At five years old: When I was five, my parents decided to adopt. I wasn’t surprised. They had always talked about adopting.
Six years old: It was August, and the Federal Express man delivered pictures and information about my new sister. Mom said, “Isn’t she cute?” I thought she was beautiful.
Seven years old: My sister was supposed to arrive in November, but government delays kept her at the orphanage. Finally, in February, Mom went to Haiti to get her. We met them at the airport, along with 150 friends and relatives. A friend held me on his shoulders so I could see my sister coming off the plane.
A few days later, I wanted to take Janelle to school for Show and Tell. But Mom said she had to adjust to us before we let her meet a bunch of strangers.
Mom and Dad talked to me about questions that friends and strangers might ask. I knew all the answers, except to the first question that came my way. A neighbor asked how much my sister cost. I had never thought about the money part of it. When I got home, I told Mom and Dad that it wasn’t fair to spend so much money for her and not for me. They explained that it is illegal to buy and sell children. They said they had to pay for the airplane ticket, home study, court fees, and things like that. Mom was not happy with our neighbor.
My best friend thought that adoption was a strange thing to do. One day, he asked if I liked my sister, and I said yes. He asked if I would like her better if she weren’t adopted, and I said no. Then he asked if I would like her better if she were white. I told him that if she were white, she wouldn’t be who she is. He said, “What if she were just like who she is, but her skin color was different?” I told him, “I like her just the way she is.”
My mom says that one day I asked if I could learn Creole, the language spoken in Haiti. She wondered why I was interested. I told her that if something happened to her, my sister would be sent back to the orphanage, and I had decided that I would go with her. I can’t imagine saying that, but I remember my parents talking to us about their will and where we would go if they died.
A few weeks after my sister arrived, a television reporter interviewed our family. He asked what I would do if my sister decided to find her birth mother. I told him that I thought it was normal for a child to want to find her first family.
Eleven years old: We moved overseas for three years, and the questions started again. One of my friends told me I was lucky to have a sister. We were in a country that had a one-child policy, and we were the only family in town with more than one child.
Fifteen years old: We went to Haitian culture camp, and I helped with the crafts activity. My sister said she liked being with families that looked like her.
People who get to know us say that my sister and I are like “real brother and sister.” They see that we have fun times together and fight times together. But they miss the point. We are real brother and sister.