THE GODONE- MARESCA FAMILY
"Our adoption story goes back way farther than the first adoption decree or the first homecoming. It goes back to my childhood and the amazing upbringing I had. I grew up having too much too easily—too much of everything, starting with too much love. I was too overprotected, too privileged, too pampered, too shielded from anything less than totally safe and totally nice.
Yet, although being kept away from any danger, by word and deed my parents and grandparents constantly taught me to reach out to anyone in need or distress. They taught me to speak up for equality and social justice and modeled for me the deepest social sensitivity. Yet, to me it was not just a matter of giving back. It was a little more complex than that. In appearance, I used to have the most privileged, easiest, and happiest childhood—kind of a fairytale one. On one hand, I had all the advantages of a high-end upbringing, but on the other, I had parents and grandparents who, far from being busy and aloof socialites, were totally, absolutely, unconditionally devoted to me. I grew up surrounded by the most uplifting and exemplary family values—and yet was encouraged to welcome people from all walks of life. I was given everything—and yet was taught to see Jesus in the homeless and the hungry, with the deepest understanding of what the Social Catholic Teaching expects from us.
The key issue, though, was that, no matter how very blessed I was from an objective perspective, there was one big little something that I’d blow up to a disproportionate extent—something that’d never allow me to be happy no matter how very much I had. I was not good at sports. That would cast a big, huge, overinflated cloud on what otherwise would have been the most perfect childhood. I never cared much about ability or team participation—but I did care about courage then the same as I do now. I wanted to be daring—but stunts without the necessary physical dexterity were not a viable option.
Even though I was not disabled, I did always perceive my poor coordination as a true disability —and that made me wish to be able to take care of, comfort, and support children facing real physical challenges. I was still able to run, climb, and jump but felt so bad only because I couldn’t do it well or fast enough. So—how would it be like not to be able to do any of those things at all? How would it be like not to be able to walk?
When I was about 15 years old, I had a dream about a baby with no limbs. With all my heart I wished that little one could be mine one day. In the morning, I’d ask my Mom, Nydia Soracco- Godone, whether it was wrong to wish to be the parent of a child like that. She’d hug me and would tell me that if at any time in the future I might want to adopt a child with that or any other challenge, she’d totally support me and would be proud of me.
And she’d follow through beyond expectation. Many years would go by—many more than I’m willing to admit to. God would bless me with three biological children, one daughter and twin sons, who could not and cannot be any better, kinder, or more compassionate than they are in every respect. All three of them would eagerly and enthusiastically join the adoption force. They’d definitely want our family to become bigger. They’d want it to become interracial. They’d want it to embrace some little ones with special needs.
All that had been handed down to us by my parents. Having been able to conceive again after having me, they had wanted to adopt interracially when it was still forbidden. They had looked into special needs adoption when it was a total rarity. They had not succeeded—but had ignited that fire in my children the same as they had done in me.
I won’t enumerate the many failed adoption attempts, both domestically and internationally. I’m going to address the successful ones, though, that meant the addition of five new family members—two from Haiti and three from Bulgaria. All of them have special needs. Four of them have cerebral palsy and one has spina bifida.
By voluntarily neglecting her own knees and cataracts for the sake of my international adoption expenses, my Mom sacrificed her own mobility and eyesight for those five little boys to become my sons. Even after finding herself almost blind and in a wheelchair, she never had any regrets. That was a sacrifice that only a saint could have made—and that saint is now with God.
At some point in mid 2008, even though Haiti had already granted their adoptions and therefore Thomas and Nicholas were legally mine, the U.S. Consulate in Port-au-Prince made a big and nonsensical error that could have jeopardized their homecoming. On this earth, everything seemed useless. Yet, it was my Dad, Armando C.E. Godone-Signanini, who from Heaven interceded for a miracle and brought Thomas and Nicholas to us. My Mom, my three older children, and I were in sheer distress. Then I had a dream in which my Dad, who had been called by God in 1993, was knocking at the door, holding both boys in his arms. I still clearly remember his words as he delivered them to me, “I went to Haiti myself as the only way to bring them home.” I tried to hug my Dad one more time but he vanished. In the morning I’d call the Consulate again. To my surprise, astonishment, amazement, and delight, they apologized to me for their error and told me that the boys’ filed had been pulled back, their visas would be issued within a couple of days, and I could purchase the tickets to pick them up the following week. Without telling them that the seemingly unresolvable problem had been resolved, I called the representative’s office where I had gone for help. They had not contacted the Consulate yet. They promised to do it as soon as we got off the phone. At that point I’d tell them that there was no longer any need for any phone call. It had not been a matter of political intervention but of heavenly intercession. And Thomas and Nicholas would be coming home.
I’ll avoid digressing into the details of each adoption process. Three processes. Five children. Five new sons. From the very beginning, my bio daughter and twin sons, now adults but still kids then, have been putting aside their own goals and dreams—because in their minds and in their hearts, their five younger brothers’ interests always came first. It seems too much. And I concede that I may have allowed them to do too much in every respect. Yet, they’re happy that way. The same as my Mom, they’re happy about everything they did and do, with no room for regrets.
I could write a book about the transitional processes. I don’t have enough space or time for that. Yet, there is something I want to say to all those who may be considering adoption. If all you want from life is comfort and leisure time, don’t even think about it. Yet, if you feel inside you that it’s something you might want to do, don’t be afraid. From an emotional perspective, most kids who have been in orphanages and foster homes may be afraid to love again—but you’ll find out that they have plenty of love to give. Only very few must have been hurt so very badly that they might have a very hard time bonding one more time. From the medical and developmental viewpoints, better healthcare, nutrition, and stimulation tend to work miracles and the kids are likely to unfold and boom against all odds. And—everyone is afraid that theirs might end up being one of those extremely unlikely cases where not everything is a fairy tale, where success if not that obvious. Still you’ll have the inner peace and comfort to have tried, the success of having attempted it, the consolation of having at least bettered a life in some way. You don’t shrink your local fire department when there are wildfires. You don’t send the police force home when there is an increase in crime rate. You don’t lay off doctors and nurses when there is an epidemic of a serious disease. Life without a family is not easy on any child. It’s not a matter of looking at the other side. It’s a matter of opening your arms and listening to the call. It’s a matter of hearing a child’s cry—and those who can no longer cry openly with visible tears maybe the ones who are crying out the loudest of all.
What I can assure all of you is that, even when things end up not taking exactly the direction you expected, the decision to adopt a child is one that you won’t regret. And if you adopt multiple children, you won’t regret your multiple decisions either. Please believe me that you won’t. God bless."
-Lillian Godone-Maresca, Middletown, RI