Actually, I have been counting my blessings a little early this year. As a family we've been celebrating our Adoption and 'Gotcha Day'--the days when we officially adopted Tanya and William in the Russian court, and the days when we got to take them out of the orphanage and introduce them into the family. As we've been reviewing the adoption process--the many answers to prayer, the many difficulties struggled through, and the almost unreal journey and month-long sojourn in Siberia--I'm reminded about how much I take for granted. How much I would be missing if the kiddos weren't around to stir things up and keep us laughing with their goofy antics.
While I was in Russia, I kept a copious journal, full of important moments and trivialities. Here is a portion from the most memorable of days--the days I met Tatiana Joy Perkins and William Thomas Perkins (then known as Vladislav).
I spent a pretty good night, despite the fact that my side of the bed slopes slightly downwards. I was pretty keyed up, since Mom, Dad, and I were to go visit Tanya for the first time that day. I was awake pretty early—how early I was not sure, because my computer wouldn’t start up right away, and we had no clocks in the room. When I did get my computer started, it was no great help, since it was still set to Eastern Time.
It was still very dark out, so Abby, who was also awake, and I bummed around the rooms for an hour at least. Vladimir was to come for us at 8:00 am, but it had to be before that, I thought. Finally, though, Abby got nervous, and for once in my life I listened to her advice to go down to Mom and Dad’s room and see if they were up. So I did.
They were indeed up, but Dad, upon looking at his watch, announced that it was only 5 in the morning! I couldn’t believe this, and asked him to check again. He did so—then he suddenly became worried. “It could be five,” he murmured, “or my clock could be slightly off. In fact, it might be past eight now! They don’t have daylight savings time here, you know. Go check in the lobby, and see if anyone is here for us.”
I ran down to the lobby. The hands pointed to ten minutes past eight! The lady at the desk asked if we had a driver who was coming for us. I nodded, and out stepped Vladimir from the doorway. I babbled that my parents and I would be coming soon, and zoomed back to Room 117 at the streak of light. Mom and Dad were racing to get dressed, gather important papers, and collect toys for Tanya. I ran down to my room to change my skirt and shirt. Alas, I didn’t have time to do anything with my hair.
In a little more than ten minutes, we were all down in the lobby, papers and all. My hair was still in a sloppy braid from the night before, but no one seemed to notice. We stepped out into the darkness and bundled into Vladimir’s black van.
As we were driven out of the parking lot and onto the bumpy Russian roads, Mom lent me a comb from her hair, and I brushed out my braid. No clips this time—just down. As the dawn came slowly creeping up over the horizon, I watched the people scurrying over the highways, the old, new, and miscellaneous vehicles out on the roads, the construction workers toiling by the roadside, and the signs and billboards above them. It was all new, and very, very strange.
It took us an hour and ten minutes to get to Tanya’s orphanage. It should have only taken fifty minutes, but we got snarled up in a traffic jam. I didn’t mind, as it gave me time to watch the sights and think about the upcoming event. It was a moment that you savor, and I did it full justice. The only shadow on this pleasing prospect was the blaring rock music in the car. I don’t think Vladimir even noticed that it was on, but it was pretty hard for me to ignore. It would have been better if it had been in Russian, but the Russian’s prefer our music. Even Oksana calls the Russian pop “awful”.
It was rather a surprised when we got to the orphanage. Suddenly we were there, and driving through the rather makeshift gates up to the yellow brick buildings. There were improvements—there was a whole new area of the playground, filled with equipment.
I got out of the car with stars in my eyes. There was no one around to guide us, but Mom and Dad seemed to know the way. We went up some steps and through a door. It seemed rather strange that there was no one to greet us, but we plowed ahead, and soon came upon someone—Ludmilla, the director of the orphanage. She had two little blond-haired boys with her; they stared at us with big eyes, and then chattered to themselves. Ludmilla hurried away with them after directing us to a little closet-like room where Mom and Dad had met with Tanya the previous visit.
We were in the room only long enough to notice a few of the toys that I had seen Tanya play with in the movies Mom and Dad had taken. The door opened, revealing Ludmilla, Oksana, Svetlana the social worker, and—Tanya! I have never felt such a rush of feeling suddenly sweep over me. I believe my mouth fell open, and I know I gave a sort of strangled gulp and that tears began collecting in my eyes. Here she was—the little girl we had traveled halfway around the world to see! It was a very special moment.
However emotional I may have been, Tanya showed no such feelings. She seemed very shy and reserved. Ludmilla said something to her in Russian, and Tanya said clearly, “Papa, Mama”, and, after a little coaxing, gave them a hug. She didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to me. The social worker, who appeared bored, seated herself by the door, as if to make a fast getaway as soon as she could. I was introduced to Oksana and Ludmilla.
We tried to play with Tanya, but she remained rather distant. Dad tried a few of his tricks from last time with only partial success. We got out the crayons, but she seemed more interested in looking through the coloring book. When I tried to give her a gentle hint by getting out some of the crayons, she got them all out, arranged them in rows, then put them back in the box!
Eventually the social worker left, and Oksana started briefing Mom and Dad for court. That left Tanya and I virtually alone. We looked at toys together at first, but she still seemed very distant. Then I got her on my lap, and began lowering her and raising her. That’s when the ice began to break. She started to smile, then giggle as I put my nose to hers and bounced her on my leg. Soon she was so noisy that Mom and Dad had to shush us! But she was a different little girl now, and even Oksana noticed the change.
The end of the meeting came about suddenly. Ludmilla had been popping in and out for the past twenty minutes; at one point, she gave Mom back the yellow blanket I had made to give to Tanya before. But this time she stayed in the room and took Tanya’s hand. She told Tanya to say ‘Disvadanya’—Tanya did, and then Ludmilla led her out.
I woke up this morning without all of that bubbly excitement which I had had the day before. I guess I was a little bit less sure than I had been with Tanya about what Vladyc would be like. I was pretty sure he would cry, and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t have much hair, but the rest was a question mark.
Oksana came to get us around lunch time. She seems to not have much appreciation or time for meals. We ladies went in her car, while the guys went in Vladimir’s.
Vladyc’s orphanage is very old-school on the outside. The architecture is antique—I’m sure Mr. LiBassi would like it. The inside, though, is a different story. Everything is broken and crumbling concrete. Mom was pretty shocked by the state of the bathrooms. She even took pictures of the toilet to show how awful it was. We had to wear thin plastic slip-overs on our shoes, just in case we had tracked in a stray germ or two. Though, personally, I don’t see that a germ would’ve mattered if the bathroom situation was left as it was.
Oksana took us to a stuffy room at the end of a long hallway. The walls were lined with shelves, filled with toys. The carpet was bright red, dotted here and there with whimsical mice and chunks of cheese. Did I say the room was stuffy? It was hard to breath. Cold as it was outside, Oksana had to open a window to let the air in.
Vladyc (or William) took a long time in coming. So Oksana went over paperwork and court procedures with Mom and Dad. It was pretty boring for us kids; we sat on the one small couch or looked at the vast array of toys.
Suddenly, William was among us, and not a bit happy about it, either. He seemed very attached to his nurse, and when she left, everything broke loose and the room echoed (I’m talking metaphorically here; the room’s acoustics were pretty poor) with William’s screams and sobs. There was just about nothing we could do to comfort him. Even Oksana’s Russian words of cheer fell short of the mark.
And what did I think of our new little guy? To be honest, there wasn’t the same rush of feeling there had been when I first saw Tanya, but I think it would have been hard for anyone to react enthusiastically to a squalling child who evidently doesn’t want anything to do with you. He was cute, in a pale kind of way—he had more hair than he had when Mom and Dad came the first time, and that did wonders for his appearance. He reminded us of a kewpie doll. If he had been cheerful, I’m sure our reaction would have been so too, but, as it was, being in the same room was uphill work for the first half an hour.
Oksana finally left the room, and William fell asleep on a comforting shoulder, only to wake up crabby again. Eventually, we took him out into the hall, and the situation improved—he stopped crying! Encouraged, we tried bouncing him, cuddling him, and playing those timeless baby games that babies usually go for. It was at this point that I held him for the first time. He was a little heavier than I had thought he would be.
At last, William’s nurse came back to take him to the nursery. With her was an older lady with dyed brown hair and a pleasant smile. Oksana introduced her as Olga, William’s social worker. She asked us different questions, with Oksana translating busily, until she seemed satisfied. William was quite happy to go back for his nap in the crib and was carried off with nary a whimper.
Back at the hotel, it was time for Mom and Dad to get ready for court. They were quite nervous, of course—we were pretty sure how things were going to go, but who really knew? Mom hadn’t brought a formal coat to wear, just her blue fleece, so she had to borrow Abby’s pea coat. Good thing it fit. Dad asked me to take a picture of him and Mom right before they went out the door, and then we prayed. I asked Mom if she would do me a favor. If everything went well in court, Mom would laugh just outside the door, thus cutting short my suspense, She agreed.
Dad left us several choices of DVD’s to watch in their absence; I think he understood that some of us wished to get our minds off what was happening elsewhere. I watched some nature documentaries, truly forgetting where I was for a few hours, until I looked at Dad’s watch. It was 6:00 p.m.! Where were Mom and Dad? Did this lateness mean that things had gone well, or that something had come up?
I couldn’t watch anything else after that. I would talk with the other kids or try to read, but nothing held my attention for very long. I recited Bible verses, claiming the promises that God had given me throughout the adoption. God had brought us this far, and He wouldn’t abandon us now.
I donned my warmest clothes and fur boots and walked back to the playground and sports area. I paced, hoping that, when I got back, Mom and Dad would be there. After half-an-hour, I went back to our room. No Mom or Dad. But, just as I was beginning to wonder if I’d better go back outside and pace some more, we heard footsteps and then—a laugh! We all bolted for the door.
Both Mom and Dad were beaming. Although there had been a few hiccups along the way, the judge had been favorably impressed and had approved the adoption!
Yes, after reviewing all this, it brings home to me how special both the kids are, and that the Lord must have a special plan for their lives. When we were in the process of adopting them, I remember thinking that that I would be grateful for them every day. Well...that's not exactly been happening. They're kids--they can be annoying, and messy, and silly. But, this Thanksgiving, I'm going to purposefully be thankful for two very special blessings.
Love you two!