March 22, 2012. Gyumri, Armenia. Snow lay on the ground and temperatures hovered around freezing. We made our way to the orphanage where our daughter was living. Our daughter. Only moments before she was simply a little girl who lived in an orphanage. Now she was ours and we were hers.
Two days before, we’d stood in an Armenian court of law and made our case as to why we should be this little girl’s parents. Then, on March 22, we went to court again and received the news our adoption was approved. We were a freshly minted family! But even though she met us six months ago and we visited her every day for a week, in our daughter’s brain we were just a couple of nice nannies in the rotating cast of nice nannies she saw on a daily basis. She had no idea what becoming part of a family would mean. And neither did we.
For some time I’d thought about retrieving a memento from the land upon which her orphanage was built, something we could share with her as she grew up, a physical reminder of her first home and her homeland. A leaf maybe? Or a small rock? When we first met her, it was autumn but still very warm. Gold leaves hung on the trees, shading us as we sat together on a bench in the courtyard of her orphanage. However now it was March, and there was nary a leaf to be found. We decided our treasure would be a small rock.
As we walked across the courtyard to the door of the building in the orphanage where she was living, skating across ice on the pathway, I said to my husband, “Now is the time. Let’s find our rock!” Joel’s eyes scanned the ground around him, covered with snow, and landed on a small rock poking it’s head out from a drift a mere three feet from where we stood. He stepped away from the sidewalk, took two big steps and reached down to pick up the rock, instantly finding himself ankle deep in mud. Who would have guessed—in the dead of winter, despite a blanket of snow and temperatures ducking below zero (F) at night, a slithery soft puddle of mud lurked beneath the surface? Mud dripped from his hands as he held up his prize, and we both belly laughed, a much needed release from the months of angst preceding this moment.
How fitting. A perfect metaphor for the days and years to follow. Fitting because family life is messy. Things rarely go the way you expect. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you find yourself stuck in the muck.
Gyumri, Armenia: March 22, 2012
2017: Our family turns five!
It’s all about the journey,