Excerpt­ed from Cast­ing Lots: Cre­at­ing a Fam­i­ly in a Beau­ti­ful, Bro­ken World by Susan Silverman.

The qui­et of night­time. The girls are asleep and I can sit beside them in silence, feel­ing in sync with their neshamot, souls. Elo­hai neshama she’natata bee, teho­ra hee. My God, the soul you gave me is pure.

Aliza slept as she had since birth, on her back with her arms straight up at her ears. Her hair was still damp and sweet from grape-scent­ed sham­poo. I kissed her soft, dim­pled fin­gers, recall­ing a sto­ry her teacher had told me that after­noon. Aliza had stood in the mid­dle of a game the kids were play­ing and held up her hands, like a traf­fic cop. Hey, stop!” she said loud­ly. The oth­er chil­dren stared as Aliza turned to Deb­bie, a severe­ly hear­ing impaired child who often sat on the side­lines, and reached out her hand. Come, it’s your turn now.”

I kissed my girl’s cheek and whis­pered how much I loved her. Then I perched on the edge of the bed where Hal­lel was sprawled. She had tossed and turned in her sleep ever since she could move inde­pen­dent­ly — side, back, tum­my — mum­bling as she moved. What was she dream­ing? She was a child of cheek­squeez­ing love (she squeezed our cheeks) and stub­born rage, who had, in her younger years, shown can­ni­bal­is­tic ten­den­cies. I love you like crazy-cakes, my fun­ny, kind-of-scary girl,” I whis­pered to my now four-year-old, still fierce but no-longer-chomp­ing- on-chil­dren child. May you always be safe, healthy, and well fed. You mine fo-eva.”

My girls were safe and cozy in the soft cot­ton sheets my moth­er had bought them. (“Hon­ey, nev­er buy the girls sheets with few­er than a 250-thread count.”) My moth­er was always so clear about what we need­ed. She gave us things I didn’t ever con­sid­er until we had them. Extra-soft sheets for the kids. Wrin­kle-free trav­el clothes for Yosef. A loofah sponge for me. It real­ly did soft­en the hard, dry bot­toms of my feet. Our light-brown duvet cov­er smelled like vanil­la because my moth­er had put a small net bag of scent­ed gels in the wood­en trunk at the end of our bed, to give your sheets a slight scent of vanil­la essence, like the scent­ed oil you like.” How come you’ve nev­er noticed the vanil­la?” I asked Yosef as I held the blan­ket to my face.

It was as if my moth­er had an Excel spread­sheet of what her chil­dren need­ed and when, from birth to death. Oh, I guess when you’re thir­ty-three-and-a-half you’ll have to loofah the bot­toms of your feet in the show­er.” She kept me apace with what she per­ceived as the demands of my age. Some­day, when I’m old, I’ll get a let­ter from her execu­tor with a bot­tle of Nivea hand cream with age-spot remover with a let­ter telling me how I should dry my hands before apply­ing it. Not wet, so that the cream dis­solves, but damp so it traps the mois­ture. And she will be right. She knew what words I need­ed, too. As she dried the new­ly rinsed set of unbreak­able wine gob­lets from Cost­co, I said, What if I don’t love an adopt­ed child like I love the girls?” She laid the dish­tow­el across the glass­es that sparkled upside down, and said, When that child looks up at you and you real­ize that you’re it for that kid, that the buck stops with you, the love will just be there.”

It’s a prac­ti­cal thing, love. My fam­i­ly appeared sham­bol­ic, but love oozed through our many cracks, through our messy attempts to know, to under­stand, one anoth­er. But what hap­pens to a lit­tle boy’s thoughts when he has no one who shares them? What hap­pens to a lit­tle girl’s mem­o­ries when they haunt her? Do these mem­o­ries get caught in the throat? Burn behind the eyes? The unknown-ness of each child in an orphan­age — or on the streets or worse — the mem­o­ries, pas­sions, joys, fears, strug­gles, and what makes them laugh, all of it must increase a lone­ly sense of being indis­tin­guish­able from the child in the next bed as they are squeezed into shapes by neces­si­ty. We are all bro­ken, we just are. But if we are a lit­tle lucky, and very will­ing to learn how, our shards and pieces can form mosaics of love and rela­tion­ship — unwieldy, vibrant, and cracked as they must be. If we are not so blessed, we need to fit to what­ev­er form is known or avail­able to us. Kids in insti­tu­tions or mak­ing their way on the streets take on out­er shells of con­for­mi­ty and neces­si­ty. A splay of glow stars sparkled above the girls as they slept. Stand­ing on a lad­der with her neck bent back and arms raised, Lau­ra had painstak­ing­ly orga­nized the stars by con­stel­la­tion. When she tired of fol­low­ing the chart that came in the box, she scat­tered the rest of them across the white ceil­ing. I was hap­py not to have them ordered just so. I’m not inter­est­ed in find­ing these forms in the real sky. A belt? A dog? For me, the stars are ques­tions, not answers. Pos­si­bil­i­ty, not defined fig­ures. The heav­ens declare the glo­ry of God. The fir­ma­ment shows God’s hand­i­work, says the psalmist.

For the sake of our child-to-be, Yosef and I would nav­i­gate forms, inter­views, reg­u­la­tions, bureau­cra­cy, heart­break, and hope — swing­ing from star to star — to the oth­er side, where a child will lov­ing­ly be tucked in, sung to, and kissed good­night, just as every child deserves. And when this child grows up and has chil­dren I’ll make sure they sleep in sheets of the soft­est cotton.

Reprint­ed cour­tesy of Da Capo Press

Relat­ed Content:

Susan Sil­ver­man is a writer, activist, speak­er, and rab­bi. She has writ­ten for and been fea­tured in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Huff­in­g­ton Post, among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She and her spouse, Yosef Abramowitz, have five children�”biological and adopted�”and live in Jerusalem.