blessed her and us both as a family.