Thursday, November 27, 2008

Four years ago

Four years ago today, it was Thanksgiving, and I was in a little place called Serov, visiting the baby girl who would hopefully soon become my daughter. How cool is that, that every year at Thanksgiving time, I remember the first trip to Russia to meet my baby? How snow in Russia is so much more beautiful than snow in Maine?

The Thanksgiving visit was the third visit of the trip, and the last one before I had to fly home. Jupiter played with us (my sister was with me) and walked a lot and chewed on her shoes that I had brought her, and pried my mouth open to check out the teeth. I fed her her lunch and carried her back to her group for her nap and then I had to say goodbye til the judge decided I could come back and get her.

That was the moment I dreaded from the moment I chose to go to Russia. I didn't know how I was going to cope with having to leave the child I had bonded with and flying halfway around the world, not knowing when I would be able to go back. And as it turned out, I didn't handle it all that well. I cried in the car on the way back to Ekat from Serov, and I'm sure there are workers at the Greek Restaurant Rest Stop who still remember the crazy American lady who was bawling her eyes out all over the place. All my instincts were telling me to go back and not leave her, and it was the one thing I couldn't do. And I wondered if she would remember me when I came back, or if she would think I had abandoned her. I still wonder that. I'll probably never know if she recognized me the May morning I finally got back to where I had left my heart. And in all honesty, I don't know if it would be better for her to remember me when I got back, having spent all those months in between wondering where I was all that time, or better for her to have forgotten all about me in between.

I looked at the first trip pictures the other night. Jupiter doesn't like to look all that often. She likes to see herself as a baby, but prefers the pictures from after she came home. After the first trip pictures, I put the pictures in the album from the disposable cameras I left at the baby home. We'd been home almost two months when I finally got them developed, and then mostly I saw the expressionless little face in the photos. They were, with a few exceptions, the saddest pictures of a baby I had ever seen. No smiles in the face or in the eyes, especially in the pictures that are obviously posed. I don't share those pictures much. They're part of her story, and so they're included. But how I wish that those five months haden't been taken up by a databank letter.

Thanksgiving now is way different than that day four years ago. Jupiter was at the table with her family and even gave up her customary chicken noodle soup to have some turkey and a roll, wearing a red princess dress that she chose at Sears last week. She antagonized all the dogs that came for Thanksgiving and smiled at me from across the table where she was sitting next to one of her aunts. But probably every Thanksgiving now, I'll remember Thanksgiving in Serov.

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