03 November 2008

3.10 yesterday

My visits to celebrate birthdays in 3.10 start days before. I find out what the girls want for their birthday and go shopping. In addition to a requested item (shower gel, a hair dryer, black ballet-style shoes), I like to add in some "accessories" and include a new item of clothing. I know they have plenty to wear. I've seen it. But, I think it must be nice for them to have something new, too.

I always bring an activity for all of us to do together. I want to spend time with them. And, I want them to celebrate their friends' birthdays without feeling jealous. We make bracelets, decorate pots and plant flowers...that sort of thing. Yesterday we had салон красоты с Кейт (a beauty salon with Kate). I took basins, new towels, foot soak, scrub and lotion, nail files, toe separators and lots of miniature bottles of nail polish. After Kl's reaction to her lotion, I wanted to spend some time on girly pampering.

I also bake. This time, I made blondies. They were awful! So...I made some chocolate sauce, bought four different kinds of Baskin Robbins and dug out the sprinkles an ex-pat left behind. I packed plates (no disposable bowls) and plastic spoons. And, I picked up bananas on the way. Despite bagging them in a thermal bag and surrounding them with gallon ziplock bags of ice, we had slightly melted sundaes. (Ice cream soup!) They were not impressed with my description of American banana splits, but enjoyed the ice cream first and the bananas later.

Yesterday I got there and found only two of my eight girls there. The others were home for the holdiay...and a few are home with grandparents for good! This is a fairy tale ending to their stories that left me overjoyed for them, a little worried that it wouldn't last, and heartbroken that I didn't get to say goodbye. I'm hoping I can at least send them some letters.

I seem to come during holidays often. That just seems to be how the girls' birthdays (and my car's health!) coincide with my schedule. While it's sad to not get to see everyone, I think it might be even better for the girls left behind to have something special. We had a new friend (She a little girl who was new and shell-shocked last Christmas who recieved a doll.) join us and two boys. The groups had been somewhat combined over the holiday to let staff have a break. The boys were happy to join in the ice cream party--wishing N all sorts of lovely things--but declined the beauty salon. Instead they played video games.

My girls are so sweet and so dear! They laughed and played with me and with each other. They did and re-did (of course I remembered the remover, cotton pads and cotton swabs) their nails--

--and mine.

(left hand by N--sort of French manicure with daisy,
right hand by Ka--feathered with a toothpick and three silver dots)

They demonstrated the dances that N has been learning in her Saturday classes. Ka has the chicken pox and was covered in green spots, but it didn't dim her smile. She came running up the path to meet me and beamed the entire time. She and N walked me to my car afterwards despite my protests that they were not suitably dressed. (Their caretaker dismissed that thought and let them walk me to my car in shorts and camis! They'd gotten very hot dancing. I've moved pre-teen underwear up my mental list of needed items.) We just have such an easy time together. It's warm and relaxed and simple and fun. Each visit lets me see a little more and know them a little better. There weren't surprises in personality this time...which made me feel like I really DO know them now. And, as I was leaving, I met another new girl from a different group and encouraged them to invite her to the salon. They did with all eagerness--putting her hands in to soak and getting out the polish for her to choose. I love their generosity.

I had the chance to chat with two of the caretakers who were there while the girls were preparing their dance show for us. I invited them to the beauty salon and did their hands, too! While it wasn't exactly a footwashing, being able to take their hands, both the hands of these precious girls and of these women, and wash them and soothe them was a privilege. (No one was willing to take off their shoes.) The caretakers wanted to know if I had children. I told them I didn't, that I wanted to adopt, that St. Petersburg said no. When they asked why I just told them I didn't know--maybe because I was an American. They thought this was a nightmare. I agreed. They asked if I was married, how old I was, where in America I was from. I saw the newest pictures of their children and grandchildren.

I enjoy the time I get to spend with them. It makes me feel a part of a team. The girls' primary caretaker, AN, loves them so much. It shows not just in how she treats them--an affectionate pop on the yagadeetsi, including me in conversations about cigarettes so that I can add my warnings to hers, telling me what marks everyone had in school, the way she LISTENS to them, the way she encourages each one to show what is special about her--but in how they treat each other. There is much teasing and laughter. There is a generosity of spirit. There are affectionate kisses on the little ones' foreheads and pats on the head. It's a magical room, 3.10.

Yesterday, AN, was telling me why different children were in the orphanage. I didn't really understand all of it, though I'll ask my friends here about a certain word and gesture. The grief that she had over these parents who didn't realize how good, how kind their daughters are was easily understood and shared. We comiserated over the injustice of it. I think she knows how much I love these girls and want the best for them. I did find that one of my sister sets had no mother and father. It just makes it harder to leave them. Her wonderment of the injustice of them having no parents and me having no children was comforting in a way. When the directors and caretaker find out I want to adopt and ask me to come back for one of their children, it is a great honor. The trust they have in me is humbling and encouraging.

So, it was a typical visit. It was happy and joyful. The planning is fun. The visit was wonderful. The drive home is long and hard.


Rachael said...

I imagine it is a hard drive home. It doesn't seem right that you can't just snatch one up. Glad you had a nice day with them though. (Did you ever get the necklaces for them? I never heard.)

Maggie said...

Oh, how bittersweet. I think it's wonderful -- not only that you bring some wanted items to these kids, but that you're forming relationships with them. That's so good for them.

AdoptaMama said...

I agree, very bittersweet. Such a positive impact you're having on these girls. Love your updates on the 3.10. Love the pictures, too!

AdoptaMama said...

Oh, and there was no music to my video. I haven't gotten that far yet. ;) Stay tuned.

Heidi said...

Beautiful and heart wrenching.
Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Heartwrenching just about wraps it up. You are one strong gal.

You were right. I had the heebs over Followers anyhow, and your comment confirmed it. Gone. :)

beckyww said...

You are amazing. And balancing your mixed emotions well.

Tina in CT said...

What an injustice. Here are girls that would love to have you as their mother and you can't adopt from that orphage. How crazy!

Annie said...

What a lovely, wonderful post. I am so glad you see the beauty in those loving caregivers. My children were so lovingly cared for. I am eternally grateful as it contributed to making them the loving people they are.

Holly said...

That second to last paragraph brought me to tears. You've got a big heart, Kate.

kim said...

It was neat you were able to spend time with the caretaker... just hanging out and sharing. I know the girls loved the fingernail session... my daughter still does hers, sometimes several times a day.

Anonymous said...

That post just made me smile. STill hoping and praying for you Miss Kate!