Tim and I have driven across the Ohio River to or beyond Louisville, Ky., a number of times over the past decade, often with friends along. Each time, Tim seems to gather himself as we approach the bridge, as if tensing for a moment of joyous revelation. Midway across it comes. His arm sweeps across the broad Midwestern waterway to take in the urban riverfront and backdrop of skyscrapers. It is a grandly eloquent gesture, and my son's voice rises clear and bright with glad tidings.
"This," he announces to whatever pal is along, "is my hometown."
Louisville is no "Big Apple," but the city-scape is impressive compared with that of Bloomington, Ind., where we have lived most of Tim's life. In downtown Bloomington only three structures rise to any appreciable height: the domed roof of the courthouse, the seven-story Graham Hotel, and the chimney stack of the old Johnson Creamery. By comparison, Louisville is big-time. Having come into the world there, Tim claims its relative glories as his birthright.
No matter that he only lived in Louisville a few brief weeks before the adoption papers were signed and he became my - and by association - Indiana's child. After once seeing the place from his car seat at a very young age, he never forgot it. Wherever he might travel in life, Louisville was and always will be his hometown.
Tim has actually traveled a great deal in his 13 years, through the United States, Canada, and Europe. But nothing pleases him more than to return to his Kentucky roots. Despite their early transplanting, they are part of the rich fabric of who he is.
Sometimes we drive to Louisville to attend meetings and picnics with other adoptive families at the agency that brought Tim and me together. Other times we wave to the city on our way elsewhere. Over various weekends in recent years we've visited Bluegrass country, toured Abe Lincoln's birthplace, and bed-and-breakfasted in Shakertown. We've even ventured deep underground at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Despite the rivalry between Indiana and Kentucky, especially in sports, I want to nurture Tim's pride in his birth state, which he sometimes likes to pronounce "Kantuck" with a homey regional drawl. It is beautiful country, and it's handy for weekend travels.
But there's more to our trips south than that. Tim and I don't know the story of his birth, or the identity of his birth parents. Though he loves to hear about his adoption and of the wondrous day I met my almost-newborn, he seems sometimes to peer beyond my stories to a tale of origins I am unable to tell.
Kentucky holds the key. Each time we go there, Tim gets a little closer to finding answers. Not facts, not names and faces, but threads of a story he can tell himself. Looking at the map on our last trip, a link suddenly caught his eye.
"Hey," he exclaimed to his friend Dan. "Did you know I was born just up the road from Abe Lincoln?"
Tim may never come to know his birth parents or their histories, but he is getting to know their home state. By adopting it as his own, he has made a connection innately important to him. And by taking him across the Ohio from time to time, I'm becoming a part of a beginning that I might otherwise have missed out on completely.
So, thank you, "Kantuck." And come time to play again, may the best team win.