In the short videos taken by social workers on their phones at a children’s home in Thailand, the boy spoke in a low, gravelly voice. You had to lean in to hear him when he spoke, which wasn’t often. He was gentle, shy and liked to color, especially dinosaurs.
But there were hints the shyness was reserved for the camera and that he packed a more effervescent personality.
Today, when our 8-year-old walks into a room, there is no missing his voice or personality, which we’ve gotten to know over the past seven months. When he’s excited, the latest English words he has learned can be heard from one end of our mid-century ranch home to the other.
We met the boy in the videos in person for the first time in early February during a month-long trip to Bangkok, the culmination of a years-long international adoption process. I wrote about the trip in this column.
Fishing around for a column topic a few weeks ago, El Paso Inc. publisher Secret Wherrett reminded me I have left everybody hanging and suggested providing an update.
My reply: But there’s not all that much exciting to share – just life. Nothing dramatic. Nothing that could be turned into a Hallmark original film. He’s doing well.
Isn’t that how it often is, though? So much of life – the grind, the stuff that doesn’t end up on Instagram or in editor’s columns – is not glamorous, but sometimes it’s the good stuff. And that’s doubly true with parenting.
Our four children fight like siblings do. They also love each other like siblings do. The house is a disaster most of the time, but we have other priorities.
Our newest addition is athletic, coordinated, loves sports and is highly competitive. He likes scaring his parents by jumping out of the old mulberry tree in the backyard. And he enjoys beating us all at Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo Switch.
He loves the water and would spend every day of his life at one of the city’s new water parks if we’d let him. He also sometimes asks about Thailand, homesick. We tell him it’s a long ways away and assure him that, while it won’t be soon, we will return.
He enjoys 1st grade and is learning English quickly – not always the words and phrases we would like, of course.
The way he says “Oh my goss” – emphasis on the goss – makes it hard not to smile. Same goes for the El Paso favorite “Ay-ay-ay!” and his personal favorite “What the?!” – a phrase that sums up so much of the past 18 pandemic months.
(And I can’t think of a better mark to punctuate the year than that one, an interrobang. The end mark, which combines a question mark and exclamation point, failed to stick but has a tiny cult following, a surprisingly fascinating origin story that I’ve long wanted to sneak into the paper, and even a recently released alternative rock album named for it. It looks like this: ‽)
Just when I thought summer wouldn’t end, that old familiar chill blew in on a puff of wind one evening last week. The haze cleared, the sky turned that cloudless infinite blue, distant mountains came into focus and the constant whirring of air-conditioning fans went silent.
It’s fall. School schedules have set into a happy rhythm, the craziness of the holidays remains in the future and things have grown calmer in the Gray household – as calm as life can be with four children, three dogs and a newspaper to nurture.
Oh. My. Goss.