“What happened to your foster daughter?” We hear this question often, for many people knew and loved the Liberian princess who disappeared from our lives unexpectedly.
The short form of the story tells the facts, without the emotional toll. She returned to Boston in the summer of 2018 because that was the agreement we had with her Liberian step-family living there. In July, both of her brothers journeyed by car several hundred miles to retrieve her from her Liberian family and take her to a different home in the town next to ours, rather than bringing her back to us. Their motivation for doing so was their desire that she attend a more prestigious high school, the one where her older brother graduated. Sadly, we learned about this via a phone call from the high school she attended while living with us. They requested that her records be transferred to the more prestigious high school and they needed our permission to do so. We had no idea what was going on. Why did this happen? The whole affair blind-sided us. We thought she would happily live out her high school days in our home and we would help get her to college, but her brothers had different ideas. This is one of the painful realities of fostering a child, you have very little control.
Fast forward to sitting in the musical “Hamilton” this past December. I waited in line for six hours to get tickets and as the date approached, I began to grow skeptical that it could live up to the hype. When the evening rolled around to see it, I found myself exhausted and didn’t really want to go. Watching “Hamilton” felt like a self-inflicted cultural obligation, which left me feeling guilty. The money could have gone to much worthier causes. I fell asleep during the first act. It is entirely possible that I’m the first person in the world to doze off in their seat while witnessing this blockbuster. After a caffeine laden intermission, we headed in for the second act and alas, one of those unsolicited, transforming moments that can only happen in theatre came over me. It happened during the song, “It’s Quiet Uptown.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjEoOeXId1k The song is a poignant number in which Eliza Hamilton forgives Alexander of his marital infidelity. During the scene, the chorus narrates the event while we watch them stroll in an uptown park, and we see her take Alexander’s hand. In unison, the chorus sings the word, “forgiveness – can you imagine?” and Eliza extends herself in this simple, but significant gesture. When this music streamed into my heart, I realized that I needed to forgive our foster daughter and her brothers for their betrayal. It was time to emotionally move on, rather than hold onto the hurt.
So, the Liberian princess now lives with her younger brother in a beautiful apartment which I visited shortly after seeing “Hamilton.” She invited me to help her with a project she’s working on for an entrepreneurial club she attends in the city. We sat together at the high top table, just outside of the recently cleaned kitchen discussing product benefits, target market, distribution vehicles and all those juicy aspects of launching something new. She showed me her drawings and designs and asked if she could call the product, “Margaret’s Child.” (Insert here – emojis of shock and awe and yes, how delightful!) I can’t say what the product is, but if she wins the competition she will get the funding to actually launch the product and then you’ll find out ALL the details. Please pray that she wins:)
She looked so grown up sitting at that table with her newly embraced natural hair and enormous smile. I gave her the Christmas present which I add to every year, another piece of the African nativity which is handmade by our neighbor, (see here for details of this beautiful business http://margaretphilbrick.com/your-artistic-corner/) When she toured me around her immaculate bedroom, I saw the zebra from this set on her desk. This year’s piece was an angel, because she is an angel whether she lives with us or not and forgiveness causes the angels to sing (or at least get their wings) not just at Christmas, but every day of the year. May we extend much grace and forgiveness during this election year — 2020 — to those who’ve hurt us and to those we’ve hurt as well.
p.s. I know this post will probably come back and haunt me so if I’m being a jerk to you or you see me being a jerk to someone else, please remind me that back on a freezing cold, snow- laced January night I wrote this and that I need to keep leaning into forgiveness and get over myself. Thanks!
This is the final post in the four part series discussing the tangible and intangible aspects of life that last…”This Couch,” “This Bear,” “This Bed,” “This Angel.”