Top: April, Alesha, Me, Devi, Adia, Cheryl, Kristi, Shali
Bottom: Metali, Brie, Daya
Blue Lake park was the perfect setting for us to get acquainted. Sunny skies, a water pad, lake and a slight breeze kept us all occupied. Until, capitalizing on an opportunity, some teenagers stationed near us began selling water balloons; 10 for a buck (although a couple of the cute little girls managed to sweet talk the entrepreneurs into a “sample” more than once). We became their best customers, scarfing them up faster than they could fill them. Each with a different method, our children chased, tossed, threw, squirted and savored the balloons all afternoon, with a few sneaky adults joining in the irresistible fun from time to time. A bit of relief came if you managed to becaught in the cross fire of mist from a balloon explosion before it evaporated in the heat. Devi decided to hoard hers....all pink in color...until a little motherly encouragement got her to share her stash. It was fascinating to watch the combination of our 15 biological and adopted kids, ranging in age from 1 to 13 years, one of whom has been in the US only two months, bloom from quick introductions to buddies in the course of one afternoon.
After checking into our hotel and catching our breath, all the kids re converged at a preschool for a kid-style “pizza party”, complete with babysitters. I wondered how Devi would behave, her first ever nap-less day, but once play-doh was spotted, she rallied for the occasion. Like a kids’ dream come true, the room was filled with every kind of toy their imaginations could dream up, and with pizza and Popsicles served at a table “just her size” euphoria was reached.
With the children left in more than capable hands, the adults ventured out to McMenimans for dinner. The sprawling garden-like setting was perfect for us to enjoy a leisurely dinner and a cold brew on a hot day; still outside, but enjoying the out of doors with light breezes under the comfort of a sun umbrella. For the first time since beginning our first adoption in 2005, we had the opportunity to talk openly with a group of other adoptive parents about the struggles and successes of undoubtedly, the most incredible journeys we’ve ever endured. With each of us in various stages of pursuing family additions and one of us an adoptee herself, the conversation brought a bit of experience, hope and support to each of our unique circumstances, I think. Heartfelt details of how each adoption began and of the forever families that were united because of those efforts and desire, form the kinds of stories that fill my soul and ground me in the certainty that my life choice was and is the right one.
It was a late night when we finally retrieved all of our children. I was surprised to find Dev still upright, reading one out of a stack of books while sitting in the lap of a sitter when we arrived and was still able to utter her thank you’s before we departed. Moments after being buckled into her car seat, however, found Devi drifting off to dreamland, but not before asking if we could do a “pizza party” again tomorrow.
Independence day was Sunday. We managed to take the somewhat shaded area of a Starbucks patio by storm and sheer numbers, which just happened to overlook the stage below. Early arrivals, we got to watch the area come alive, first with vibrant colored clothing, next with the aroma of wafting Indian food and finally with lively musical and dance performances. I heard from our group more than once how their senses had transporting them to special places reliving memories from half way around the world.
Shiny ebony hair adorned with gold jewelry and finery, and the deep richness of patterned jewel toned salwar kameez and sarees were everywhere you looked as we mingled in a crowd of pure beauty. In and amongst that crowd were our children. What a joy it was to see all of our beautiful brown skinned children proudly wearing their Indian outfits, bangles and bindis. By this time, they were all fast friends, twirling and playing in the gaiety of the moment. In Introspective moments throughout the day, I found myself contemplating the course that brought our family to be standing here...in the USA celebrating the Independence of another friendly nation — the birth place of my Bengali princess; my greatest blessing to date. Smiling slightly larger, I knew that next year, our group will have grown in number by at least three, one of which will be our Pune princess, Treya.
Although we would have like to stay longer and partake in more yummy food, and more frivolity, our little turnip was twirled out, so we said our Namaste’s and headed for the car. Devi fell into a deep boneless sleep atop daddy’s shoulder in route to the parking garage, no doubt dreaming of samosas, biryani and her personal favorite, a mango lassi. She continued to snooze until 5pm that evening, well over a three hour nap. She definitely was celebrated out!
A cool reviving dip in the hotel pool, after waking had us ready for dinner. We were on our own and found ourselves once again in McMeniman's garden for a light meal and game of Old Maid. Later, strolling through the grounds, we came upon a wedding. The magical qualities of a bride just too hard to resist for our budding princess, we allowed Dev to take a peak into the private party for one small glimpse of the newlyweds.
Fueled by a plate of smiley faced pancakes the following morning, the last of our long weekend days was spent with the Werre family at the Oregon Zoo. Without consultation, Daya and Devi ended up adorned in summer dresses, each with braids in their hair. They looked like they could be sisters, flitting and floating through the zoo with leaves for wings. True little friends by this point, they played, sang songs, and bossed each other about.
This was my first of, hopefully, many Indian cultural events that we will attend with other adoptive families in an effort to introduce our daughters to their fascinating roots. The reward of meeting other families and their children added so much richness to our whole experience solidifying our friendship through our extended hand and face to face introductions. This whole weekend leaves me with a lasting impression, much like the mendhi that was drawn on my palm. The design is the lotus flower – whose unfolding petals suggest the expansion of one’s soul, which describes the weekend for me perfectly.
I must give my sincerest kudos to Cheryl and Erik for being our weekend organizers. Your efforts were so much appreciated and made for such a successful time for our families to connect. Thank you so much. Also to everyone we met; the Pfeiffer's, Klobas', Werre's, Merrill Boyer's, Johnson's, Brie and all of your children, we sincerely enjoyed each and every one of you. We can’t wait to experience it all over again next year.