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An Adoption Carol

I was thinking about writing a story about a discontent child (American) that wished she had never been adopted from Russia, partially because she never really appreciated the sacrifices her parents made on her behalf.  In a series of unsavory events she instead gets to see what her Russian life would have been like if she had remained in the orphanage.  It really hurts adoptive parents to see any measure of ungratefulness of adopted children that rebel against some of the things their parents hold most dear. I’ve seen glimpses of this in many different families who crossed the boarders into Russia and rescued those who may have otherwise perished.  If only we could wake these wayward children up to the reality of what their situation might have been including the impact of what governments have done since their adoption and legislated the remaining orphan’s statistical demise.  This is not propaganda; the stories are true and this is in its parts, reality.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

 

“The Adoption Carol” by Vinny DiGirolamo

A police swat team stormed an apartment complex in a dark inner-city neighborhood.  They arrived at the designated apartment and stood just outside the door.  The lead officer knocked and announced that it was the police and ordered the occupants to open the door. Inside the smoke filled apartment were about nine adults of various ages doing a variety of drugs and hanging all over each other in various stages of inappropriate sexual gesture.  Most are so stoned from their drug usage that they barely noticed the knock at the door.

They appeared to be oblivious to what is on the other side of the door.  Huddled in one corner is a young woman who is in the crouched position with her hands on her head yelling, “This can’t be happening.”  Her eyes were tear filled and her face was gaunt.  She’s visibly undernourished and hung-over from doing some type of drug. She’s only wearing a short pair of jean shorts and a loosely hanging tank top. Her American name is Rebecca.  She was adopted from Russia at the age of five and raised by the Stalling’s family.

As she sat in this huddled position, paralyzed by her inebriation, she was immobilized but conscious enough to reflect on her life and what lead to her being there in that room doing unimaginable things. She thought back to her first memories in an orphanage in Russia on the day she was playing in a nearby flower garden when an American family came to visit and chose to adopt her; she remembered them looking so official.  As this family arrived at the orphanage to inspect the children there, one of the caregivers came to get her to line her up with the other children. She remembered the wonderment of her flight to America with her new family, the introductions to her siblings and extended family; there were so many that wanted to meet her.

She reminisced about the fairytale bedroom her parents prepared for her, eating ice cream and licking the ketchup bottle at the restaurant.  She remembered all of her new clothes, her first day going to school, meeting new friends and the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher who she liked best of all.  She remembered many happy Christmases with even a news story and video featured in the local paper one year; that was a lot of fun for her.  She groaned, those were happy times even when my parents had thirteen teeth pulled because they had decayed so badly in Russia.  She remembered having braces and her first boyfriend in her early years, attending fun activities at church and camp, hiking, lots of daddy daughter dates at the movie theaters, and participating in different sports.

Then suddenly her countenance changed as the tears started flowing down her cheeks and she gasped for breath.  Something happened one day when she was told by her mother to change her cloths because they were too immodest.  She determined that day that no one was going to control her any more and she started down a dark road by first being defiant to her parents. She argued over every little house rule, began sneaking out at night, going to clubs as a minor, caking on her makeup and running away to bad friend’s homes. She remembered her parents calling the police to the house more than one time, having sex with adults and being put behind bars with other juvenile delinquents. Then she remembered when she started using drugs. Her thoughts became bitter, It’s all because of them.  Why so many rules?  I was a good kid.  They did this to me. That’s how I ended up here. It’s their fault I am like I am, she thought as the sounds of the police breaking in became louder and louder.

The police barged in as the door broke off at its hinges and the swat team immediately tackled several men as they attempted to flee out a window onto the fire escape.  Throughout the confusion, they managed to round up all of the occupants without much of a struggle.  Rebecca was lifted off the floor by a policeman, handcuffed and escorted to a police vehicle while being read her rights. It was a blur to her as she stepped into the vehicle, stumbled and lost consciousness. She heard in the background a male voice yelling, “She’s coding!” 

The police and ambulance tried to resuscitate her as she slipped further into a dark coma.  She was unaware of anything physical slipping deeper into darkness. The sounds of the Ambulance sirens became mute to her as it raced to the hospital.  The EMTs broke out the portable defibrillator as she went completely black and the he yelled, “Clear.”

As she woke up she found herself in an unfamiliar place. In the distance she saw a small, dim light and began to walk toward it.  She was confused and unaware of her surrounding, scared and cold. As she exited what felt like a long dark tunnel, the light became blinding at first but quickly faded away into a garden setting.  It was a familiar place that she recalled from her early childhood at the Russian orphanage.  After a brief reflection on how beautiful the flowers were, she noticed a little girl about five years old playing in the garden with an old, tattered Barbie doll held together with tape around its torso.  She could hear other children in the distance calling her, but she didn’t respond, thinking, who is calling me? 

Rebecca instantly recognized the girl. Why that’s me, she thought, when I was five.  She looked up at the gathering in the distance and further recognized that it was the day her parents found her in the orphanage.  But this time was different.  This time she didn’t hear the bell that gathered all of the children to be introduced to this nice American couple. No one at the orphanage appeared to notice she was missing either.  The little girl continued to play in her own world while the rest of the orphans lined up to be inspected by the American visitors.

Rebecca ran over to the gathering scene in front of the orphanage and saw what she thought was a much younger looking mother and father than she remembered.  They were already visiting with the children and getting to know them. Rebecca looked back at the garden and could barely see her five year old self oblivious to what was taking place. 

As her parents finished their brief visit and headed to the car with their escort without selecting any of children, Rebecca pleaded with them to come to the garden to see the little girl, “It’s me, Mom, Dad! Rebecca. Don’t you hear me?”  They walked right past her and didn’t see her.  No one could see her. She screamed in despair; knowing that she was supposed to meet and leave with them that day. 

She stopped and wondered, How did I get here?  What brought me to this place in the first place? As quickly as that thought occurred to her, her surroundings changed immediately. She was still in Russia but stood outside a small house on a wintery night. She noticed the front door slam open and saw a little girl thrown out of her house by a drunken man she assumed was her Russian father. The little girl was her five year old self again.  She had very little clothing on and her father swore at her to go out into the snow and die.

Rebecca watched herself as a little girl wandering the streets of the nearby city scowering for scraps of food, shivering and crying for anything to keep her body warm.  Finally, a passing woman saw her and called a nearby policeman to take her away with the trash.  The policeman asked her a few questions and realized she was in dire need of food and shelter; now clearly suffering from hypothermia and at death’s door.  He had compassion on her and took her to the local hospital for help. 

The attendants at the hospital reluctantly admitted her and she was taken to a room, stripped down, examined by strange looking people in white clothes, given needles, showered with a coarse scrub brush and then her head was shaven completely to her scalp.  Her skin was ridden with bleeding sores and she was put on an IV as she cried when it was abruptly inserted; she received no comfort. She was placed in bed alone in a big room and she felt afraid in her foreign surroundings.  Rebecca thought out loud, “I’d forgotten this.  I was so young and afraid. They shaved my head.  That was so humiliating to me, even then.”

Rebecca’s mom had died at a young age when her liver failed due to acute alcoholism, or so she had been told. Her father was a violent alcoholic and Rebecca’s grandmother could no longer protect her from his drunken wrath.  Rebecca became keenly aware that someone was near her side and somehow responsible for her ghostly presence.  Her escort however did not speak.

As she turned to see who it was, she found herself back at the orphanage, observing herself now a little older.  She was surrounded by half a dozen older boys who were taunting her for her only possession; the Barbie doll even more wore out than before.  When the gang of boys closed in on her she was pushed to the ground, roughed up and her clothes were partially torn from her.  Her doll was pitched into the nearby woods never to be found again as the boys departed. They had had their fun at her expense.  Alone and broken hearted she returned to the orphanage and hid in her bed so no one would see her bruised body and make fun of her.  When she didn’t show up for dinner with the rest of the orphans, no one came looking for her.  Rebecca thought, Poor little thing. This is so wrong. Again, Rebecca turned to see her escort again but as she did, the scenery changed abruptly once more.

Next she found herself at a campfire with a bunch of boys.  It all seemed innocent at first, but then she noticed they were all smoking cigarettes. That’s one habit she was glad she had not taken up.  Several of the boys were drinking from a clear bottle she recognized was Vodka.  She observed herself as already having too much to drink and noticed the stares and attention the boys gave her as they started to talk in whispers. 

One of the boys approached her and ripped her blouse off of her in one premeditated motion. Rebecca watched in horror as the rest of the boys immediately rushed in on top of her practically smothering her on the ground.  Her mortal self was too drunk to fight back and she passed out on the dirt floor of the fire ring.  All Rebecca could do was stand there and watch them molest her one at a time.

Rebecca knelt down and sobbed at her side as the boys lost interest and wandered off.  The night seemed to pass quickly and when the girl awoke the next morning, though her clothes had been shredded, she was able to piece some of the rags together to hide her naked and battered body.  She sobbed silently, horrified at what might have happened to her in her unconscious state; she could remember none of it. No one was nearby and could hear her cries for help either so she didn’t even attempt to call out. Passing motorists dare not pick up this scantily clad, bruised and beaten girl as she stumbled unevenly and slowly made her way back to the orphanage.  Rebecca wanted to help her but could not, she just wept for her.

When she walked in the door of the orphanage, the Director saw her disheveled state and yelled at her to get to the showers and get dressed. The Director was disgusted at her appearance and showed no compassion at her miserable visage.  It gave the Director comfort knowing that soon she would be old enough to turn lose on the streets of Moscow with only the shirt on her back. “This one has caused me much trouble,” the Director spoke out loud in her native tongue.  Rebecca understood every word the Director said as though she recalled Russian perfectly. She then watched as her mortal-self washed the blood off her forehead, arms and legs in the shower.  Rebecca turned to her escort and barely caught a glimpse of him as she said, “What becomes of her?”

In an instant, she was transported to the streets of Moscow. There she noticed the girl was underdressed like a prostitute in high heels.  As she surveyed the street around her, Rebecca noticed a couple across the street going into the local hotel lobby.  It was her parents again.  They were alone but unaware of the situation across the street. Rebecca instinctively screamed out, “Mom, Dad, I’m over here!”  Her dad looked over in her direction momentarily as though he had heard something, but didn’t recognize anyone he knew. Rebecca turned again back to the girl just in time to see a man drag her to a car that had just pulled up. He talked to the driver, received money for her and then pushed her into the back seat of the car. 

As quickly as she realized the man had sold her to a complete stranger, the scene changed again. This time she landed in a log cabin room. There were two people fighting.  She understood it to be a fight between her sister and the father of her twin children who were also in the room. “I didn’t know I had a sister,” she spoke softly as though someone could hear her. Somehow, Rebecca innately recognized her as her older sister; now about twenty two. 

The couple was obviously inebriated and they were embroiled in a violent fight.   The children were in a play pen about ten feet away, screaming and holding on to each other.  Rebecca tried to yell loud enough to stop the argument between them but again, no one could hear her.  Her escort did not move as he stood a short distance away; his hooded head was bowed.  He did motion slightly toward the two infants that watched the volatile scene.  The man picked up a fireplace iron and hit her sister across the forehead in one steady swing.  Rebecca’s sister fell to the ground lifeless.  The police arrived almost in an instant and carried the babies away.  All Rebecca could do was stare at the awful scene, unable to reach out to the children.

Time seemed to have no boundaries to Rebecca. The man was cuffed and put in a squad car while they put her sister in a body bag.  Sister or no sister, Rebecca could hardly take it all in and process the tragedy that had just unfolded before her.  Rebecca turned to her escort and cried out in anguish, “Show me no more.”

To her plea, her escort responded in a kind but authoritative voice, “One more, Rebecca, and then my time with you will be finished.”  Her escort sounded familiar to her, but she was so distracted by the new scene that was upon her, she gave it no further thought.

Again on the streets of Moscow, Rebecca saw herself huddled near a doorway begging for food scraps or money. Her body was extremely thin like you’d see in a meth addict and her cloths tattered like the day she was raped at the campfire. Strangely, she noticed her parents walk by her once again. This time they noticed her and put an American ten dollar bill in her tin cup. They stared at her briefly not recognizing her and quickly walked on their way. They looked back once as if to say, “That poor, poor, dear. We wish there was more we could do for her.”  Rebecca didn’t call out this time. She just wept, “Mom. Dad. It’s me, Rebecca…” She knew they didn’t recognize her, because they hadn’t adopted her.

Rebecca turned to her escort just as her mortal-self fell unconscious to the street and gave up her last breath. Her tin cup hit the ground as other nearby beggars scrambled for the ten dollar bill before her falling head rested on the brick pavement. 

Horrified at the sight, Rebecca was ready to plead with her escort one more time through her water filled eyes, but he was nowhere to be found.  To her dismay the scene continued unabated as a pickup truck pulled up and two grungy looking men approached her fallen body.  They grabbed her by her arms and ankles and put her into the back of the open bay with a loud thump as she landed on top of a pile of dead animals that had been removed from the roadside. 

Her body was taken to what looked like a morgue and she was stripped of all her remaining clothing which were disposed of.  After an hour or so, they returned to the stainless steel table where she laid and they awkwardly placed her body in a plastic bag as they laughed and joked about her battered skeletal remains. They loaded her back into the truck with another loud thump and Rebecca could barely contain her tears. She gained no solace but just starred at her now cold corpse in the body bag as the truck drove away.

At the end of a long winding road in the dead of night, the truck stopped and the two men in the truck grabbed the lifeless body bag and tossed it into a deep ravine in the middle of the forest.  As they did so, Rebecca could hear a wolf cry in the distance as though it anticipated that it would be fed that night.  At the sound of the howling, Rebecca realized that an end had come to her Russian-self; barely buried in a shallow grave to be eaten by the indigenous wild life.  She could not speak but fell instinctively to her knees, exhausted by the evening’s revelations and prayed in utter despair.  Praying was something her parents had taught her to do as a child long ago.

“Oh God… Why have you shown me these things?” she stumbled to speak with quivering lips, trying to make sense of it all.

“Is this the life I would have had if I had not been rescued by my parents?”  The silence was defining. 

“What am I to do?” she continued as she began to cry uncontrollably. “What am I to do?”

The escort reappeared nearby as though he had never left her. She could feel his presence and intuitively recognized him as one of her adopted grandfathers. He had died five years earlier and she had loved him so much. He motioned to her that she could not touch him as she went to give him a hug.

“Grandfather, what does this all mean? What shall I do?”

“Rebecca, the only difference with the life you may have had here in Russia and the life you do have now with your parents is what you have chosen to do with it.”

His words sank deeply into her heart.

“My choices haven’t been very good, Grandfather, have they?” Rebecca admitted.

After a moment of self-reflection Rebecca asked, “Does this mean I can change or is it too late for me?” she asked softly between her sobs.

“Rebecca. Life is all about change. It’s really up to you and your own choices that will determine the way forward and whether you will have the same senseless end as that body at the bottom of that ravine. You can choose a higher road than what you have done so far.”

“Grandfather, I want to go home now,” Rebecca entreated him as she gained some resolve to choose more wisely. “Please, Grandfather. Let me have another chance.”

“All in good time my dear,” he reassured her. “I love you Rebecca,” he said as he faded away.

As Rebecca slowly woke up to the steady beeping sound of the heart monitor in her hospital room, her eyes cleared in stages until she could see the outline of blurry figures by her bedside at first.  She noticed at her right side was her tear soaked mother weeping as she held tightly Rebecca’s her forearm clear of the IV.  On her left side was her father with his head bowed, sobbing.  As she slowly opened her eyes, silence overtook the room, and all she could muster was a sound just above a whisper through parched lips was, “Mom. Dad. I’m back. I’m back.”

He mother yelled out in a screech of unconstrained joy, “Thank God, we thought we lost you! Rebecca, we thought we lost you.”

They both leaned over and hugged her amidst the wires and IV tubes that had kept her alive the past few days. She could see doctors, nurses and other family members surrounding her bed in tearful vigil.  Expressions of love were immediately expressed by everyone in the room. “We love you, Rebecca.  We are here for you.  Please don’t leave us again.”

Several weeks passed as Rebecca withdrew from her drug induced coma and was ready for release. On the day of her release, she recounted her story to her parents and announced, “As soon as I am well enough and allowed to travel, I need to take care of something.”  Her parents were curious, but respected her privacy with an understanding smile.

Several months later, Rebecca boarded a jetliner for Moscow.  When she landed and met her escorts, a couple from the area, she took a three hour ride in a bus to an orphanage hidden deeply in the hills of Russia’s outback.  The buildings appeared to be bombed out World War II buildings with lead painted walls and several broken windows.  The latrine was a well-used, unsanitary hole in the ground in an outhouse that stunk beyond description. The smell was so bad that everyone had to hold their breath while they took care of business.

Rebecca was immediately escorted by the couple, both interpreters, and lead to the orphanage’s Director’s office; the same one she saw months earlier in her dream state.  She asked to see all of the children so that she might adopt one and once again the orphanage bell rang to gather the children from their mischievous play areas.  Once they were gathered, she did not see the children she desired to see.  It only took her a moment to head off in the direction of the garden where twenty years earlier she was found picking flowers and playing with her tattered Barbie doll by her American parents.

That’s when she saw them.

A little, blonde haired five year old girl was playing with her twin brown haired brother were oblivious to the bell and gathering of children at the orphanage.  She recognized them immediately as the children of her sister who had been murdered in an alcoholic rage several years earlier.  These two were the ones she travelled to Russia to meet and bring back to America with her. It was allowed by the Russian government even as a single parent because there was a blood relationship. She was given custody of the two children without the need for adoption.  Besides, of the 750,000 orphans in that country, there would be two less mouths to feed.

Rebecca’s heart swelled ten times its size as she embraced these two joyful little children.  She thought to herself, Now I understand the countless sacrifices my parents made for me.

And so it was, this beautify summer day in a garden hidden in the hills of Russia, in a small, all but forgotten town. This story is true in parts and happened before the government closed its political doors to thousands of families that would have sacrificed much and given their all to save but a few beautiful souls from their statistical and unsavory future. 

This is what life, liberty, love and family has proffered those who were fortunate enough to escape the horrors that befall so many innocent children there.  The iron curtain between countries is now constructed of Russian orphans and loving American families.   I will never forget that day in an orphanage where my wife and I saw rows of innocent young boys on beds in one room and rows of innocent girls on beds in another room when the Spirit whispered to me, “Don’t forget the children.” 

Regardless of political agendas, may the eyes of their understanding be likewise opened, this is my prayer.

 

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