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mixed blessings

The Blessings Of A Mixed Family

By Pat Burns, Regional Editor, GRAND Magazine 

The story of my precious grandson Zeke’s adoption from Ethiopia is a tale of longing and love. My daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Doug, planned on having a large family; but after two tough and complex natural births, they made the decision not to birth more children and opened their hearts to adoption.

They wanted to adopt a child who may not have many opportunities, and whom they could offer a superb education and life with a loving family. Ethiopia is considered one of the more “adoption friendly” countries, so they began the long adoption process through an agency. Three-and-a-half years later, and tens of thousands of dollars spent, they wondered if they would ever receive that long awaited phone call from the agency. 

Finally a baby comes

A policewoman walking through a field discovered an infant boy—perhaps seven days old—in an uncovered grave. Within a week, Jennifer and Doug flew to Ethiopia and spent five days falling in love with this tiny baby boy. Then, with very heavy hearts, they left Ethiopia so the legal process for abandoned babies could begin. 

The new waiting began

First, to illuminate the possibility that the baby could have been taken or was missing, Ethiopian officials had to post “found baby” notices for 90 days, in newspapers, church bulletins, and other points of public communication. During this period, officials relegated Zeke to an overcrowded, dirt-floored orphanage. Finally, after the three heart-wrenching months, our baby could be legally adopted.

After Jennifer and Doug appeared in the Ethiopia court and the adoption was granted, the US embassy required six weeks to process Zeke’s visa. At long last, his new mommy was able to hold the five-month-old, Zeke safely in her arms for the long flight to the United States, and introduce him to his new home and our family. And what a blessing he’s been! We’ve all learned many things but most particularly that the heart knows no limit for the capacity to love.

i am Mixed

Like most two-year-olds, Zeke loves to have books read to him before going to bed. Every night, after dinner, he has his bath, and once he’s in his pajamas and ready for sleep time he goes to his little book shelf and pulls three, or sometimes four, books he wants read to him. Sometimes it’s Thomas the Train, an animal book, or Butterfly Kisses.  But, without fail, he always selects the book I Am Mixed, which I gave him not too long ago.

The story illustrates the beauty of diversity and color.  It is beyond my comprehension that he is able to grasp this story of biracial twins when he is only two years old. Zeke is pure Ethiopian and not mixed. Yes, his family is mixed but I can’t help to wonder – how does he know this? Nonetheless, it is my hope that he will always know he is loved for being himself and for being brown and beautiful.

DIFRET film review

Pat Burns with grandson, Zeke

Now that I have an Ethiopian grandson I’m educating myself about Ethiopia through films and food featuring Ethiopian cuisine. One such film I recently screened is DIFRET presented by Angelina Jolie, written and directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari.

The story is set three hours outside of Addis Ababa, where a bright fourteen-year-old girl is on her way home from school when men on horses swoop in and kidnap her. The brave Hirut grabs a rifle and tries to escape, but ends up shooting her would-be husband. In her village, the practice of abduction into marriage is common and one of Ethiopia’s oldest traditions.

Meaza Ashenafi, an empowered and tenacious young lawyer, arrives from the city to represent Hirut and argue that she acted in self-defense. Meaza boldly embarks on a collision course between enforcing civil authority and abiding by customary law, risking the ongoing work of her women’s legal-aid practice to save Hirut’s life.

Based on a real-life story, this film goes beneath the layer of polite social customs to explore an aggressively rooted patriarchy that perpetuates inhospitable conditions for women in Ethiopia and portrays the complexity of a country’s transformation toward equal rights, featuring the courageous generation that dares to own it.

DIFRET won Audience Awards at: Sundance Film Festival; Berlin International Film Festival and World Cinema Amsterdam. Release of this film is soon to be published. For more information please email pburns@grandmagazine.com

This feature film is in Amharic with English subtitles.

Pat Burns helps families save money. She’s co-founder of the Orange County Children’s Book Festival, GRAND’s Regional Editor, author of Grandparents Rock®, and the crazy happy grandmother of four and proud to be part of a loving mixed family.


GRAND is proud to publish this story of a very special mixed family. If you have a ‘mixed-family’ we’d love to hear your story.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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