I raced around Holmdel taking photographs for our adoption dossier—schools, Holmdel Park, the Holmdel Commons shopping center, even the police station. In March 2003, we were already late to apply for a program that brings Russian children, ages 6 to 13 to the U.S. every summer.
Ten children arrived in Holmdel and adjacent towns that summer in hopes of finding a permanent adoptive family. Our daughter Kristina was one of them. She was almost 12 years old, born half the world away in Siberia.
After 24 hours, she knew we wanted to be her “forever family.”
It was a joyful summer. Fireworks on July 4th in Red Bank with the whole group of locally hosted children, days at the Jersey Shore, picnics in the parks and tennis lessons. Time to bond, in our home and community.
One of my fondest memories of Kristina’s early weeks in America was a shopping trip to our local Target. She had never seen sliding glass doors, large shopping carts, or brightly lit aisles with an abundance of items and numerous choices. I could hardly keep ahead of her questions.
“Mama, shto etoh?” “What is this?” Endless questions and never enough time. Summer flew away. As the day of departure back to Russia drew near, Kristina and I took a long walk in Tatum Park. A strong, hot sun bore down across the gardens. She reached out to touch a bright purple Iris, looked up at me and said, “I love you flowers.” Her first full sentence in English.
And then another race began—the one to bring her home. Three months later, she stood on the front steps of Indian Hill School, ready to enter her new life as a student in America. Her teacher had selected several other students to help guide her through the first days, introduce her to new routines and help with homework. They assumed their responsibilities with pride and fascination.
When we bought a huge pumpkin from Dearborn Farms, I explained to the cashier that it was Kristina’s first Halloween, ever. She took us into the garden shop and arranged a special pumpkin carving event on the spot. We knew it was a girl when Kristina found a giant bow, Russian style, to pin between its eyebrows.
At her Satz school graduation, Kristina received the “Overall Excellence” award. When she first arrived in the U.S., we placed her one grade behind to allow her time to catch up with English. She not only caught up, but received her diploma from Holmdel High School in 3 years. With support from extraordinary teachers and counselors, she achieved one of her greatest dreams—admission to college.
From the beginning of our adoption journey in 2003, we’ve gathered with other adoptive families in Holmdel and neighboring towns. We laugh and cry together as our children grow into their teens and beyond. We always ask if any of us has regrets. “Yes,” one mom, Deb Privetera, always responds. “Only that we didn’t adopt more sons—or daughters. There’s plenty of borscht to go around.”
Russian Adoption Resource Information:
The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey in Trenton—provides home studies required for adoption dossiers: http://www.chsofnj.org/
The Bridge of Hope for Russian Children in Silver Spring, MD—the agency our local families worked with to bring our children for summer hosting: http://www.cradlehope.org/boh/background.htm