Sunday, August 18, 2013

oy! another birthday

Our youngest turns 10 tomorrow.  It's such a bittersweet event, her birthday. We adopted Mary when she was 5 years old from an orphanage in Ukraine, so her birthday is a time for me, as her mother, to wonder and (yes) to mourn. 

Mourning may seem a strong word, but I think it's appropriate.  Adoption is the most beautiful thing I know of, but it's - by nature - rooted in pain, and we have to acknowledge that (I think) in order to have a healthy, whole perspective.  Or maybe I'm just a hopeless melancholy ...

I spend the others' birthdays telling each one the story of his or her birth - where we were when contractions started, what it was like getting to the hospital, every little delicious detail.  I don't know any of that with Mary.  I didn't feel  her kicking inside me, didn't deliver her, nurse her, or spend hours sniffing the sweet baby smell of her head while cuddling her to my chest.  In fact, when she asks for stories of when she was a baby, I make them up - I do!  I use what few details I do know (like that her Babushka took care of her the first 2 years of her life) and I make up stories that it's completely reasonable to assume occurred.  Happy stories of love and caring ... she eats them up!  And I feel no shame, whatsoever - she deserves a few good stories.

Tonight I found myself over-tired and feeling that same melancholy ache, so I started reading back through her adoption blog.  Over the past now-almost-5 years, I've read the posts from when we were actually in Ukraine multiple times, but I can't remember when I last I read the posts from once we'd returned home - when our life together actually started.  It has brought me joy tonight, to read them and remember that we have a plethora of memories, of stories to tell - and to remind myself that we went through growing pains not unlike a family bringing home a newborn.  

Here are a few snippets from her first month at home:

    koo pats-yeh, da? (bath, yes?)
  • The transition is good except bedtime is hard for her, hope tonight takes less than 2 hours, we've been spoiled by 3 who go to sleep easily. Other than that she's happy as can be.  Oh - well, except for the dog ... every time he comes near her it's "Oy!!!!  Sabaka!!!  Oy!!" and then lots of Russian that we can't understand but sounds like rebuke.  No crying or screaming, but definitely not pleased either.  Kind of cute, actually. :)

  • We took a walk down the street to get our neighbors' mail and halfway there she noticed I was barefoot.  After all you've read about Ukraine I'm sure you're not surprised that she GASPED out loud, pointed to my feet, and exclaimed, "Oy!!! Mama, ________ " (insert Russian rebukes here).  Too funny.

  • She's just a happy busy little thing, fairly easily redirected when need be.  As evening rolled around we prepared her for bed with, "Bath - then milk - then sleep".  She said "da" and understood well, then enjoyed her bath.  After drying and dressing her she said, "Nye spaht, moloko" (no sleep, milk) and I said yes, so we went downstairs for the warm milk.  Then back upstairs for teeth brushing, and we left her with her reading light on to look at some books (which she enjoys) while we did the routine with the other 3.  By then she was done with the books and starting to get up, "ya hachoo"-ing everything under the sun ("I want" this and that, whatever she could think of).  I said no, time to sleep, and she started with the yelling.  I turned off the reading light, took her in my arms just like an infant and rocked her as we listened to a Steve Green CD together, all the while whispering sweet things in her ear...

    wearing half the dress up box at once
  • She asks"eh-tah minyah?" (is it mine?) - every time we dress her.  It's adorable.  YES, it's YOURS! Makes me remember how they literally stripped her naked to send her with us from the orphanage- not one thing actually belonged to her, not even her underwear.

  • Poor thing says "nyeh groupa, dah?" (no groupa, right?) several times a day.  We respond with:  "Nee kagda, nee kagda, nee kagda edeetya groupa!" (You are never, never, never going back to groupa!) to which she just giggles and smiles and comes for a big hug. 
  • This afternoon the entire family enjoyed another warm, sunny NC afternoon outdoors. Mary is a true American kid now: she's got muddy sneakers and she's used the bathroom in the woods!
  • I'm trying to teach Mary to answer basic questions by having the others model.  So we go down the line, "What is your name?" and they each give their first and last name.  She answers correctly, now, too!  So cute.  Then she points to me and says, "Etah Mommy McConnell, da?"  
    the 4 siblings, Mary's first month home
  • I told her it's called flour.  Mary was SO funny, she kept asking, "Shto Etah?" over and over, then quizzically repeated "Flour" after me, several times.  Finally, she went and got one of her books, brought it TO me, pointed to a picture of a flower and said, "Mommy look - etah FLOWER"!
There's Light in memories.  
In story.  
In remembering and retelling.

They connect us. 

I'm glad.

Because tomorrow, we celebrate!

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