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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

In Other Words: There is Magic in the Rain

By Chuck Keller 

This story is not about adoption. Not about disabilities. Not about single parenting. It’s about magic.

I like it when I talk with someone and I end up seeing the world differently afterwards.  I have that just about every time I talk to Wynne Philippe who adopted a beautiful girl from China.  The baby, Anna Grace, is missing the lower part of her leg and now has a prosthetic made by the talented Rob Pinkston, Patty Biltz, and Laura Tate at Superior Prosthetics Solutions in Newport.  But that did not stop Wynne and it certainly has not stopped little Anna Grace.   She is off and running in life. Wynne said:

“In the past year with AG (and in the year leading up to her while I was working on her adoption), I learned so many lessons. The adoption process (especial the adoption of a child with "special needs") is nothing short of a huge leap of faith. And while it was super scary, it was the best decision I ever made.  Anna Grace has taught me so much about trust, courage, determination, resiliency, and love.  She's a pretty incredible little girl (even if she does make me crazy sometimes with her 3 year old strong will and sassiness!)  Although I often have to remind myself that the strong will that makes me want to lose my mind sometimes is the same strong will that made her survive for 27 months in an orphanage.  And that same strong will had her up and walking in a body cast 2 days after having part of her leg amputated.” 

I want to stop the story here for a second to introduce the Chinese proverb of the Red Thread that says, “An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break." It is an appealing concept because we are connected to all of our important people regardless of nationality, distance, and time. The myth claims that the red thread connects loving parents, however separated by space and time, with their baby until they become family.

At first glance this seems to be magical thinking, but that seems to apply here.  And as it turns out there are Red Thread societies that help in the adoption process. Wynne says that she “believes thing happen for a reason” so perhaps that red thread lead her to Anna Grace. Wynne observed that, “God creates families in all kinds of ways. It doesn't matter how we come together. All that matters is the love we have for each other!”

So this little family has come together from across the globe which is in some ways terribly normal but in other ways is quite extraordinary. Every parent has experienced surprise and joy and has to exercise patience. For example, Wynne reported that, ”Your kid takes her shoes and socks off every time you get in the car? Apparently, now that she's wearing shorts, mine takes her leg off. This might make for a long summer having to put her leg back on every time we reach our destination!”

Do you hear the laughter there? That is magic.

As adults we often lose our ability to imagine or to see magic in the world but connecting with that childlike ability is powerful.  One day Anna said, Momma, let’s go to the museum. Let’s walk to the museum.”  Wynne replied that the museum was too far to walk that late in the day.  “No, mommy. I show you.”

So they were off to the park at the top of the street where the benches magically became dinosaurs, the fountain became a polar bear, and nearby sticks became exhibits. Wynne observed that for some reason it is sometimes difficult for adults to tap into that creative part of ourselves to find enjoyment in the pretend world. But if we just go with it, the world becomes magical - once again.

Have you ever noticed that you see the world differently just by taking one step to the side? For instance, look at your neighborhood from your neighbor’s porch.  The world looks different. Perspective is everything. My favorite story about magic in parenting is this. Let Wynne tell the story.

“There have been many times over the past year when Anna Grace has challenged me to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. Things that I would normally be too busy to acknowledge or things that become so routine that I don't pay attention. But to her, it's all new and fascinating. Like jumping in puddles! I would usually say that a rainy day is a good day to stay inside and do nothing. And stepping in a puddle is usually a cause for grumbling. But not today.

As we went out on the porch this afternoon to look at the rain, AG tentatively put her foot on the sidewalk and then looked over her shoulder at me with a grin. I knew that grin meant "I'm probably not supposed to be doing this, but I want to see if you're going to stop me." I almost said "no" (because I didn't want to change her wet clothes right before dinner), but instead, I told her to go ahead. She happily bounced down the sidewalk (in the rain) and then touched her bare foot into the wet grass. And I realized that this was the first time she had ever walked barefoot in the rain. 

She then said ‘Come play in the rain with me, mom!’ I didn't have getting soaking wet on my agenda for the day (and quite honestly, I don't enjoy wearing wet clothes!), but I couldn't resist her face of anticipation. So we played in the rain. And I taught her how to jump in puddles. And she was in heaven! She jumped and danced and literally rolled in puddles for 30 minutes. I'm so glad that she made me slow down to experience the simple joys of life. I'll remember the first time puddle jumping with Anna Grace much more than I'll remember sitting inside the house with dry clothes!”

There is magic in the world - in rain puddles, in the park, everywhere. We only have to see.

In Other Words is a column by Chuck Keller. 


  1. Yes. There is magic in a family that works hard to be together across miles and circumstance. May there be enough puddles for us all! :)

  2. This is beautifully written, Chuck. I love all your stories. So happy for Wynne and Anna Grace. What a wonderful lesson to learn early on is the child rearing process. Most of us don't stop to "see" until we are much older. That's why being a grandparent is so wonderful, you get that second chance! Blessings.

  3. A truly wonderful family! So happy to know them.

  4. Wonderful story! You have captured Wynne's joy.