Romanian Stars

Ways my children bring joy and love to people around them.

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Here I go again with another article. I have adopted a second baby since my last article. Last year, I wrote “Romanian Moon,” and my parents wrote the grandparent’s viewpoint in “Joy.” We hope these articles express the happiness that children, who were adopted, bring their new families. My inspiration this time is not only to share the latest adventure to Romania, but also to express what love these children bring to neighbors, friends, and even complete strangers! Instead of feeling proud to have “saved the children,” I feel honored to be the mother of such wonderful little human beings. They are truly stars shining brightly to show the way for everyone.

The inspirational moment for me was the morning of our move from California to Georgia (now that is another story). It actually started the day before as we loaded the furniture into the moving van. My former secretary, who barely tolerates me, took the day off work to take my son, Alex, to the zoo. She did not do this for me; she did it because she adores him and was overcome with sadness at his moving away. This was a woman who was single, in her 40′s, and did not particularly like children. She fell in love with my son about a year ago and has spent many weekends and holidays just playing with him. They have brought a great deal of happiness to each other.

By the time they returned from the zoo, most of our furniture was in the truck, and the neighborhood children had gathered at the door to bring Alex presents. Their ages ranged from two to twelve. Now, I cannot remember caring about any two-year-old kids when I was twelve! The mother and two children next door begged to have him come over for dinner, so off he went to a gourmet meal as we scrubbed the floor where our refrigerator had been. Soon another neighbor asked to take him to her house because she had two Russian house guests who wanted to meet him. So, I introduced the two neighbors to each other, and our little star went off to meet the Russians.

Unfortunately, the next people he inspired were at the emergency ward. Our celebrity came home about 8:00 p.m. as the last piece of furniture, our king-size iron bed, was being dissembled to go in the van. Well, the iron headboard fell on him and cut his head. Our car was already traveling cross-country ahead of us, so he rode to the hospital in the front seat of a Camero. As my husband was leaving for the hospital and I was frantically preparing the house for the new owners, our adoption coordinator, Barbara Kappos, called to tell us that we could travel to Romania in two weeks to pick up our little girl. I do not know if it was the stress or all the cleaning materials, but I broke out in hives.

Apparently, both the patients and the staff at the hospital were cheered by my son’s spirit. He went around to those in the waiting room and entertained them and told them not to cry. He apparently moved the staff by thanking the doctors and nurses, through his tears, after they had put stitches in his head. I cannot count the times in the last year when someone has told me that they were having a bad day until Alex came up and put his hand on their shoulder or gave them a big hello. When he arrived home at 1:00 a.m., he greeted me with a big, tired smile and an excited “Mommy, they tied me up!”

We all slept on a futon on the floor that night, and no one knew of our late night escapades. At 7:00 a.m., the doorbell rang and it was another neighbor asking if Alex could spend time with her six-year-old daughter, who had been up all night crying because he was moving. At 7:15, another neighbor showed up with a waffle breakfast for Alex, so we sent her over to see the first neighbor. Another woman stopped by to say she was making life-changing decisions about her relationship and future because of getting to know Alex. To make a long story short, an entire neighborhood called in late for work and for school and ate waffles. Neighbors of all ages, who had lived side by side for years and never met, ate breakfast together because of a two-year-old. I felt like the mother of a prophet. I never realized how many lives Alex had touched. As I watched the neighbors out in the street shaking hands and making plans to get together again, it was one of those memorable moments in life when we are raised above the mundane details of life and shown what things could be like.

Two weeks later, we traveled from my parent’s house in Florida to pick up our nine-month-old baby daughter. Technically, we were homeless. Because of the Romania trip, we had sold one house and had not yet closed on the other. After a nightmare with the airline and my husband’s mother having a stroke the night before we left, we traveled to Romania. The second trip was like going home. We stayed in the same apartment and even had some of the same waiters at the restaurants. The entire trip was easier the second time around.

Romania had changed a bit. Everyone had cell phones and seemed more relaxed. However, the economy had gone downhill. This worked to our advantage, since our American money went twice as far, but overcrowding at the orphanages was worse. Our baby had been in a crib with two other babies.

The new program in Romania made it more difficult to work through the bureaucracy of the adoption process. We still had to go to the hospital for a check up, but that too was like “old home week” with the same doctor.

Two new, good restaurants within walking distance were La Taifas and La Casa Veche. La Taifas was a new old-world bistro in the basement of a building, where they played the violin and accordion and serve Romanian/Austrian cuisine. La Casa Veche was the Romanian version of an upscale pizza parlor. This, too, was very good, but they charged for extras like hot sauce and a to-go box.

It was snowing in Romania during our second visit, so we took a local trip to Snagov instead of a day trip. Ceausescu, a former president of Romania, had a summer house in Snagov, and the monasteries were beautiful. It was very moving to see that religion has survived despite all the years of persecution. It was also ironic to see the gold and jewels in all the churches in such a poor country.

In typical Romanian fashion, the driver did not know where we were going, but stopped on every corner to ask the locals for advice. It was very entertaining to see the cast of characters, from monks to drunks, that offered their very colorful, and often long, opinions as to what we should see. This time, we also came prepared to shop. We bought a handmade Transylvanian carpet for our living room that was packaged so that it could be put on the plane like luggage. We had to make sure that a reputable dealer packaged it so customs knew we had not stolen national treasures. We also bought beautiful glass, paintings, handmade tablecloths, and gold foil religious paintings on wood. We left behind some of our American towels for the next couples because Romanian towels tend to be small and very rough.

We also brought home our new little star, nine-month-old Brittany. Brittany had apparently become ill and stopped eating and talking after our referral at six months old. When we arrived, she was very malnourished and could only sit up for a few seconds before falling over. All she could do was move her head from side to side, but what a feisty spirit! She did have a rocking motion, but it seemed more like a desire to get up and go. She had no fears, only irritations. She fussed more than Alex had, but it seemed to be out of frustration rather than trauma. She looked us straight in the eye with the longest eyelashes ever seen on a human, and seemed to know exactly who she was and what she wanted despite her temporary disabilities.

It is now three months later, and we are finally settled in Georgia. Alex was not so saintly when he realized that Brittany was staying around for a while, but he is trying to adapt. Brittany has learned how to sit up, crawl, and is now standing up and inching around the perimeters. This feminine, angelic-looking baby can chase Alex into a corner, somehow knock him down, sit on him, and laugh.

I have enrolled Brittany in the Early Start program, which is a nationwide, free federal program that evaluates and gives physical and verbal therapy to any child who qualifies as being delayed. Some parents are afraid that their child will be stigmatized by being involved with the program. I personally think it is a wonderful opportunity to receive free education for the child and the parents. It is only available until they are three years old or until they have caught up.

Brittany has been diagnosed as delayed in gross motor skills, and only because of her previous circumstances. The people at the center love her and are inspired by her poise and good spirits. Last week, an autistic boy her age was receiving therapy in the game room at the same time as Brittany. Brittany crawled up to him, held his hand, and showed him how she rode the swing. The therapist said it was the best session they have ever had with the boy. His mother requested that we schedule Brittany at the same time as her son every week. (Twinkle, twinkle.)

Well, I have to get back to real life. Alex is using my eyelash curler to pick up leaves and Brittany is ripping the tassels off my Victorian couch. It is Father’s Day and the children are driving my husband crazy! But it will all be worth it when the next stranger stops me on the street to tell me how blessed I am to have two such beautiful children. I only hope I can grow up to be just like my children.

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