Family, Random DJB Thoughts
Comments 17

It was twenty years ago today

On a bright, clear, and wintery Sunday morning — December 20, 1992 — two infants, each barely over 5 pounds in size, entered and forever changed our world. Of course, we didn’t know it at the time, because we wouldn’t learn of their birth from the adoption agency until the next morning. But when I heard that they were born around 11:50 a.m. (and Claire will know who came out first and how much older that twin is than Andrew), I recalled that at the  very moment of their birth I was singing the ancient carol There Is No Rose of Such Virtue on the last Sunday of Advent.

Knowing that their birth mother could deliver at any time, we were certainly – in that Advent season — looking forward to those births. And we’ve been singing ever since.

Claire and Andrew came home with us on January 14, 1993. They received a royal welcome from friends and family, who decorated the house with balloons, left strollers and diapers on the front porch, and brought food over by the boat load. It was a good thing, because we were outnumbered.  Twin infants and two adults…thank God the reinforcements arrived soon!  (Candice’s mother was on the scene within the week, followed quickly by my Mom and sister Debbie.)

Baptism  with the Godparents1993

A good friend – and mother of twins – told us the story that on her girls’ first birthday, she took her nightgown – which she had rarely taken off over the past 365 days – and burned it in a rite of passage ritual on the backyard grill. We didn’t do anything so drastic in December 1993, but we certainly understood the impulse. What a handful twins can be when they are young!

A meal in Staunton

Through the years it became obvious that we were blessed with two wonderful, talented, beautiful, and intelligent children.  I can say all of that without sounding boastful because they don’t share my genes! But I can’t imagine loving any child – biological, adopted, step, or otherwise – anymore than I love these two beautiful people.

Andrew's first haircut
Claire at Kanuga 1995

To watch them grow into the wonderful adults they’ve become has been the joy of my life. I remember each phase of that growth, knowing that it wasn’t always easy (for them or for us), but secure in the knowledge that they were surrounded by love.

Baking Cookies
Claire on her slide...a favorite activity when she couldn't get outside
Andrew and Mom dance at Uncle Andy and Aunt Robin's wedding

Our traditional birthday celebration – once we got past the “invite over the entire pre-school” phase – was to go to a Japanese steak house for dinner.  This began in elementary school, when Andrew and Claire visited their local restaurant while studying Japan.  They thought it was the neatest thing in the world to see the chef toss an egg in the air, break it with his spatula, and then cook it right before their eyes. And the great thing about these guys…they were still clamoring for the traditional celebration when they were 18 years old. They have a wonderful way of holding on while still moving forward.

Hiking at Wintergreen with Dad
Hiking at Wintergreen with Mom

From day one, Andrew and Claire had their different personalities and interests. We always called Claire our “outdoors girl,” because she loved being out of the house. We still call her that today. Claire, the swimmer, is up at 6 a.m. to get in two hours of practice with her college swim team in an outdoor pool in Southern California before breakfast. As for Andrew, I always said that he had perfect pitch coming out of the womb. He loved music, melody, and rhythms, and we spoke of his “math/music” mind that got the theory but also the art.  Every time he opens his mouth to sing – and he’s doing a lot of that in college – I am transported by what comes out.

First day of kindergarten

When they headed off for kindergarten, I somehow knew that college wouldn’t be far off.  But the time has flown by even faster than I could have imagined. My advice…hug, laugh, cry, savor every chance you get.

The Dancer and Harry Potter
The Brown Family 2004

Claire and Andrew will be thankful that I’ll spare you many pictures of the middle school years.  I’ve just included the one above because it captures us in 2004 – when they were 12 – with our old girl Lilly. Claire was the instigator of getting a dog, and Lilly – a Sussex Spaniel – was a big part of all our lives for about 9 years. Saying goodbye to her in 2009 was one of those life lessons that every child works through, but it was especially hard on Claire and Candice. Everyone loved Lilly, but they had special bonds.

Andrew 2010 by Claire
Claire Self Portrait 2008

Claire took up a strong interest in photography when she entered high school, and one of my favorite pictures of her is the self portrait above that she took in 2008. She has always had the most expressive eyes.  As an infant, friends and family would comment on how those eyes would fix on you and capture you with their intensity and beauty.

Claire &  Andrew at the Cappies 2009
At Mohonk Mountain House 2010
Andrew at the Ocean in South Africa
Claire in Stockholm Ice Bar 2012

I’ve often said I want to change lives with my children. Before they reached 20, they had traveled to South Africa, Sweden, Spain, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Costa Rica, and all over the US. Hell, I’d never flown in an airplane until I was in college! Life is different these days, and I’m so glad we were able to give them the opportunity to learn more about some of the other people who inhabit this planet.

So here it is, twenty years later. And guess who won’t be home for their birthdays. Yes, the crunch of exams and the desire not to fly cross-country on her birthday pushed Claire’s arrival home back a day.  Once he heard that his sister wasn’t going to be around for their birthday, Andrew bailed as well and went to visit a friend in Boston.  We’ll see them both on Friday, and who knows, we may even find ourselves in a Japanese steak house over the weekend.

As I was lamenting my fate of having the children out-of-town for their 20th birthdays, a very wise friend told me the quote, “When they’re little, you can manufacture quality time. When they’re older, you just need to be there when it happens.” This is a passage for Candice and me.  But I do know that they will appreciate it when we are there for them.

So Happy 20th Birthday Andrew and Claire!  You can’t imagine how you’ve enriched my life over the past two decades.  I love you and can’t wait to see you on Friday – the 21st.  I’ll apologize now for putting up these pictures you’ll hate and for telling the world how wonderful you are, but I don’t really mean it (the apology, that is).  And I’ll end this post with the same song that brought you into the world.

I love you.


Claire on the Chesapeake Bay
Lesson and Carols at the Washington National Cathedral 2010
First Day of School Senior Year of High School 2010
Andrew's High School Graduation
Claire's High School Graduation
Andrew and Claire on the Front Porch
This entry was posted in: Family, Random DJB Thoughts


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. H EUGENE COTEY says

    David, I absolutely loved your post about your kids’ 20th birthdays. If she were here, I’ll bet your mother would say the same sorts of things about life with you. Parenting is an extraordinary experience with many lessons to teach us, such as the big one you quoted about quality time.

    Love, Jean Cotey


    • Thanks, Mrs. Cotey. Mom died when Andrew and Claire were about 5, so she got to see them as toddlers but would have loved them in every stage of their lives. Had a nice note from Sara the other day – sounds like her family is doing well. Merry Christmas to all the Coteys.

  2. Nancy says

    I enjoyed the pictures of your children through the years and the sentiments you expressed. Children are a true gift. I can’t imagine life with out them.

  3. Tom Brown says

    David, Great and good memories. I remember the early days when one of them was awake 24/7 and Helen and Debbie came to the recue. It was so good to have you visit in August. Enjoy your Japanese dinner. Eating is a good ritual and a time to remember. Candice and you have excelled at parenting.
    Love, Daddy

  4. Debbie Crocker says

    As usual your way with words is amazing. We are all blessed by Andrew and Claire being a part of our family. I am so proud of them and all their accomplishments. You and Candice are wonderful parents. You’ve done a great job! I love the trip down memory lane through your blog. Give those two a big hug from me too!


  5. Elizabeth Lane says

    David, I have tears in my eyes. What a wonderful tribute not only to your children, but to you and Candice. Much love,

    • Bizzy and John: Thanks for your nice comments. One of the many wonderful things about having Andrew and Claire is that we also had the chance to connect to wonderful godparents and their families as well. We’ve all been blessed. Love, DJB

  6. Katharine Brown says

    Hi David,
    Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful blog about Claire’s and Andrew’s 20th birthdays, The pictures are a delight. The one of little Claire in the woods is a great favorite and is framed on my dresser. I trust they figured out long ago that they are two of the most fortunate adoptees in the whole world to have landed you and Candice as parents. You all are a real model of caring, nurturing, loving parenthood. Andrew and Claire are proof that it works! It has been a privilege and joy to be a godmother to Claire. Congratulations to the four of you and a Merry Christmas too. Love, Katharine

  7. Doug Roller says

    Claire’s godfather Doug, reporting here. The scrapbook pictures are indeed a delight, and we can just imagine the kids’ first viewing—the eye-rolls!—Oh, Dad… !

    We heartily agree with other Replies: Claire & Andrew are two fortunate kids, with equally fortunate parents. And here I recognize the urge to say Something Meaningful and Godfatherly to Claire, but I won’t risk another eye-roll….

    Happy Birthday! Merry Christmas! and Much Love,
    from Doug & Tidge

    • Thanks for the note, Doug. Actually, both children said they liked the post…no eye rolls required…although they may have been just playing nicely with their father. And they seemed pleased that over 200 people had read it. Merry Christmas to you and Tidge.

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