At breakfast, I watch the boys eat using table manners I’d never seen at the orphanage. “Of all our kids, they were the least domesticated,” Gregg chuckles. “They had absolutely no domestic skills.” Over eggs, the boys argue about who has the best English (Luís to Juanito: “You write the best, but I speak the best.”), and get a kick out of repeating how Juan and Higinio’s names are pronounced by their teachers (“John” and “Gee-gee-nio”).
Their English is still choppy, but they have no trouble expressing themselves and they understand nearly everything. When together, they revert to Spanish, something their parents encourage, making sure the boys have access to Spanish-language television and music.
The four of us spend the day riding bikes, bantering, playing; they regale me with stories of their latest accomplishments, and I get to know their new routines. When I ask about the best part of their new life, Juanito raises his arms in the air and exults, “¡Ahora estamos libres!” (Now we’re free!)
Later, as we play games at Chuck E. Cheese’s and go out for ice cream, I realize the truth of Juanito’s comment. At the orphanage their future was limited; in the United States, their new life opens up possibilities. Their future, their new freedom, includes the best of gifts: growing up in the warmth of their parents’ care and affection.
“They give the greatest hugs,” Mary Jo says. “Melt-your-heart hugs.”
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