Without realizing it, I’ve always located my children in a crowd by first looking for their beautiful brown skin and secondly by the fluorescent colors they are most likely wearing; just as my husband says my hair is an asset to him - an aid for finding me amongst a sea of Caucasian people. I enjoy having a unique quality, but I am an adult and made this choice for myself. I wonder what my children feel knowing that in most situations they are different than everybody else in the most obvious of ways - the color of their skin? I say most situations, as this weekend brought a whole new set of circumstances, where suddenly I was the minority whose ability to track my own children failed me!
Imagine my surprise when scouring a swimming pool’s surface in search of my two brown beauties only to find my keen eyes darting from child to child in a literal sea of bobbing, smiling and laughing browned skinned kiddos? Thus was only one of the delightful scenes at the India fest we attended in Portland this past week.
On Thursday, two adoptive families; the Mahar’s from Oregon and Werre’s from Idaho and ours converged on a 5 bedroom/2 bath rental home located pretty much smack dab in the middle of the heart of Portland - the perfect starting point for most of the week’s activities. Our nine children fell right into step scurrying about discovering the house while each family introduced their newest members, all home from India for less than six months. In addition, there were several local adoptive families and one family, the Hartley’s, who flew in from California that joined in the hectic schedule of fun.
Cheryl, a local, put her organizational talents to work, directing us to many of Portland’s parks and recreation areas. On Friday Blue Lake park was a huge hit sending the older kids off for paddle-boat rides while the younger set played on the sandy beach literally shutting the park down at night fall, but only after many pizzas were consumed to fuel their effort. The kids dug a huge hole - a hole to India, no doubt - that leaves me pondering if it is still there as I am still digging souvenir sand out of both girls' ears!
A scorcher Saturday afternoon found us at the home of Lisa and Russ and their 8 children for a bbq pool party. Nearly 50 in number, the pool was full and so were our bellies after a feast of shared dishes. I was thrilled to find the older Indian girls in love with the pea salad I brought to share (recipe courtesy of our neighbor Carol) because of the curry it calls for, which I doubled! Most of us had never met face to face, though have had long relationships via Internet and word of mouth. It was so great to place faces to names, and see these “friends” for the first time. The evening was full of so many stories sharing the miraculous journeys of how each of these wonderful families were joined. In spite of some pretty tragic beginnings, all of the children are loved and thriving now.
The excitement began to mount on Sunday morning as we all prepared ourselves for the festival. One by one the children emerged in their traditional Indian attire, so proud of their fancy appearance. Before me knew it, the living room was alive with the sound of jingling bangles, the glint of bindis and the weave of gold threads.
Upon our arrival the festival was an explosion of color and music with the spicy aroma of Indian food telling our bellies it was time for lunch. I hoarded a fresh dosa with potato pea filling; not sharing a single bite. By mid afternoon in the 90 degree heat, our girls had drained their mango lassi drinks, and we were off to get mehndi tattoos on our hands. Treya’s face lit up when the artist drawing on her hand spoke to her in Marathi - a language she obviously still understands. I believe this was the highlight of Treya’s first India fest and the name tag with her names written in Hindi, which she absolutely refused to take off.
Intent on watching the henna cone move over my skin, the girls and I were startled when the henna artist broke the concentration by commending me for my choice to adopt my girls. I thanked her and made a mental note that to that point, I was unaware that I, a fair skinned women, was noticeably not of Indian origin at this predominately Indian attended event. It is funny that unless I am looking in the mirror or it is pointed out, I never FEEL that I look any different than my girls. We are simply a family and I am their mother.
Nearly at the end of their rope, the girls get the giggles. Treya with her Hindi name tag, Devi and Alesha
Although India festival is held to celebrate India’s independence day, for us, stretching the festivities over a long weekend, allows our children to remain connected, as many of them lived together before joining their forever families; some were even crib mates. I looked forward to watching all of the kids play together, but also to sharing parenting trials and tribulations with other families built like ours. The result brought fast friendships - the kind that will last a lifetime. Our whole family is all ready looking forward to a repeat performance next year.