Words cannot really express how today has been! We woke up so early so that we could get a good breakfast in before heading on the long journey to Viska one more time. On the road by 7:30am, we watched the morning traffic of people heading to work via cars, buses, and by walking. It was a beautiful day – more crisp and cold than previous days, but the sky was completely clear and beautiful.
The drive, for me at least, went by quickly. Deana didn’t sleep, nor did I – the anticipation of culminating nearly a year worth of effort was too much to bear and must be faced with eyes wide open! We went to Zack’s orphanage first – walking in for the last time was almost sentimental. We were shown to the room where Deana first met Zack in December and I could not help but think how perfect that was. Shortly afterward, Zack was brought in attired in new clothes and a big smile (these clothes were left behind). Deana hugged him and he was shy but overtly happy. She then changed his clothes, and YES, we all had to turn our backs when he got down to his underwear! Deana said he was Speedy Gonzales when he changed those! He also likes his new Doc Martins! And shout out to Stephanie and Drew – he LOVED the shirt you bought him and I must say he looked wonderful in it! We had a nice visit with the Director, who when we were saying goodbye began to cry. Deana told her she looks very much like family and that Deana’s family cries, too. It was a touching moment. Zack’s wonderful caretaker was there too and was nice enough to write down their address so that we can keep in touch, letting them know how Zack is doing in America.
We then left to get Sophia. As we left the office, there was a large group of Zack’s friends waiting for him. They all said goodbye and walked out to the exit so they could wave. Zack, for his part, really never looked back and had no hesitation whatsoever as he walked with Deana to the car. She basically waved his arm for him, as he was more focused on his new life with Deana and the passing world that was being presented outside of the window.
When we arrived at Sophia’s orphanage, we were told that Zack could not go in, so he stayed with Sergei in the car. He was fine with that and was excited that he was able to move to the front seat. We went inside and were lead to an entirely new area of the orphanage for us. Inside a small room were two staff members who immediately began paperwork for Sophia and asked for her clothes, as they would be changing her. Deana took out the gifts for the orphanage, which per their request were meds. She and Anastasia the translator changed the instructions to Russian. Based on their reaction, the items she purchased were a great success.
Suddenly, Sophia walked up wearing her new clothes and jacket and Bjorn shoes! She seemed very tired and overwhelmed at first, but went straight to Deana. There was less ceremony with this hand off but it was amazing to realize she was Deana’s daughter. Even the words are magical for me as I type! However, the true moment of anticipation was yet to come.
Sergei and Zack were walking the grounds when we exited the orphanage with Sophia. Zack, all “cool” in his new jacket and clothes, basically ran to us and Sophia. Her reaction was priceless – she went right to him and touched him. He, on the other hand, went immediately into shy mode, basically looking at the ground or giggling and pretending she wasn’t there. She kept walking to him and touching him. It was still priceless. We all then went to the car and headed back to NN.
Both were VERY excited to be with Deana and in the car. They had their own little celebrations in the car in their own way. Both began to play with me and Anastasia, who were sitting in front of them, by tagging us or poking us. Laughter abounded everywhere. Both listened to Deana well, “sit down”, etc. At one point they seemed to reach critical mass because they got VERY active in the car! It was evident that they were loving life!
Some words spoken by Zack and translated by Anastasia, in no order:
“I do not speak your language.”
“On the plane, I am not going to sleep.”
“There is a gorilla behind you!” (said to Gina, who he apparently really enjoys trying to scare.)
“I am not going to wear a seatbelt on the plane. I will stand and look out the window the whole trip!”
“There is a house on your head” (or mice in your head, or a shop on your head – many variations to try to evoke Gina’s silly expressions or reactions)
Through it all, Zack and Sophia slowly began to interact with each other. Zack, always shy at first, seemed to melt the layers of protection he seems to build around his heart quickly, and before you knew it, he was speaking directly to Sophia. It quickly became apparent that she idolizes him, often trying to do the same thing he does, mimics what he would say, etc. At this point they BOTH began telling me there was mice in my hair or a gorilla behind me, etc. I would look at Deana with a petrified face and scream, “Mama!!!” and they would howl with laughter.
On that note, Sophia is very vocal about Deana being Mama. Zack is a bit more reserved – if you ask him “is that Mama?” he giggles and says “da (yes)”. But he doesn’t say it on his own – I think it’s a combination of his shyness as well as his protection mechanism. Or maybe it’s a guy thing! After all, when I would tell Zack there was a gorilla behind HIM, he would say “I am not scared of gorillas!”
When we arrived at the hotel, they excitedly got out. Anastasia showed Deana the food they should be able to eat and then we headed to the room. They both immediately went to the TV and figured out how to turn it on. They were transfixed! We unloaded everything and then went downstairs to eat dinner.
It was here that much of their personalities began to surface, including the testing of the waters. Zack loves to be silly, especially with me (the biggest kid, apparently). So it was harder for him to take my NO seriously at first. But we managed and we survived not having an interpreter present throughout the meal. He did NOT want the borsch that was ordered for him, so he ended up sharing the pasta Sophia got, as well as some of the French fries Deana had as well as some of the potatoes from my meal. This was kind of sad, because especially Sophia ate rather frantically. She spilled a pasta here and there and she focused on getting that pasta and not wasting it. When Deana would take some of her pasta for Zack, she would begin to try to scrape the remaining food back as if to protect it. It was difficult for me and Deana not to cry and we rejoice that the days of being concerned about food are now over for Deana’s son and daughter. (I really love that sound!)
Back at the hotel room, it was FUN TIME! First, Sophia got her bath and she LOVES the water! I think she was a little freaked out to be able to sit in it, but once she got over that it was fun all around. I showed Zack some pictures of our visit on my laptop and he loved it. He also wanted to type and touch the computer – a kid after my own heart! Soon, it was hand off time – I took Sophia, all fresh from the bath, and got her dressed in her jammies while Deana gave Zack a bath. It was Sophie’s turn to see the pics and she was very delighted – saying “mama!” and “kriska!” (her nickname) as she would alternate “oy!”.
Zack proved to be a fish as well and he was soon calling me and Sophia to the bathroom so he could show us how he can “swim”! After he was done, I helped him to get his jammies on but he is very much a “I can do it myself” type of person! He loved his Spiderman pjs!
Suddenly, I was at the computer with both on my lap and we HAD to see the pictures over and over again!
At this point, interaction between the children was complete – they talked together, they played together, they even shared!
This is long, so I am skipping stuff, but as they were put to bed, they whispered to each other for so long – I almost wanted to cry! As I type, they are sound asleep! (Well, I have been asleep since the kids went to bed – around 8pm, but woke up and am now wide awake!)
Okay, I will write more later. This blog has been very much “Gina’s perspective” – I have purposely not mentioned much about Deana because I wanted her to be able to write it herself – which I hope she will do soon! She is VERY tired and got car sick on the ride home which has been difficult for her. But she is LOVING being a mother and has done a fabulous job!