When the kid landed on our doorstep, he wasn't what we were planning for.
I'll never forget the first time I saw him; It was a Saturday evening at our church and there he was, personable and outgoing, greeting everyone who walked through the door with an irrepressible grin and a bottle of water.
We had missed a couple of Sundays because I'd been in the hospital with dad and in the little gap, he appeared. I didn't think much of it. I assumed he belonged to someone; most of us do. It was a few weeks later when I realized he sort of belonged to the whole community and no one, all at once. He has a dad that he loves and belongs to, but his dad, like mine, is sick. His mom, like Aaron's and mine, is gone.
On Sunday morning, about a week after we first met, he sat with us in church and asked if he could come to our house after. This isn't the first time we've had a neighborhood kid turn up in our lives, so we said sure. That first afternoon we somewhat absently mentioned the pancakes we had for breakfast and his face was so wistful I told him he'd have to come over some Sunday and have pancakes with us. He told me he also liked mac and cheese, so that week, I bought some. Just in case.
The next Sunday at church, he sat with us again and in the middle of the sermon he slides me a note; "am I still coming over this afternoon? Circle one. Yes. No."
I didn't really realize we'd made a plan exactly, for him to come over again.
Nonetheless, I circle "yes".
Underneath I write "Pancakes or Mac & Cheese to eat? Circle one". I slide the note back.
A grin cracks his face. He circles pancakes over and over.
And that's how it started.
I think at first he came for the food. I think that's still part of what he comes for. And I think he comes for the air conditioning, which he doesn't have at home. And he comes because sometimes we do fun things, like go camping or to the big library downtown, or even simple things like lightning bug catching or driving with the windows down and pandora playing, which he loves.
But he has come every day but two since April. And not every day is excitement and pancakes.
So I think he must be getting something more out of it than food for his belly, although if that were all he wanted, I'd still be glad to give it to him.
All the same, I think he must know that we have come to love him and maybe that's part of why he stays.
I call him The Kid.
Aaron said to me "you might have to come up with another name for him, since it will get a little confusing once we have more kids. You can't call them all The Kid."
But I said no. He will always be The Kid to me. No other child in our lives will be The Kid. Just him. The one I didn't plan for. He isn't mine, but he's still and always a part of my heart.
Aaron and I were and still are planning to expand our family. We just thought it would be through foster care or adoption or even biological children. We certainly didn't plan on a kid who goes home most nights, who still asks his dad for permission to do the things we plan for, and who introduces us as his "neighbors" when we run into the plethora of people he knows.
But his presence in our lives, although unplanned and unusual, has confirmed the plan in a million ways. Has expanded the plan. Has given us some insight into what it is we're actually undertaking.
That's what happens with plans. It's good to make them, as long as you know that they're more of a rough outline rather than a finished story.