It was August. 2003. I sat there in the dusty play yard on the worn bench feeling more than a little overwhelmed.
Bella was on my lap and I couldn't believe how much love I could feel for this tiny child that I had only just met for the first time yesterday.
We were in a dreamlike mother-child honeymoon of cuddles and songs and hugs and eye gazing. There wasn't a scrap of doubt that this was my daughter, and that this was meant to be. Visiting with her twice a day for the next two weeks was a beurocratic formality in my mind. I could hop on a plane to take her home with me tonight if they'd let me. But this was Kazakhstan. They would not let me.
I rocked Bella back and forth in my lap, embracing her tightly, and hummed softly in her ear. And I looked all around me at the children. Children swirling around me like the dust of the yard. Children laughing and dancing and fighting and all speaking in Russian. In turns, they would come stand before me to look and wonder. They glanced at Bella and then at me, and I knew they were asking themselves,
I knew, before I ever arrived at the Detsky Dom,
before I got on the plane to fly to the other side of the world,
before I even thought up the concept of adopting a child, that there were orphans in the world. Children living without families.
But until I sat in this yard, I never thought what that meant. I never put faces with the word "orphans". But now I was here. And they were here. In the flesh. laughing and dancing and fighting and all speaking in Russian.
These were Real Children. Oh my God.
Oh. My. God.
'Orphans the Idea' was transitioning into 'Orphans the Reality' right before me. My heart was beginning to race. Why did I never think of what this would mean to me, what this would feel like to be sitting among all the little children without Mamas? I knew myself better than that. Jesus, Mary and Joseph I could't even walk into an animal shelter without wanting to take them all home, why did I think I could do this?
And then, a tap on the shoulder.
I turned and looked into the brown eyes of a boy. A young boy about 7 or 8 years old perhaps, with a smattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks. He smiled softly and spoke quietly in Russian, never breaking his gaze. I turned to my translator seated next to me. "What did he say?"
"He said, 'Can you find me a Mama too?' "
That was it. I looked back at this beautiful little child and the tears began to spill from my eyes. I was crying. I hugged Bella to me even tighter as I wept for this little boy, and for all the children there.
"Tell him I will do whatever I can to find him a Mama", I whispered.
And I sat in the dusty play yard on the worn bench, and I cried.
It was October, 2008. Years had passed since I had first met Borya in the play yard. And here I was again,
halfway around the world,
sitting in a stifling room smelling of ammonia and cabbage,
at the end of a five year journey.
We had vowed to help him.
We lost him.
We found him.
We were told we could adopt him.
We were granted approval of our dossier and permission to travel.
And I sat in the suffocating room feeling more than a little overwhelmed.
It had been five years.
How would he feel when he saw me again?
How would I feel?
My head was spinning, my heart racing....
At long last, the door opened, and Borya walked in. And just like that, the stress and uncertainty were gone. We moved towards each other and I wrapped my arms around my son. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what then is a hug worth? Here, folded in my arms and squeezing me tight, was the flesh and blood manifestation of a dream.
We stood like that a long time, till one of the women asked him in his language,
"Do you know who this is?"
In an instant I was transported back in time to a child's room, with dancing bears papered on the walls and hand-painted on the furniture. The lamp-lit bed held a mother and young child, with a cherished volume propped open on a mountain of knees while the concluding words of the book were read:
"Yes, I know who you are. You are a bird. And you are my mother."
Of course I cried. Of course. He had not qualified his answer in any way. I was not the woman he remembered from so many years ago. Not the woman who wanted to adopt him. Not his adoptive mother. I was simply ...