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Haiti Reunion 2014 (1 of 2)

Posted by | June 24, 2014 | BAMBINOS | 3 Comments

kids group pic

This past weekend was the J-M’s 8th annual trip to our “Haiti Reunion.” This is a gathering of Pennsylvania-area Haitian Adoptive Families. This group has been gathering every summer for the past 11 years, and it has become a life-source and anchor for many of us.

Our first trip to the Haiti Reunion, Kyle and Owen had just turned three (post is here). I can remember feeling like the “newbies” to the group, but more so feeling something newly awesome for us as a Haitian Adoptive Family: we were 2.5 years into being a family, and for the first time ever we felt complete, 100% unconditional acceptance. These people instantaneously knew us, understood us, “got it,” and loved us for it. And vice-versa: we felt an incredible open-armed embracing love for each and every one of these families. It was an amazing, indescribable, feeling, and we knew — that very first year — that we’d do everything humanly possible to prioritize this trip, and to make it each and every year following. We have (see posts here).

The days leading up to the reunion, the excitement builds. For our kids, this is almost like the lead-up to Christmas, or to a major vacation. They are bursting at the seams with excitement. But unlike other major holidays or trips, there is a calm centeredness at the core of them in anticipation of this one. Emotions are running high, stuff is bubbling up to the surface, but it is somehow felt differently. There is a knowing anticipation that we’ll be met with a soft safety net upon our arrival.

It is a little tradition in our family that I always give them new “Haiti t-shirts” the morning of the reunion. Even Meera, who generally refuses to wear something as rudimentary as a basic t-shirt, gets excited to wear it. These three — truly — could not be more happy that, after 12 months of waiting since the last one, this year’s Haiti Reunion has finally come.

2014 Haiti Reunion Pic

Arriving at the reunion is like walking into the warmest, most understanding, most accepting, most knowing, most unconditionally loving, hug imaginable. I’m sure this is virtually impossible for people external to this to understand, but really, it is like that. We see each other once a year (maybe twice at the most some years), but there is no hesitation going into it, and from the look and feel of it you would think we just saw each other yesterday. There is a powerful, unspoken, knowing, understanding that is indescribably awesome to experience.


The kids pick up just wherever they last left off. They interact with ease, in a way that is unlike any other interaction I’ve ever observed between children. They’ve known each other for most of their lives (some of them for their entire lives). And their parents savor every minute of the time spent in this easy place that is the Haiti Reunion. The parents, too, interact in a way I’ve never witnessed or experienced outside of this special time each year. There is something about being around others who are just like you in the most fundamental way: the way your family was created, who your family is, your make-up, your character, your identity… there is something about being around others who are just like you in that way that is truly profoundly special — especially when, for just about all of the other 364 days of the year, you are the only one like you anywhere around. Suddenly, we are “normalized”; suddenly, we are the majority; suddenly nobody is trying to figure us out — because everyone knows us, like really, really knows us, in the most important way of all, they’ve got us all figured out. There is something spectacular about being amongst kindred spirits when typically you are marginal. It is amazing! When you’re so deprived of feeling at ease and truly comfortable, then feeling at ease and truly comfortable feels dreamy-splendidly-warm-and-fuzzily-good.


For Kyle and Owen, the Haiti Reunion is like a little slice of heaven. I can only imagine what it is like to feel what they feel on that day. But I believe that it is a profoundly important feeling for a Haitian-American Adoptee to be able to feel. To be 100% comfortable in your own skin; to be around others who are just like you; to not have to tell your story (unless you want to, and even then, only to people who intuitively understand your story as well as you do— if not better). I believe it is soul-strengthening for them. And I see the results: I see that their soul heals a little bit at the Haiti Reunion, and braces itself for the year to come. I can see them soak it up, re-charge, and rejuvenate. It is a beautiful thing to see.

Bonus for K & O: every single one of the Haitian boys (and most of the girls too), with zero exception, regardless of age, is uber-over-the-top-ridiculously-athletically gifted. So, they get to run, and play, and climb, and kick, and be athletically superior — with other athletically superior kids — all day long, without reserve. They don’t have to hold back, or worry about perception, or consider the implications. They can just be. That — the chance to just be — just as you are — with all of your gifts and all of your challenges right at the surface — that, alone, is well worth the trip. Double bonus: they can talk about Haiti, and adoption, and anything/everything else related to it, if and when they want to (or not talk about it too, as is often the case)… with other kids who fully understand where they are coming from. Suddenly, if even for a day, being Haitian, having been adopted, having a birthmother, having white parents, having once lived in an orphanage… those things are suddenly the complete normative experience. Imagine!

playinghanging outbasketball

You’d sort of expect that our boys would have the time-of-their-lives at this reunion. After all, they are the original Haitians in our family; they are the adoptees. But what might be surprising is how absolutely critically pillar-like this experience is for Meera each year too. In the beginning I thought we were going for Kyle and Owen, but over time I’ve come to realize that we are going for us all. Meera, just as fundamentally as her brothers do, loves and needs this reunion each year. She needs to see that she is not alone, that her family is not the only one, that her brothers are not the only brothers like them, that she is loved and adored by these families just as much as her Haitian-born-brothers are. She needs to see — through seeing others, and being seen by others — that this is a whole-family thing. And it is critical for her to experience the feeling of “normalcy” — just as much as for her brothers — because she is, after all, marginal almost all the time too. At the Haiti Reunion she is immersed in an environment where everyone “gets it” without her having to explain it. I have to say: Meera is just as into this annual event as Kyle and Owen are. She is all in, 100%, and her soul is fed by it in a profoundly important way. Meera loves the Haiti Reunion.

Meera Woodlym bench sophiwater balloon

This year there was a pond at the campground where the Haiti Reunion was held. Many of the kids spent much of the day catching tadpoles, and frogs, and all sorts of creatures. One of the beautiful things about this reunion is the abundance of purely unstructured time for the kids. There is really no agenda, and that is such a wonderful thing for them all to experience together. Owen was just one of lots of kids who got really excited about the critter-catching.

owen pond

O tadpole


You know, there is just so much I could write about the Haiti Reunion. And there is so much I’ve already written about it in years past. This year, one thing that really struck me was how much our kids are growing up, how many of them are now full-fledged teenagers (kids who were 6 the first year we went, are now 14!), and how — despite how special and unusual they are — in so many ways, they are also “typical American teenagers.” I was struck this year by how much the use of technology was at play. Just like so many kids their age, this group of kids are now taking photos with their phones, playing with their gadgets, and experimenting with all-things-digital. This just layers in another way for them to connect. And I hope that over time this evolving technology will allow for them to stay connected beyond the annual reunion. I had always wondered what would happen to the reunion (and at the reunion) as these kids grew into teenager-hood… well, now we are beginning to see.

hanging out selfieshanging out 3photos

Of course, even the little ones are “connected” much more than they were when we started going 8 years ago! ~

m with friends

But regardless of whatever we do at the reunion, and how it may (or may not) shift and evolve over time, it remains above all a time of fellowship — real fellowship — and it always includes sharing food together. Something about eating together is always key to good fellowship. Something about eating Haitian food together at the Haiti Reunion just takes that good fellowship up a few notches!

dinner 2

kids table dinner

kids table back

Haiti… always in our hearts.

We J-M’s love, and need, this Haiti Reunion each year. This morning I wrote a ‘thank you’ email to Monica, the incredible woman who spear-heads and organizes this event for us each year. In that note I wrote the following, and I want to put it here too because it is so true, and because I hope that someday Kyle and Owen and Meera will read this and understand this:

The Haiti Reunion is not just a highlight of our year, but it is an anchor in the awesome-but-stormy journey of life as a Haiti-adoptive-family. There is just nothing like having a day to be completely at ease around people who all “get it” and know what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, and what is lying down the road for us. There is so much joy and good in our family, and there is also so much struggle and pain in it. It is impossible for me to articulate how much it means to us all —all five of us to be around others who truly deeply understand that, and still accept us unconditionally and fully.

To our Haiti Family: we love you so dearly and so fully and so unconditionally. We’d never even know you if it weren’t for our special and unusual forever-families, but because of that, we are unusually-and-forever-bonded. We’ve got your back forever and ever and ever. Hugs — until we see you again — love, Heather (for the J-Ms)

(post 2 of 2 here)



  • Laurie Watson says:

    Where do you find good Haiti shirts? My boys love wearing them but are still wearing ones we bought while in Haiti! A lot online are like 30 bucks and are not that great. Website suggestions?

  • Kate says:

    I love love love reading about your Haiti Reunion, as you know, I so so get it, and I am so so happy for your kids and your family to have this experience. It sounds like such a glorious time and so soul-enriching, meaningful on so many levels — I love how you share and write about it. All the photos are so wonderful!!
    – Kate

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