“Since Yelcin listens to Turkish at home he’s taking his time learning English. While my mom was here she only spoke Turkish. Now his English is getting so much better,” Servgi said as we shared a green bench in Central Park together.
The first virgin fresh breezes of Spring stroked our faces. Our hands sat nestled on our laps, warmly, sans gloves. Here, in the calm of a Saturday morning, I welcomed the chance to share time with Servgi, mom to boy in Julia’s class. With the daily hustle of getting ourselves and our toddlers out of the door and into school, a grinding five-day-a-week paramilitary operation that left little time for parents to connect. Saturdays were another social animal all together.
“I had same the fear,” I said with a grin, relieved the danger had passed. “I thought Julia was going to be speech delayed and that she’d need a language therapist. She was a late talker. After all, she listened to Empiric the first eight months of her life.”
A blank backwash set into Servgi’s face then splashed back on me. I’ve told the story of Julia and me and Ethiopia so often our back story sits way back in my mind. Yet, it’s so firmly apart of our identity its slips my mind that others only see a mom and a little girl. They write their own narrative. Everyone does. They’re viewing the first Star Wars movie. Julia and I are on Star Wars IV, Return of the Jedi.
“I adopted Julia from Ethiopia, at eight months old. I thought I had told everyone that needed to know in class.” Within class 616 out of twelve kids, three were adopted, two by single women. Another kid had two mommies; one set of parents were composed of a South Asian and an American; the diversity of New York City worked triple time in our little Pre K class.
Servgi stared straight ahead. Her eyes crinkled, then blinked. She turned and set them into mine “I just knew you were a single mom. I didn’t know how that happened or anything. My sister’s thinking of it. I knew other kids in the class were adopted, and she wanted me to ask them about the process. But I didn’t feel comfortable.”
I remembered the sister’s aching days well, longing for information, searching for a more knowledgeable mind to mine for facts and help. The road to adoption is fraught with the paving stones of heartache and losses and preconceived biases. Without help it’s so difficult to see beyond that long stretch of potholes and off ramps and jack-knifed-tracker-trailer-trucks and car fires littering the road. It’s Mad Max: Welcome to the Terror Dome. And it’s you’re life.
My shrink used to say, “You can have want you have just not how society tells you it will come.” I quoted Dr. Sickles often. But what does someone do that doesn’t have shrink logic to access? They do a Blanche DuBois. They depend on the kindness of strangers.
“I went to Spence Chapin,” I said, starting out slow. “I heard good things about them and their office was close to my home, just on the other side of Central Park, on the eastside. I picked an agency that was easy to get, so wouldn’t drag my feet. I’d had seven years worth of set backs.”
Servgi sighed.I sat silent, allowing the first set of data to load in. Servgi and her husband have one biological child. A son. Yelcin, a boy who is clearly the sun of his parents’ universe. And Julia’s too, I thought as I watched them they giggle and glide into a make shift game of tag on the cushy-matted area of the playground. My daughter has good friends. Julia is a good friend, for the most part, when sharing comes ease. For a very long time, ten years to be exact, it seemed as if I’d never do something so basic, so human, as sit on a Manhattan playground and watch my kid, my daughter, play a chasing game. I chased that dream for a decade until I snared and caught it. Yet and still, I have settled into my crazy ass busy life, I have to poke my memory into dredging up my Biblical Job like journey.
“Tell your sister there are a lot of kids out there that need homes. I just read that UNICEF estimates that there are roughly thirteen million orphans in the world, with 95% of all orphans over the age of five.”
“Wow that’s a lot of kids.”
“I think the article stated that in 2013, there were nearly 9,000 international adoptions to the U.S, with older kids coming in at 30% percent.”
“Did you think about that, adopting an older kid?”
I chuckled. “I raised my age to two years with the idea that it would speed up my adoption. When Becky called from Spence Chapin, and said they had two-month-old, I was floored. “I requested a two-year-old, remember? I skipped the baby section of the T. Berry Brazleton book.”
“Becky laughed and said, ‘I suggest you go back and read it. With luck you’ll bring her home at six months.’” “At some point you just want a kid, little else matters.”
Servgi let loose a rumbling belly laugh. The universe setting its own intention never fails to get a giggle. “ My sister wants to adopt from Turkey, where we’re from.
“That’s lovely…Spence Chapin could probably help her. They work in Bulgaria, Columbia, and work with other countries…a few hundred adoptions to the States.
“It’s a good place for her to start.”
“And they regular information meetings, so she can go and check out adoption without making an appointment.”
“I look at the news I see kids all the time,” Servgi said as a little girl with a curly Afro scooted by us on a purple three wheel. “It’s just sad.”
I sighed then turned my face toward the gray cement ground. “Once you let go of having your child, your way, once you realize it’s about the eighteen-years after they come out of the womb, not just the nine months prior, that changes everything. Then the wonderful ladies at Spence Chapin can help you figure out what works best for you.”
I looked up at the tens of kids, brown, yellow and pink buzzing about the playground, spun by the frenetic energy of youth. How happy they were just being, just running, just laughing. Playground energy is powerful. Effervescent.
“I tell people, first you’re afraid that you can’t afford it. Then you move forward. You travel to meet your child and see the tiny faces in an orphanage, kids beyond the one you came to meet. At moment you realize, you have everything a kid wants. Someone who cares. You can see it in their eyes. Becky and Stella were there for me day in and day out, affirming with me that one day I would become a mom. You need that from a lot of channels to keep moving forward.”
“Mommy, mommy watch me, watch me,” Julia sang out from a high point atop the rope climb. “Mommmieeeeee!!!” Yelcin now crooned with her. Servgi and I turned towards the ring of voices. The shinning sun crowned our heads. The park was alive with children, running, jumping, throwing, catching, digging, pulling, and some crying. Today is a good day. Today I can share. Today I am a light.