After Edwin and LaQuita Dixon married, they led their own lives for a while—sure that if God wanted them to have children, it would happen. They both had successful jobs and professional lives and didn’t really discuss adoption.
One day in the fall of 1998, Edwin told his wife that he had to travel from their home in Birmingham, Alabama to Portland, Oregon for business. “She turned pale,” Edwin said. “She told me that she had met a couple that adopted from Bulgaria from an adoption agency called AGCI in Portland, Oregon. She just knew that that was what we should do.”
Edwin bought LaQuita a ticket, and together, they traveled to Portland in November of 1998. There, they met with AGCI President Hollen Frazier to talk about adoption. Separately, Edwin and LaQuita each looked through a book filled with photos of waiting children. “We had already decided that we wanted a boy because we wanted to carry on the family name—I’m the only boy in my family,” Edwin said. “But when Hollen asked us if there were any children that jumped out at us, we both picked Elli. That was the first photo that we saw of our daughter.”
When they shared their decision to adopt with others, the Dixons were sometimes met with questions. Edwin recalls an indisputable calm about their decision. “When we adopted Elli, I had such a firm answer from God that I was doing the right thing,” Edwin said. “A negative thought or worry didn’t enter my mind at the time.”
In the 11 months that followed after the Dixon’s first meeting with AGCI before Elli came home, Edwin and LaQuita thought of little else other than bringing Elli home. “Any time that a family traveled to Elli’s orphanage in Bulgaria, we would ask them to film a little bit of the kids on VHS,” Edwin said. “It was like Christmas whenever we would get those tapes and catch a glimpse of Elli.”
In October of 1999, the Dixons traveled to Bulgaria to bring Elli home. Shortly after the Dixons arrived at the orphanage, the orphanage director brought in Elli and her nurse. “We were sitting there wondering how this child was going to react,” Edwin said. “It was amazing because Elli’s nurse for the first 18 months of her life was blonde, just like my wife. This isn’t typical of most Bulgarian people. Elli never whimpered.”
Something shifted for Elli on the plane ride back to Birmingham. Elli had sensed—even at 18 months—that something had changed when they landed in Birmingham. Suddenly, Elli would scream and pull away when anyone other than LaQuita touched or tried to hold her. “For the first two weeks home, she clung to her mom, and didn’t want me to touch her,” Edwin said. “It was one of the most difficult parts of my life. Our nieces and nephews wanted so badly to play with Elli, and she wanted nothing to do with them.”
Shortly after the Dixons settled in with Elli, the newspaper did a front-page story on their family, called “An Angel Named Elli.” As Edwin explained, this title could not be more fitting. “So many people said when Elli was smaller, ‘wow you don’t know what you’ve done for her.’ But look at what this child has done for us. It’s a two way street. We were rescued too,” Edwin said.
Today, as Edwin put it, “it’s like she’s always been here.” Edwin and Elli enjoy a close relationship that is strengthened by their mutual love of athletics. “When Elli was about 5 years old, there was park and rec t-ball team. I signed her up and I was so amazed, she was so incredible,” Edwin said. “Elli has done really well at softball. For several years, she played shortstop and then for a few years she was a pitcher. Then, one day she came to me and said she wanted to catch.” Now, as a high school junior, Elli’s gift for softball has aided her team in finishing 3rd (6A) in the state of Alabama. Once Elli finishes her senior year of high school, she will head to UAB, where she is committed to play softball.
As Elli prepares to leave home and go to college, Edwin and LaQuita have no regrets on the choices they’ve made. “When we got Elli, it seemed like everyday when I got home from work, she was waiting at the door for me to play with her,” Edwin said. “I basically put my life on hold when we got her. There were opportunities and other things I could have pursued but that would have taken away time from Elli, which wouldn’t have been worth it to me.”
When asked what being a father means to him, Edwin replied eloquently, “My sister once gave me a coffee cup and it said: I never knew the real meaning of love until someone called me daddy. That pretty much sums it up.”
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