A long journey from Ethiopia, a storybook ending at Pearson
Published on Wednesday December 19, 2012
CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR
Tiffany Gillespie (in black shirt) watches as her newly adopted daughter Edan (in pink) greets her new sisters Cristiana (in purple) and Aliya (in white) at Pearson airport Wednesday. Tiffany was returning with Edan after adopting her from an orphanage in Ethiopia.
The text to her partner came from the immigration line on the other side of sliding glass doors at Pearson airport’s Terminal 1.
“You’d better have Kleenex for me.”
Tiffany Gillespie was puddling up again. Inching closer and closer to one last border officer, the tears were flowing more frequently now. Soon, the 5-year-old at her side, the one with the trusting eyes, gap-toothed smile and colourful beads braided so perfectly into her hair, would officially be a landed immigrant.
Gillespie’s daughter, her new child, would be home. The adoption process, a five-year emotional odyssey of hope and red tape that brought them from Ethiopia, would be over.
“It’s been a very long journey. It’s almost like giving birth,” said Gillespie, on the verge of crying again. “She’s so beautiful.”
Technically, this is not a story about a reunion but rather a union.
Little Edilawit Gillespie not only has a new mother, but waiting at Pearson on Wednesday were two new sisters, Aliya, 11, and Cristiana, 9, who was adopted from Ecuador six years ago. And there also was Sean Rousseau, Gillespie’s partner, and his three young children.
One growing, modern family, waiting anxiously for the latest addition. The handmade, neon green Welcome to Canada sign — “We all made it,” said Cristiana — added the right touch of occasion. The four pink and silver balloons, including one that read “A New Little Princess,” were passed from little hands to little hands, keeping the mood festive.
Edilawit, said the 45-year-old Gillespie, means “lucky” in Amharic. It will be shortened here to Edan, a name that fits easily in both cultures.
“It means a promise from God, so a promise for five years,” said Gillespie.
Edan is from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Her mother was blind and departed shortly after Edan was born, leaving the child to be raised by her great-grandmother. But that great-grandmother, in her 80s, wanted to ensure the girl had a home if she died. Edan was placed in an orphanage.
“I don’t know how that worked but I know she was lucky,” said Gillespie. “There’s lots of children in Ethiopia that live on the streets and they have no home.”
The search for a child to adopt had been on-going for years and it was in February that Gillespie learned of Edilawit. She flew over and met her in July and the two bonded quickly. Gillespie then returned to her Milton home and waited for the immigration process to play out. When Gillespie went back to Ethiopia to bring her daughter to Canada five days ago, orphanage workers told her the young girl was frequently asking for the whereabouts of her mommy from Canada.
“It’s a spiritual thing; God puts you together,” said Gillespie, a social worker with Children’s Aid in Brantford.
Together a little quicker than Gillespie expected. The paperwork wasn’t to be completed until February but she received an email recently arrived saying Edan could come.
It was a joyous surprise, fitting the season.
And, as she waited to hug her new little sister for the first time, Cristiana summed up the feelings of her entire family.
“This,” she said. “Is the best Christmas ever.”