Thursday, December 9, 2010
A Hope and a Future
By Ellen Stumbo
A little girl pulled on my sleeve and made the sign “eat,” followed by a string of Ukrainian words. Then in English, she managed to say, “Banana.” It amazed me how for Nina the thought of food was enough to brighten her day, while all I could think of was that it had been six weeks since I had been home, and today would be an especially hard day. It was Christmas.
I carried Nina across the room and set her on the black leather couch that functioned as the living room. I pulled a black coffee table close to her, hence turning the living room into the dining room. Thankfully, there was a DVD player and I had brought some DVDs from home. I played “Signing Time!” for Nina often. She loved the music and I hoped that more signs would stick with her besides the sign for “eat” so that we could improve our communication.
While Nina watched the show, I proceeded to get breakfast ready for her: chamomile tea, dry cheerios and a banana. I set all three items on the small black table and she smiled. I knew we would do this again at least two more times that day. It was always the same, the only things I could get her to eat were bananas and dry cheerios. At least she was willing to drink different flavors of tea.
Once she was settled I turned on my computer ready to check my e-mail messages, it helped me to feel connected to my home. Nevertheless, there were few messages that morning. I realized I was angry that everyone else was happy enjoying their families, while I was stuck half way across the ocean. I settled to find Christmas music on-line and searched for Amy Grant’s rendition of “I Will Be Home for Christmas.” I wanted to sing along, especially the line, “I will be home for Christmas, but only in my dreams.”
After my little outburst of bitterness, I decided I needed to lighten up my mood and find a little Christmas cheer. I plugged in our tiny Christmas tree that was no taller than my forearm. The cleaning lady had brought it for us just two days before. I found a Christmas playlist on-line, and I cranked up the volume.
I sang and danced in the middle of the room while Nina watched intently. Then I scooped her up in my arms, weighing less than my two year old, yet twice her age. We danced and twirled to the music. It was a great ball to which we could wear our pajamas. The lights of the Christmas tree giving the perfect colorful glow to the small room.
However, Nina had lived most of her life with little attention, and after just a few songs, she was done with me, done celebrating Christmas. I set her on the white and black checkered floor and she crawled to the corner where she had a few toys. I knew she would be in her own world until she was ready to eat again.
I sulked the rest of the morning. I was engrossed in my own pity party and the little girl playing at my feet was oblivious as to how I felt. I began questioning if it was worth it. The adoption journey had me emotionally drained and it seemed as if Nina couldn’t have cared less about me. Moreover, back home, I had a husband who missed me and two little girls that cried for their mommy and could not wait to see her again. Every day being away from home was getting harder.
As I caressed my wounded thoughts, I looked over and watched Nina play with a box of crayons. She was dumping them out and then putting them neatly back in the box. For a second she looked back at me, made eye contact and smiled while waving the box. Then she continued with her activity, absorbed in her world. Yet, she had given me a glimpse and acknowledged me, if only for a second.
As simple as that moment was, it was the moment where my Christmas miracle happened. My eyes were opened to the beauty of the scene that took place before my eyes. I was not simply looking at a once orphan girl; I was looking at my child.
The journey of adoption had pushed us against a race of time trying to get our documents ready to get Nina. We had until her fourth birthday to rescue her, all because she had Cerebral Palsy. We knew that in her country she would die if we did not bring her home before that dreaded age where children with special needs are taken from their orphanages and sent to mental institutions. These are places where there is no hope and no future. The possibility of adoption is gone and most children die within a year after being tied down to cribs with little food and no medical intervention.
On that Christmas morning, I had chosen to be depressed wishing for what I did not have. Thankfully, I was reminded of what a wonderful day it was and how much I had to celebrate. I had a new daughter.
The little girl sitting by my feet would never have to go to an institution. She would never again know hunger or abuse. Nina had a family, with a mommy and daddy and two sisters. Her disability would not stop her, but rather she would be able to overcome her limitations with a family standing strong behind her, cheering her on. She would go to school, learn to read and write. There was so much in store for her and her life was full of potential. Nina had a hope and a future.
There were many sacrifices we had to make in order to rescue her and bring her home. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
“Nina” I called. She stopped playing and looked at me again. “Merry Christmas sweetheart” I said.
She didn’t understand what I was saying, so I did the best I could do at the time to show her love. I poured her a cup of more chamomile tea… with an extra spoonful of sugar.