Friday, April 20, 2018

ArtPrize 2018, Stitched


On May 3, 2016, my nephew legally became my brother. It was a sunny day - full of smiles, nerves, and tears.
 
When his birth parents were not able to keep him safe, he was placed in the foster care system in 2014 at almost 2.5 years old. Without hesitation, my parents decided to foster parent my nephew.

It was a painful journey and soon became clear that reunification with his birth parents was not the route we were on.  It was a confusing time and one without easy answers.

He regularly called me “mom” with questioning eyes. Others assumed I was his mother when we were out together, resulting in him kicking and running away, hurt and confused.

He began to write dozens, then hundreds of letters, stuffing them into any envelope he could get his hands on and giving them to people he loved. His top two birthday list requests were envelopes and paper. Writing letters became his way of processing his hurt.

I couldn’t read most of his toddler handwriting, but I could make out words: Mommy…Nani…Opa…and my name, Ali.

After 693 days of the foster care system journey, his birth parents bravely decided to place him for adoption, and my parents adopted him. Many of his feelings of hurt and confusion slowly began to transform into feelings of love and safety. He stopped writing letters so frequently. We saw some of his pain transform into beauty and our family grew stronger.

I tucked away the box of letters he had written to me – I wasn’t ready to get rid of them but also wasn’t sure what to do with them.

After a year, I was finally ready to put the pieces together. I began to piece together his journey into a quilt. With each stitch I asked for healing. I prayed for patience. I felt beauty blooming out of pain.
His journey is not over – there are more hurts that will need to be processed. But these letters are stitched into his story, it’s a part of who he is.

Our past does not define who we are, but it is up to us to choose how to stitch together pieces of our journey into beauty.


When I first showed my nephew what I was working on, his eyes doubled in size, he covered his mouth with his small 6-year-old hand, gasped, and said, “Auntie Ali, it’s beautiful!”