Kim Blacklow is a senior partner at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton, a global law firm that employs 12,000 lawyers. She is married to Ken Blacklow and they have a son, Issac, who is nine. Recently Kim and Ken adopted a five-year-old Ethiopian boy whom they have named Aaron Mamush Blacklow. Ever since hearing about this more than a year ago, I have wondered what they were thinking. Kim Blacklow has more than enough on her plate.
“We wanted a brother for Isaac,” Kim said as we talked recently on their back deck. And then Mamush came bursting outside onto the deck with two toy cars. The brother addition is only part of the answer, I discovered as I watched Kim’s eyes and her deep smile responding to the entrance of her son. Kim Blacklow has a very healthy heart.
The adoption process was long and agonizing. It took five years, which involved mountains of paperwork, several trips to Ethiopia, and government policy changes. “We almost gave up and asked for our application to be withdrawn,” Kim said. “At one point three years ago the adoption agency informed us that everything was in place, and then something happened. That was the most painful. I am a lawyer, which means that I usually have some control of the process. This was so different.”
But everything finally did come together in May of 2013. Kim and Ken returned to Ethiopia for the final court hearing. The decision to grant them custody of Mamush was made on his fourth birthday. They celebrated the event with a big birthday party at the orphanage.
Their wait was still not over, however. It took the State Department three months to issue Mamush a visa. When they returned to Ethiopia in August 2013 to pick him up, a special event took place. The Blacklows traveled to Sidama in Southern Ethiopia, the tiny village where Mamush was born, to meet his birth mother. At one point in the hour-long meeting Kim asked Mamush’s mother about some of the special things she did for him as a little boy. “I would sing to him our traditional songs,” the woman replied. The Blacklows were able to make a video of Mamush’s mother singing to him. “It will be a part of his history Mamush will have forever,” Kim said.
“It was instant bonding on all sides,” Kim continued. “Mamush fell into our arms, and we couldn’t wait to hold him. Isaac had a few problems in the first weeks, but he has been fantastic since then. Mamush has his special brother.”
At this point Ken joined us on the porch. “Mamush came to us with a few problems. He wasn’t talking, he was malnourished and he had some gross motor issues. I was surprised that a kid, almost five, couldn’t go down a slide.”
But what a difference a year makes. The Mamush I saw was a chatterbox. He now swims, rides a bike, and is learning to hit a tennis ball. It is obvious he has flourished from the love and attentive care he has received from Kim, Ken and Isaac. I left thinking there is no greater contribution one can make to the health of the planet than to love a child. I rode my bike home feeling inspired and good about life.
The celebration of Russell Clark’s life on Sunday at the East Chop Beach Club was also an inspirational and feel-good event. Russell’s children, Casey Obert, and sons David and Bill Clark eulogized their father as a hero in their lives, a loyal friend to many, and a man with a gift for bringing people together. Carol’s children, Bob Jones, Julie Moore, Cincy Gage, Susan McKeon and Amy Baskin praised Russell for his great love of their mother and for being a wonderful storyteller. Grandchildren read poems and shared stories of their beloved grandfather. The Reverend Bob Hammett closed the formal part of the celebration with his characteristic warmth and style. It was an impressive tribute to a very good and interesting man.
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