(I’m sharing our story of adopting two older kids from foster care so maybe you’ll consider it too. You can find the first post here.)
You give up.
You’re indescribably tired of adoption as a concept. Tired of reading books and blog posts and doing assessment interviews where you try to guess how you’d handle an array of imaginary children in imaginary situations. It’s all vague and amorphous, and you start to feel like maybe this whole imaginary adoption thing should go the way of the imaginary friend you had when you were four – the one you left behind for real-life friends when it was time to go to kindergarten. You miss living a real, tangible life.
So you do what every overeducated, reproductively unsuccessful, creatively blocked memoirist does: you get a job at Home Depot.
It starts out as a lark, but soon becomes THE antidote to all of this imaginary living. It doesn’t get much more tangible than restocking ceramic tile, trying to remember the best underlayment for laminate flooring, and wrestling with the machine that cuts mini-blinds. You make a conscious, private decision to never cut wire shelving because you just know someone is going to get hurt if you’re flailing around with that giant hydraulic weapon. For the first time in your adult life, math becomes something you maybe should have learned. You clock 4-8 miles of walking on every shift because you’re supposed to keep moving even when things are slow. This makes you grateful to work in a big department (unlike your fellow-trainee, Matt, who’s stuck pacing up and down the lightbulb aisle over in Electrical). You have a whole array of new people to know, customers to serve, and strange lessons to learn. Like how Flooring sells Ceiling materials, even though the foam squares are across the store in Lumber. You realize that whenever you’re not sure where something is in the store, it’s in Aisle 12. Seriously. Aisle 12 is like the tent in the 4th Harry Potter book. It magically expands as you walk in and contains all the things.
You work strange hours, because it’s retail. A typical week looks like: Tuesday 2-10pm, Wednesday 5:30am-Noon, Friday 8am-4pm, Saturday Noon-10pm. Your sleep is haywire. You come home covered in dirt, mortar, grout, birdseed shells and bird poop. You suddenly have arm muscles. You convince two young male customers that no, they should not black marble tile the bedrooms in the condo they’re flipping, because cold and yuck. You learn how to parade through the store waving orange flags in front of a forklift without feeling self-conscious, and that some of you new colleagues bake really good cupcakes. Your world is tangible and real and adoption is like a fading sub-plot you sometimes think about as you log your miles and and pull broken pieces from the stacks of travertine.
The pay is so low, your monthly take-home barely covers getting your roots covered at your local mid-priced salon.
Still, it saves your sanity.
So when one night you mention in casual small-talk to a colleague that you and your husband are in the process of adopting, and she looks alarmed and asks if management knows and if you still plan to work, you 100% mean it when you say, “Of course! I love it here!”
You don’t know yet that retail hours are incompatible with the consistent scheduling needed for making kids feel secure. You don’t know yet that you will be so overwhelmed by the demands of emotional maintenance for these sweet kids, you won’t even be able to remember what one uses to stick ceramic to the floor, let alone which giant bag works best for natural stone. You don’t know yet that the amount of questions and conversation in your new life with Cherubs will so use up all your thoughts and words that you’ll have a frighteningly diminished capacity to keep from blurting, “You know what? I can’t help you because you’re just DUMB!” when a customer wants to install 20×20 marble tile ON THE CEILING of his new bathroom but insists on using cheap adhesive. (My favorite along these lines was the guy who demanded that my colleague cut an 8-foot piece of lumber into two 5 foot pieces. These conversations happened daily. Home Depot is no place for a new mom with low emotional reserves and a compromised filter.)
But you don’t know this yet. You don’t even know who the kids are, or that you’ll still call them The Cherubs long after their arrival (and likely forever). You’re just happy to have a way to fill your days that is real and tangible, and contributes something, somehow, to the world.