A New Life in America
story by Jordan Putt
Kelly Walden slips into the dark room with maps tacked up on a pink wall and creeps into bed with her teenage daughter. At first, Kalkidan—or Kal—resists the voice pulling her out of sleep. But soon, the two push back the covers and head to the bathroom where they take turns in front of the mirror.
When Kal was adopted from Ethiopia at age 13, she was scared. She's had to adjust to not only a new family but a new life in Paducah as a Walden. A year passed before she hugged Kelly—a moment her mom cherishes. When it happened, Kal immediately retreated several feet. It didn't happen again for several months.
Now at 16, Kal lets Kelly crawl into bed to wake her up and she's started calling her mom, if only when Kelly isn't in the room.
Kelly and her husband, Wayne, had decided long ago that they would eventually adopt after having three kids biologically. The first year after Kal came home was the hardest, Kelly says, but she celebrated that, no matter what, her newest daughter gained a family.
"After a year of giving her all this affection without receiving it back it got really hard. I wanted to give up, but you just can't," Kelly says. "Well you can, but we just couldn't."