The day we took Baby Bird from the orphanage in Gyumri, her home for eleven months, we brought the following with us: a long-sleeved onesie, cotton pants, cotton shirt, a sweater, one coat with a hood, cotton cap, socks and shoes. Her nannies dressed her and handed her to us. We took a few pictures with the director of the orphanage and then we were on our way.
It wasn’t until two hours later, when we reached Yerevan, and changed our first diaper, that we discovered…the nannies had also dressed her in a pair of tights, little blue cotton tights with pictures of buttons and spools of thread woven into the background.
I remembered these tights from several of our “get to know you” trips to the orphanage. Each day, when we visited, the nanny on shift brought Baby Bird to see us. She was always dressed in an adorable outfit. One day she had on a tiny beret, another day she was a vision in hand-crocheted white, and on yet another day, she sported bunny slippers. On several occasions her outfit featured these blue tights. But I knew, cute as her ensemble was, these clothes weren’t hers.
Before I became a mom, I made several trips to Armenia, to two different orphanages. I know clothing is in short supply and nannies rotate outfits for children in the same age range. On one visit, to meet the baby girl we weren’t ultimately able to adopt, I remember a French couple cooing when they brought “our” baby in. The man turned on their video camera and the woman went to hold her. I chuckled. Our baby was cute and I was flattered they wanted to hold her, until they called her “Liesel,” the name they were going to give their baby. At that moment, I realized the error of their ways. They thought our baby girl was theirs because she was wearing the clothes their baby girl had on earlier that day.
During our two week stay in Yerevan, before we brought Baby Bird back home, we dressed her in those blue tights. For all my preparedness, the one item of clothing I’d neglected to bring, was tights. Then, one morning, it occurred to me: these blue tights are the only thing she has from the place that was her home for nearly a year of her life. These tiny cotton tights were the sum of all her worldly goods.
That afternoon, Big Papa and I went to the children’s clothing shop that was on the ground floor of the apartment building where we were staying. With the assistance of four very attentive Armenian saleswomen, we bought two new pairs of baby tights.
I nestled her blue tights, the tights with the buttons and spools, carefully into our suitcase. When we arrived home, I tucked them into a box, a box that contains other mementos from her first months of life, a box we will keep safe until she is old enough to understand how precious these few tokens are.
Here in the U.S., the land of plenty, it is easy to take for granted what we have to call our own: a house, our own bedroom, toys, books and a wardrobe full of clothes. This morning when I opened Baby Bird’s closet my eyes wandered over two tiers of dresses, shirts, sweaters and pants, plus several rows of little hats and shoes, and socks. All hers. There is a closet full of cute outfits to behold, but I can tell you, without a moment’s hesitation, her most priceless belonging is a pair of blue cotton tights.