Thursday, January 21, 2010

Precious Jewels

Back in Russia: Day 3

Nikolai meets his new parents Saturday morning. Jim and Denise, of Iowa, have gone to heroics to get here for this trip. Monday night, they were on vacation when I called and told them they should come this weekend; less than six days later, they’re rubbing their exhausted eyes as I greet them. I never before had any family go through as much as they did to make this work, so I am even more delighted than usual to meet a new family. Just days ago, Nikolai was asking our Russian coordinator Love why he couldn’t go on the Moscow trip, and why no one wanted to meet him. Jim and Denise already think of Nikolai as their son, and the joyous smile on his face when he realizes someone is there for him is priceless.

Angelina is painfully shy, but plays a mean game of Blokus when goaded to participate. She has no host, despite a write-up about her that I thought was good (Scared, 12/21/09). Young girls are the most sought after on our trips, so it should have been easy, but as soon as I note her bashfulness, no one asks even to see her photo. Hope lets her travel anyway, thinking she might meet a family here, or I might find some winsome way to promote her later. She just had a birthday, so we celebrate with cake, candles, streamers, and presents. Another child and a host mom have birthdays soon, so we include them in the festivities, which include singing “Happy Birthday” thrice in Russian and English. My son, from Russia, had festive paper plates given to him by my mother-in-law. While I packed, he gave them to me saying, “Here, Mommy. You can use these plates. I want the Russian kids to have them.” Serving the cake on them, I appreciate them more than the kids do, knowing the love they represent. Angelina’s gifts are a Russian Bible story coloring book and a stuffed dog purse. She  lacks practice; it takes an eternity for her to unwrap them.

Mike and Amy, from Oregon, also signed on at the last minute. Now, they are entirely smitten with Maxim, 16, Daria, 14, and Liza, 12, a patient sibling group awaiting their turn at a family over nine years (Forgotten, Yet Hopeful, 11/24/09). They’re naturals together, and Mike and Amy are aquiver with anticipation to tell them so. Given their ages and the need for the kids to agree to the adoption, Faith and I let them discuss the subject with the children, usually a Lighthouse taboo. Pulling them aside privately, Mike and Amy tell the siblings they want them to join the family. The three agree quickly; too quickly, Mike thinks. He urges them to mull it over. Faith, translating, gives a lengthy lecture on the magnitude of the decision, calling it more serious than marriage. When she’s done, Liza pipes, “I’m done. I’ve already made my decision. Yes.” The other kids agree, too, and with Mike and Amy’s motivation, they’ll soon be a forever family.

We visit the cosmonaut museum, and eat at the café there, on the way to the circus. Faith orders several pizzas, and while they’re marginally passable, they’re anemic, skimpy, and very expensive. I leave dissatisfied, thinking if this were my first pizza, I would not clamor for round two.

I had not planned to include the circus on our itinerary this time, but Faith arrived in Russia early and thoughtfully bought the tickets. After the last circus, I am chagrined to be bringing our Lighthouse demographic there, but I go without a gigantic stink to be agreeable (It's a Circus, 11/10/09). Before the show, the kids have their pictures taken with two rabbits, a Siberian fox, and a Capuchin monkey. As six kids sit on the bench, the handler puts the monkey on Evgeniy’s lap. He stiffens, hiding his hands behind his back, when the handler directs him to keep away from the monkey’s mouth, since he bites off fingers. The circus seems slightly less risqué than last time, if only because we’re in nosebleed seats with nowhere closer to the ring to move, and the show is an hour shorter; nonetheless, I decide that circus attendance is better left to the discretion of individual families upon return to Russia to finish their adoptions.

After the circus we’re famished. Faith injured her knee badly before the trip, but has been gamely showing us Moscow; tonight, though, she asks to leave us at the metro station to walk to the hotel without her. I tell her it’s fine, and we’re going to McDonald’s. Faith protests that there’s Russian food at the hotel, but we know what she references: white hotdogs, linked together at each end, sheathed in clear, colorless plastic that has to be peeled off. The sight of them dangling, one from another, turns the stomach, and engenders no American confidence in any cook who would serve them. An uprising against Russian hotdogs is in the offing, and the group insists they want McDonald’s. Now. Faith, sensing the tide, is forced to agree we don’t have to eat hotdogs at the hotel, and she hobbles away, wondering at our fussiness. Once the kids have eaten at the hotel and are safely in bed, several of us steal away to McDonald’s, which never seems this delicious at home.

Today, Alexander seeks his fortunes elsewhere; someone warned him I was not adoptive mom material. Too quiet to be obnoxious, he moves in pinball fashion, from family to family, with body language that pleads to be noticed. It pains me to see my favorite child on the trip, the one who seems the most genuine, without a host twice, passed over for a family again. I’ll give him another chance, and hope he’s willing to risk a third heartbreak.

There’s a gem here. How I wish someone would see it.