Big Papa and I made three more visits to the children’s home in Gyumri to visit Baby Bird. On day two, as our taxi pulled up to the apartment where we were staying, I paused, remembering the lack of shock absorbers…and the flat tire, from the day before. As soon as we climbed into the taxi, it was pretty obvious this particular driver was an extremely loquacious fellow. He started talking the second we pulled away from the curb. And he didn’t stop talking until we arrived in Gyumri, except once. That was when he got pulled over for speeding.
I wish I’d been looking at the speedometer when the whirling red lights appeared in our rear view window, just to see the number. I can only imagine how fast we were going. Most of the taxis drivers drive well over the speed limit. Because of this, I was a bit surprised that the officer even bothered to pull us over.
Our driver slowed. He was angry and a torrent of muttering erupted from his mouth. We pulled over to the side of the road, he rolled down his window and, for a moment, stopped talking. The police officer stepped up to the door of our taxi, and our driver got out and headed back towards the police car. I’m not sure what the protocol for traffic stops is in Armenia, but it’s definitely different from U.S.
When the driver came back, he was grousing as he gave our translator an earful. She seemed more amused than anything else. I imagine she was thinking: what did you expect? The ticket fiasco added twenty minutes to our ride and, from what our translator told us, cost the driver about $40. He continued to grumble, and I’m sure he was pretty unhappy about the ticket, but I figured—given how fast we zipped along that highway—this was not his first time.
I don’t think we were back on the road for more than a couple minutes before he lead-footed the pedal and off we sailed at lightning speed. Not even a ticket was going to slow this guy down.
When we arrived in Gyumri, our driver headed straight for the children’s home, no directions needed. We flew around the corner, practically on two wheels, the taxi bobbing and popping over potholes. Thankfully this cab had better shocks than the taxi we took the day before. As we careened toward the gates at the children’s home, dust billowed out from underneath the tires. We stopped, suddenly, and I could feel my head lurch forward. Then the ride was over, and it was very, very quiet.
The greeter dog raised his head from where he lay on the front steps of the children’s home, and trotted down the steps to meet us. I pictured him saying: Welcome back.
It’s hard to describe the feelings that went through my head each day we spent time with Baby Bird. On the one hand, I wanted to drink in every moment, memorize the hue of her eyes, her scent and the sound of her cooing. But I was also well aware that she was not our child until we attended court, some five to six months down the road. And because we’d already had one adoption fail mere days before we were going to bring a baby home, I felt cautious with my heart and I know Big Papa felt the same way. I remembered all too well how slowly the months passed the last time we were in this place and how painful it was to raise my hopes up so high, only to have them fall to the greatest depths of sadness.
Despite our apprehension, we enjoyed our time with Baby Bird immensely. She was a very animated baby, eager to interact, make eye contact and imitate anyone around her. On several occasions one of us made a sound, and she replicated it to a “t.” We would say to each other “Did you see how she just…” When she did the same thing with our translator, who said the exact same thing we’d been saying, I thought to myself: This kiddo is on the ball. I loved her inquisitive nature: her fascination with the raindrops trailing down the window as well as the babushkas toddling along outside the window. I also admired her drive, like the way she gathered her strength and tried with all her might to sit upright on the couch, even as her tiny body listed port and starboard.
My head told me: Shield your heart. But I could feel myself soften when I held her in my arms.