March 30, 2010
Hastily, I grabbed The Sea Chest (written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by Mary GrandPre) from the library shelf. Imagine my surprise when a book chosen to excite my two youngsters about this summer’s Michigan Dunes vacation turned out to be a beautiful, miraculous adoption story. In fact, a surprise ending intertwines two adoptions into one intensely passionate story.
Auntie Maita recounts the entrance of her baby sister on the little lighthouse island more than eighty year ago. After a terrifying storm, a bundled leather sea chest washes up on the shore. Tiny cries coming from the chest give Maita great hope that finally her dream will come true – the kitten she has always wanted. As Papa pulls at the icy hinges, Maita looks into the face of a small stranger, purple with cold. Dangling from the baby’s wrist is a love note from her parents, revealing the desperation of their situation. Keep the beloved baby and all will perish for sure, or toss the baby to the sea and pray that God will deliver her alone.
It is through this tragedy that a beautiful adoption takes place. Baby Seaborne is carried home to the lighthouse and sleeps in the sea chest until she grows too big. Papa then builds her a trundle bed tucked beneath Maita’s tall bed. The two island sisters spin a life of shelter, love, and foreverness.
Several generations later, the sea chest is still a treasured possession of the descendants of this lighthouse family. And once again, a little girl awaits for her Mama and Papa to return from across the Atlantic to bring home another sister from far away who will find forever comfort in the old leather sea chest.
What adoptive mom has not heard, “Why did my mom give me away?” I have several times, and I must honestly answer, “I don’t know, Sweetheart.” The message in The Sea Chest helps a little grieving heart to get a glimpse of what heart-wrenching situations may lead a mother to send her precious bundle into the ocean of abandonment. I think this story may comfort a confused child or at least open the doors of communication for the adoptive family.
I am blessed to be the discoverer of two precious bundles, wrapped in “eiderdown mattresses tied with sailor’s knots.” My heart will forever be bound with the mother and father who sent them to sea hoping to save them.