Thursday, May 23, 2013

Marra Frehiwot

I've been missing from the blog world for a while...more about that another day. (NOT pregnant. Come on people.) Today I need to talk about Marra Frehiwot Olsson.

Growing up, I had the most wonderful babysitter. We call her Nunny. She took care of me and five or six other kids, all teachers' kids, at her house in her basement. It was wonderful. We had school time every day, did Christmas programs, made crafts, ate our weight in mac n cheese, had little yellow plastic chairs with our names on the was a wonderful, sweet place to grow up. We were loved and taken care of while our parents worked.

Nunny and her husband, Razzy as we called him, have 4 daughters. They are all at least 10 years older than me and served as "daycare staff" when they'd get home from school. They'd play with us, wake us up from naps, eat Popsicles with us. Of course, as the years went by, my family and Nunny's family became close friends. We still are! The girls grew up and babysat my sister and I, my mom went on to work at the school Nunny is superintendent of, they were at my fact I ask Nunny all the time to give up her awesome job and re-open her basement so Rory and Trace can go. :) more detail. The second oldest daughter? Katie? She married my uncle sixteen years ago. That's the famous Aunt Kate...she's currently deployed. Her wedding day was the day we became "Almost Family."

That's a long introduction. Sorry. I'm not editing myself as I write this post.

Nunny's youngest daughter Amy is awesome. She and her husband Sten have been together since high school. They have 4 biological children: Ben, Abe, Eli and Jenna. They have defied many odds and stuck together through incredible life changes and scary situations. Following their lives on Facebook is comical with all the antics the boys and Jenna get in to...swallowing magnets is my favorite. Gotta love boys!

In January 2012, they finally, after a year long battle, got to bring their adopted daughter Marra Frehiwot, home from Ethiopia. The journey to get Marra was much longer and harder than it needed to be. Court battles, lawyers, intense interviews and researching, Amy spending weeks in Ethiopia by herself literally battling the US govt and Ethiopian govt just to bring Marra home.

Marra. Abandoned as a newborn, rasied in an orphanage. The orphanage she was raised in would be considered deplorable in the US. They are overwhelmed with children there and do the best they can...but there are no resources, no government programs providing for their needs. The sweet women who work there in all the pictures are doing the absolute best they can. You can tell. You can see it in the little parties they throw, the way they dress the babies up for pictures...they are trying and they walk with love.

But Marra, special, sweet, Marra...she got a wonderfully beautiful chance. She was adopted by a family who has walked through incredible odds to get to her. She was adopted in to love.

Marra's life with the Olssons was filled with love, kindness, caring and adventure. I watched her in pictures go from a quiet, very tiny baby one month younger than Trace to a bouncing, happy, joyful, perfectly normal sized toddler.

We got to meet Marra last summer when the Olssons came home to visit. We played in the basement at Nunnys with Amy and my Aunt Kate. Watching Rory and Trace play with the same toys as I did was the memory I thought would be most lasting...

Rory and Trace loved playing with Marra and the other kids. Rory especially loved Marra. Rory has always had an affinity for African American people, thanks to her undying love and devotion to Princess Tiana, so little Marra was like the perfect doll baby sized Tiana to her! :)  After we left, Rory said "I like that baby Marra. I want her to come to my birthday party." We passed on a couple bags of clothes to Marra, kissed the kiddos and told them we'd see them soon.

We were looking forward to the visit this summer, anticipating swimming in the pool and watching how differently Marra and Trace would interact this year...

Then last Saturday happened.

If you are a toddler mom, or toddler caregiver really, you know this exact situation all too well.

Marra and her dad were in the parked car at the lacrosse field, having a snack before getting out to watch the two middle boys play their games. When it was time to get out, Marra got out the door and took off running before Sten could get to her.

She ran in to a passing car and died at the hospital later that afternoon. She was life flighted and the doctors tried...but there was nothing anyone could do.

When my dad told me this story, I was petrified. How many times have Rory and Trace ran away from me? Just last Tuesday in the Subway parking lot, Rory was mad at me, ran faster than I could get to her around the van and almost in to the path of a truck. It happens. Toddlers get excited and they don't understand. This situation just as easily could have been me. Or you. Sten is a fantastic dad and it still happened to him and Amy. They are diligent, they are thorough, they are safety conscious and yet...still. An accident.

A crazy, scary accident.

Oh sweet Marra.

She was only here in the US for 18 months. But you know what? In those 18 months, that little girl learned what love is all about. She got an instant family, filled with laughter, adventure and compassion. She learned that family looks different to everyone. She became an integral part of a community and a big family. She became a beautiful example to all of us about sharing our blessings and extending our arms to those who need our love. Her journey to find her family was hard. Her life with the Olssons was much too short, but it was filled with everything a little girl could want or need.

She was blessed.

I'll never know what I get the privilege of watching Trace grow up and Marra's life journey on earth has ended. It's not my place to know that and it really doesn't help anything. What I do know is that I am honored to call Marra Frehiwot "almost family" and I'll think of her beautiful smile and sparkling eyes. I'll celebrate all of our Trace's milestones for both of them.