The clock struck. 7 am. A harsh reality on a Saturday morning after a luscious Friday evening in Merida. I lay there hoping someone would make coffee, just this once.
For the past two months, I’ve been getting up early every Saturday morning to go to the orphanage and play with the babies. Babies from 4 days to 14 months who have either been there all their lives, or just arrived, like a package on a doorstep.
At first there are 11 of them, some shy and reserved and refusing to smile, and some with faces soft and tender despite their rather harsh entry into life’s circumstances. We don’t know much about their backgrounds, these babies, just that most have families who cannot care for them for one reason or another. I try not to judge them, the mothers who are often children themselves. Instead I take my cue from the wonderful women, young and seasoned, who care for these kids on a daily basis. They call out their names in passing, like Santa Claus with his list. But what they dole out here is love and compassion; even a gentle admonishment always ends in ‘amor’. “No amor”. “Cuidado amor”.
I try to love them all equally, these babies, but it is impossible. I’m drawn to the ones who give something back, but it’s the ones who have little to give who need me. So I do my best—baby talk being a language as foreign to me as spanish was 24 months ago. At least we’re on a level playing field, these babies and I. My few spanish words are enough to get their attention and they don’t seem to mind that my repetoire of songs are mostly from the Turtles Greatest Hits. Being tossed in the air to ‘I Can’t See Me Lovin’ Nobody But You‘ is universally worthy of a smile as big as a moon.
We’ve weathered the storm of good days and sad at the orphanage, of sick and sick again, but I was not prepared for the inevitable—some of the babies get to go home again. And when their legs are sturdy, they move next door to the Toddler Room because that’s how things work at an orphanage. In a few short weeks I’d lost my heart to Fernanda, Adriana, Victor, Gaby, Christian and Christopher, and now they were gone. Replaced by new little packages left at the door. For the ones who went home, I hoped for the best. And the ones left behind?…