I was in his living room again. After a six-month relationship and multiple stints of reconciliation, I was standing behind him, twisting his hair into starter locs. Hair was always a topic for us. I often wore mine naturally in a curly Afro. He grew his out. We compared lengths and joked about the frequency with which I switched up hairstyles. But that night, as I sectioned his hair into little twists, I was given some permanence: Every time he’d get his locs retwisted, he’d remember my initial handiwork, even if our relationship didn’t work.

Amy was a spunky 8-year-old. She lived with our friends, but they were too old to care for her, so she would soon move to another foster home. I was no one’s idea of maternal and had never thought of raising children. But Amy wanted a family. I told my wife, “I want to adopt Amy.” We filled out paperwork, readied a bedroom and waited. After a judge’s OK, we loaded Amy’s clothes, crayons and copies of Harry Potter into our SUV. It’s been 17 years. I’m still no one’s idea of maternal, but I’m lucky to be Amy’s mother.