When you are seven, global geography is a really hard concept, especially if you've lived in one city your whole life and have had very limited opportunities to travel.
Before I traveled to Lubbock for Christmas, the plan was to get a new visa, come back to South Africa and to adopt Hannah* through the South African system. But things did not go according to plan in the six weeks I was home. For starters, the trip was only supposed to be three weeks, but then my work permit kept being delayed so my departure date kept being delayed. Then thanks to change in procedures and greater emphasis on South African jobs going to South Africans (a policy I support), my work permit did not end up coming through at all. I would only be able to travel back to SA on a visitor's visa, and without a work permit, I would not be able to adopt through the South African national adoption system.
In the long run, this has turned out for the best. We found out for foreigners to adopt in South Africa, the whole process could take up to 6-7 years before the adoption would be recognized in both SA and the home country of the adopting parent(s). As opposed to the six to twelve months it will hopefully take for an inter-country adoption. But for Hannah, who knows nothing about the adoption plans, the long run, turn out for the best plan has meant Auntie Amanda leaving and going to a place far, far away. And what exactly does far, far away mean?
When the plan was for me to return to South Africa, we had begun to prep Hannah and the other children for my move--a move to somewhere else in Johannesburg. I was planning to find my own place and set-up a home to hopefully begin fostering Hannah a few months after my return. Living in "the box" was no longer an option if life was to move forward with Hannah.
Hannah understood this meant we wouldn't be seeing each other every day any more but was excited about the possibilities of sleep-overs and baking cookies in my kitchen and just generally hanging out at Auntie Amanda's house. She began asking me in anticipation, "When are you getting your new house? When can I come visit?" I had to keep reminding her the new house would only come after I came back from America.
I had to tell Hannah I was moving to the US to be with my family and she wouldn't be able to visit because it was far, far away.
But far, far away is something from fairy tales. For a seven year-old little girl, far, far away doesn't exist.
We tried a variety of ways to explain the concept to her and the other kids. The older children, more familiar with geography, got it. But for the younger children, it is still a hard concept.
When I spoke to Hannah on the phone Sunday, we talked about church and school and what she had been doing since we last spoke. And then she asked, "When can I come visit your house?"
Oh, how those words nearly killed me. My child, asking to see me. Asking to spend time with me and know where I am. Processing all the feelings and sadness of me going away. The confusion and the hurt.
I reminded her I am far, far away. Too far for her to come visit. I told her I didn't have my own house yet, but when I did, I would send her pictures. And I rambled off a few other comments I hoped mended the pain of "you can't."
I know with time, we'll both get used to me being far, far away and get used to phone calls and Skype and letters. But right now, it hurts, and I'm praying fervently for all to go smoothly and quickly so there won't be anymore "you can't"s but an "I'm coming to bring you home forever."
I don't think Hannah will understand far, far away until she has the opportunity to take the 30+ hour journey from Johannesburg to Lubbock, but I'm hoping she comes to a place of at least accepting far, far away soon, and I keep praying for God to guard her heart in the way only He can. And, I'll keep believing someday far, far away will be very near and very close.
*Hannah is a pseudonym. In order to protect her identity until she is fully and legally mine, I use "Hannah" in all posts regarding my one day daughter and her adoption.