Saturday, June 27, 2009


"When you leave here, don't forget why you came."
- Adlai Stevenson, to college graduates

The blog is long overdue for an update; it has been a very busy and draining couple weeks! The week before last we went up to the Utica area (in the foothills of the Adirondacks) where we lived before moving to Binghamton to attend my beautiful baby sister's high school graduation. We ended up going out to a restaurant with my family and our entire kid circus at 10pm - they were amazingly well-behaved and were quickly asleep on the drive home!

Last week was Cade's preschool graduation, the last day of school and the beginning of what is going to be a very busy summer for me - Emerson has now started receiving therapy services so between her and Dawson, Macy's two speech therapy sessions each week and Cade's three speech therapy sessions and two occupational therapy sessions, we will have 17 visits from various therapists throughout the week. Yes, 17. Although it can be overwhelming to think about, I try to temper my stress level by reminding myself how lucky we are to live in a place where such an existence is even possible - and completely free of cost to us, other than what we put into taxes.

The last week or so has been particularly emotional for me. Dawson is having little explosions in his development - taking steps on his own when we hold his hands or support his hips, giving high-fives, saying more words than I realized he could hold in that little head of his (bubbles - pop!, Elmo, hand, hair, glasses, sock, hat, to name a few) and is now completely done with bottles and only drinking from straws or open cups. His progress stands in stark comparison to Emerson, still having trouble connecting with others - though she has improved since we first met, many times she still looks around us or through us, not AT us. She laughs or smiles when we tickle or play with her, but it is a lonely kind of laughter, a self-smile. We've been making plans to celebrate both Parker's and Emerson's birthdays and the reality of where Emerson is right now as she nears the big 2 has been heavy on my heart.

Part of me recoils at the thought of celebrating her birthday at all - she is still refusing any form of baby food, so there will be no pictures of her happily munching on birthday cake; she has little interest in toys other than rattle-type objects, so there will be no excitement in unwrapping the latest noisy, light-up gadget from the toy store. It is not like celebrating a 2nd birthday. It is not like celebrating a 1st birthday. It is like a grand mix-up on the calendar has resulted in the celebration of reaching the 5th month.

The reality that she has for all practical purposes lost the first two years of her life is harder to face removed from the abstract. Especially since I don't think she lost that time; rather, it was stolen from her. I cannot help but feel guilty, not as a parent because I know we did all we could to get her here as soon as possible, but guilty as a human being. Guilty for thinking simply removing a child from such a situation would be enough to make a difference, enough to mean something. Because the truth is that it's not enough.

I have not spoken much about my deepest thoughts during our stay in Serbia. I have not mentioned a sweet little boy I saw many times during our visits with Emerson, a sweet little boy I babbled with a few times and held just once. I still think of him often. He is a bit older than Emerson, he has fair hair and the biggest knowing eyes like Dawson's, for some reason at first I thought his name was Nika and though it isn't, that is what I will call him because Nika means "unconquerable" and that is what I hope he will be - an Unknown Hero. He is not available for adoption because his parents will not allow him to be. They don't want him, but they want no one else to have him either. I have had a few bad dreams over the last few weeks, some where the officials in Serbia wouldn't allow us to leave with Emerson for strange and silly reasons, like it was raining. Others just of that little boy, banging his head on the crib bars as Emerson sometimes does against the wall, babies' cries going unanswered around us, children left sitting in strollers for hours at a time. Last night I dreamt Emerson was falling and though I tried I could not reach her; I woke up gasping and clawing the air.

Cade's preschool class included one darling little boy with Down syndrome. I had spent the entire school year fighting back the urge to pick him up and hug and kiss him whenever I saw him. I saw Dawson in him, the same special magic leaping from his almond eyes. At Cade's graduation ceremony, when it was that little boy's turn to walk across the stage and stand on the little wooden "Bridge to Kindergarten" with his diploma, the applause of the families of 88 other students thundered passionately like it hadn't for anyone else. Many people stood and shouted out. Two more little ones with other special needs crossed the bridge and met the same enthusiasm.

And I sat there holding Emerson, near tears for a few minutes, wondering what in the world could make so many of us Americans see something that so many others just can't see. What is it about us? Do we learn it at some point in school? - some quiet appreciation for the underdog, for the one who must overcome the most and work the hardest. Perhaps it is part of our history, because we have made and continue to clean the stubborn stain of oppression and are careful not to spill anymore. Maybe it is because although we stray from the path of freedom, in our hearts we all believe in the ideals that formed our nation and we know that the "weakest" among us are truly the strongest because only they have the power to remind us when we forget. Not all Americans feel this way, but I have to say I think the majority do and most of those who don't are well-equipped to change.

And as Emerson continues to balance precariously between the disconnected world she has made for herself and the one we are trying to draw her into, as I learn for the first time to love without knowing if it will ever be fully returned, I know still I want that applause for her. For Dawson. For Nika. For all of the brave little ones with their "disabilities," a term only made so by the most disabling human trait of all - injustice.

The above quote is meant for graduates, but I can't help think it's meant for me, as well. There was a reason for all this, all the struggles, a reason I sat across the ocean in a stuffy little room feeding a bottle to a 21 month old abandoned child and staring out the window at a temple still being toiled on to honor a God, a God who would find the greatest dishonor in the children lying in cribs down the hall.

My book is at my fingertips, struggling to get out, hoping to mean something, to change something. Now if I can just find some time around those 17 therapy sessions each week... ^_^

Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator.
Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC

And now, before this post gets any more serious, some pictures. :)