Friday, May 14, 2010

The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

May 14. 2005

Life After Court…hazy, hot and humid.

The van to Serov leaves at 7:20am. We’re up and ready early with just enough time for a quick breakfast before we go. The van turns out to be a Mercedes with plentiful leather seats and very lovely air conditioning. The driver’s name is Dimitri. He’s younger and larger than Sergei and comes complete with a palm pilot and one of those phones that attach to your ear. The translator is 22 year old Maria who jumps out of the van wearing sandals, capris and a tank top. We’re insanely jealous.

Inside the van wait the adopting couple, Tina and John from St. Louis. Tina’s a talker. John’s more the silent type. Maybe because he never gets a chance to say anything. Hard to tell; we’ve only just met. They sit in front with Maria and talk. Wendy and I stretch across the two back seats and are irreverent. Something new for us.

Before we leave the city, we stop and pick up Andre. He’s a doctor (who coincidently, went to medical school with Larissa) Tina and John are bringing along to examine their kids. They’re adopting siblings, a 4 year old girl (Svetlana) and a two year old boy (Genja…a nickname). Tina admits she’s feeling pressure to feel something toward the children when she just doesn’t yet. It’s hard. I know everyone’s adoption experience is different and the emotions can be tough. It’s an alien concept to me, really, because I adored Jupiter the moment she came into my life. And I’m her aunt.

The ice really breaks when Tina is telling Maria how St. Louis lost the world series to Boston. I’m not eavesdropping. I’m really not. My ears just naturally perk up whenever they hear “Boston” and “World Series” in the same sentence. Tina continues on to explain how Boston hadn’t won the series since the 1950’s. I can’t help myself.

“Eighty six years!” I exclaim, ever the faithful Red Sox fan.

But they don’t seem to mind my interruption. Everyone laughs and suddenly, we’re best friends.

The ride up is interesting. Sergei swerves to miss the worst of the potholes. Dimitri doesn’t. We think he might get bonus points for every time you hit your head on the ceiling. He drives fast enough that we’re able to experience zero gravity when the bump is big enough. Dimitri and Andre sit in the front and smoke. A lot. To their credit, they at least open the windows when they do so. It doesn’t help a lot, but it’s better than nothing. We get stopped at three checkpoints on our way up, a first for Wendy and I. In November, we were stopped once on our way back from Serov.

The Honorable Judge Pain In Our Ass

I spend the entire time convinced we’re on some other road to Serov, some secret road that Sergei somehow doesn’t know about. Wendy assures me there’s only the one road and I know this but yet, I am still convinced otherwise. Everything looks different today. I tell Wendy this and we come to the conclusion that we have fallen into some sort of parallel post court universe. We dub it “The Land of the Lost” and immediately assign the role of sleestak to the judge. Yes, we’re mature responsible people.

We don’t stop at the Greek restaurant rest stop on the way which doesn’t help my whole other road theory. Especially because we pass it during the five minutes in which my eyes were actually closed. Amazingly though, the trip is much shorter when you don’t stop on the way which is nice because it’s sure as hell a lot longer when you don’t sleep.

We go inside and wait. Tina and John claim the sofa so Wendy and I go hang out by the window. Svetlana and Genja arrive first. They’re dressed for company. Svetlana is wearing a beautiful blue dress with an enormous blue bow on top of her head. Genja is wearing a tee shirt and shorts pulled up Urkle style. They’re both absolutely adorable.

Larissa comes in before Jupiter appears and tell us we don’t have to wait- we can go wherever we want and go get Jupiter ourselves. We leave to do just this but the caregivers already have Jupiter dressed and coming our way. Wendy scoops her daughter up in her arms and, while the pains of labor haven’t been forgotten, they’ve certainly diminished.

We start to play. Svetlana and Genja are far more interested in Jupiter’s toys than their own. We apologize. Genja is particularly fond of the stacking cups and Svetlana latches onto a bunny board book Wendy brought for Jupiter. They play until lunch arrives. Wendy feeds Jupiter and the other two feed themselves. After lunch comes nap time. The kids all go back to their beds and we pack up, preparing to head back to Ekaterinburg when we find out that we’re not going back to Ekat after all…at least not yet. We’re going out for lunch at a restaurant and coming back after nap time’s over. A bonus visit! This makes us very giddy. Tina comments on how happy we seem to be and how much fun we always seem to be having. I’m glad she didn’t see us yesterday. We were having decidedly less fun then.

We’re the only ones in the restaurant. The waitress gives everyone a menu even though four of us can hardly read a word of it. Wendy and I can read “salad”, “dessert”, and “vodka.” A balanced meal, indeed. Maria tries to translate for everyone but Tina and I aren’t cooperating as we’re busy talking about one of our favorite television shows…The Amazing Race. She missed the finale because of her trip but, thanks to Joe, I am able to tell her who won (Uchenna and Joyce for those of you who don’t watch the show…but of course, if you don’t watch the show, you probably don’t care who won and you now know how it feels to be Maria). Tina is very happy by the news of Uchenna and Joyce’s victory. And then we settle down long enough for Maria to tell us our choices. Wendy and I both try the chicken and cheese plate with a side of fries. Wendy has grape juice and I have a coke. I have an addiction to caffeine to feed, people.

While we wait for the food to come, Tina talks more. She says again how fun Wendy and I are and how we remind her of The Amazing Race. Then we move on to the local wildlife. Dimtri looks up from his palm pilot long enough to tell us we shouldn’t go into the woods because there are wolves, bears, moose and deer out there. I comment how you can see all those in my front and/or backyard. This prompts a discussion of North Conway. John once received a speeding ticket there. I said, “Obviously not in summer.”

The food comes and everyone eats. There looks to be more than just cheese on my chicken so I wait for Wendy to sample the fare and report. Turns out there are also onions involved so I end up scraping the cheese off and only eating the chicken. This prompts another picky eater discussion in which I am compared to Tina and John’s seven year old son.

After lunch, it’s back to the baby home. On the way, Tina takes our picture so she’ll always remember the two super fun sisters she traveled with for a time.

We play with the kids more. Genja is most thrilled with the piece of notebook paper John gives him. He runs up and down the room with it, shaking it and enjoying every minute of it. Svetlana is still attached to the bunny book (Wendy ends up giving it to Svetlana at the end of the day) and the Barbie Swan Lake book Tina and John brought. They’re all definitely having more fun with each other now than before lunch.

Jupiter walks back and forth between Wendy and I, collecting hugs at each stop. She says her first word to us. It’s “TCTЯ” (tyotya), the Russian word for aunt. I suddenly spend the remainder of the visit trying to get Jupiter to say “mama”. She doesn’t. Wendy says she’s just glad Jupiter talked to us but don’t you think she isn’t putting that in the journal.

We don’t leave the baby home until around 4:30pm. We say we’ll be back on Tuesday to take Jupiter home with us and then pile back into the van and head back to the city. Tina talks non stop. She’s had a much better visit with the kids and is now very encouraged and happy. I am happy to hear it. Wendy sleeps in the backseat and I sit in the middle and listen to Tina. I interject helpful comments when I can. Dimtri and Andre light up.

We make one stop on the return trip on the side of the road. Dimtri goes into the woods (Watch out for bears!) to pee. And then he and Andre smoke like chimneys. Wendy and I opt to stay in the van, figuring we’ve inhaled enough secondhand smoke for one day. Tina ventures out to pick up a souvenir for her son: a rock from the other side of the world.

On the road between Serov and Ekaterinberg

We’re exhausted when we finally return to the hotel. Wendy exchanges addresses with Tina and John so they can let us know when they bring the children home. They wish us luck and vice versa. We thank Maria and Dimitri and go inside.

Wendy requests the elevator so we try it. It’s more frightening than watching Sergei and Dimitri pass people so it’ll be the last time I take the elevator. I don’t know about Wendy.

Almost as soon as we get into the room, the phone rings. It’s Joe. He says he’s been trying to get through for more than an hour. The first time he called, whoever answered the phone told him to call back in five minutes. So he did. Then no one answered the phone for the next hour.

I talk and tell him about our day until I notice my purple book is missing from the bedside table where I had left it that morning. My purple book, for those unfamiliar with it, is priceless. It’s where I write many many ideas for my various works in progress. I’d rather lose many other things over the purple book.

Now I’d like to say that I handled this maturely and the like but, well, I didn’t. I completely freaked. I freaked to the point where I had to get off the phone because I was no longer capable of carrying on a conversation unless it concerned what possible motive the maid would have had to take the book, which of course didn’t make any sense, I know. But it’s a very important book.

So I hang up the phone and tear the room apart. Wendy helps. I rant and rave over why the maid couldn’t have taken one of the gameboys instead of the purple book. Yes, this entry will do wonders for my reputation as a calm, mature person, I know. Wendy eventually finds the book under the mattress of my bed. Which, by the way, is so not where I left it. Wendy then offers the theory that perhaps the maid knew how valuable the book was and therefore placed it under the mattress in order to keep it safe. It’s a better theory than any I had come up with so we go with that. Omar calls next to talk to Wendy and I ask him to please call Joe later and tell him that all is well, the purple book has been found and my sanity (such as it is) has been restored. I know Joe will be up all night otherwise, worrying about the purple book and I can’t have that.

Then, after putting the room to rights, we settle in for the night.

One more picture from the day…

Labor pains? What labor pains?

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