Amazing. That is how it feels to recall our second adoption trip, just one year ago. Amazing in that, the journey to India still seems surreal. The adventures we had were life changing, asking so much of our then, four year old traveler, and expecting acceptance from a well established and resilient two year old, a survivor in her own rite. Adopting a toddler, especially a strong willed one, is not easy on anyone. Daddy, Devi, Treya and mommy were all put through the wringer. We unknowingly each had a different idea of what that magical moment would be like, none of which became reality.
Mommy and Daddy were drawing from their first experience traveling to Devi. We picked her up out of her crib, she hugged us and that was that. Everyone was healthy and happy, and although we were parenting newbies, Dev was young enough that we were still able to call the shots, beginning to establish our new routine from day one. This is what we hoped this second experience would be like, full of photos and video footage to document this monumental event. We just wanted Treya to like us and trust us and I guessed that her extreme shyness also meant she would need at least one of us, hoping she would snuggle into my wanting arms, much the same as a newborn does, seeking comfort. Seamless would be our union.
Devi was more than ready to be a big sister. She had been dreaming of this day, falling more in love with her every minute leading up to this trip and knowing that Treya would instantly love her back. She loved washing the elephants and exploring the beaches of Goa, but couldn’t wait to play with Treya, hugging her and kissing her and just getting on with their lives making up for the two years head start Treya had had without us. Devi, quite the conversationalist, was certain that she and her baby sister would be instant friends, having long conversations and playing games and singing favorite songs together.
Then there was Treya, with yet another agenda. Our first glimpse of her in person took by breath away. Dressed in pink gingham, her wispy black hair, fair skin and huge round dark eyes were unmistakable. Assisted for encouragement by an ayah, she was walked up to us and smiled brightly when we first met, recognizing us from photos that she had been shown for the weeks leading up to this union. She was lifted into my arms but went stiff, resisting my embrace and my kisses. The whole meeting, she tolerated us at best, certainly not wanting to establish a lasting relationship. Treya would cautiously walk by us at more than an arms length from one room to the next for hours. Siting a line from Mo Wilim’s Knuffle Bunny, Treya would “go boneless” in an effort to become dead weight, hence getting as far from me as possible whenever I tried to hold her or engage her, but would eagerly run up to others, even volunteers at the orphanage that she had never met, for comfort, which tore at my heart. For days Pat, with a camera in his hands and worry in his eyes, followed me, following her all over the place as she would run and hide from me. He took few photos, as the scene did not hold the makings of fond memories, in fact many frames were snapped after she had tucked herself behind a corner, escaping our view. Exasperated, even Devi was frustrated by Treya’s rejection. Who knew that Treya would have little language skills (certainly not understanding any English) and would be a loner, preferring to help in the kitchen rather than play with other children? We tried to meet her on her own terms, but it was simply not working.
The night before taking custody of Treya, we decided to have one last outing as a family of three, treating Devi to the Pune circus. I’ll never forget, sitting there watching the hilarity of the clowns through scared straight eyes, thinking how would I get that child, who wouldn’t even let me hold her, out of the orphanage, into an auto richshaw and back to our hotel...much less get her onto an airplane and fly for 27 hours! I prayed over this, and prayed hard for strength, both physical and mental, for wisdom, and to ease the toughened heart of this wee one, that she might begin to feel our love for her.
The next day, our Adoption day, something was different. Everyone could sense it, the staff even stating that they were all certain Treya was ready to leave with us, though her actions since our arrival that morning seemed much the same as the previous days. At last the time came for the girls to change into the Rajastani dresses for the ceremony. As a sign of a true answer to prayer, Treya brought her dress to me and lifted her arms for ME to slip the dress over her precious head. Once dressed, she would only allow me to pick her up, a sweet embrace that I will never forget - breathing in her scent, feeling the beat of her heart against my chest and the weight of her body on my hip. Her sad eyes stared into my teary ones and we began to “learn” each other’s gaze, as only a mother and daughter can know. Escaping the stress of the situation and in an act of great trust, she laid her head on my shoulder, her arms not touching me, but rather held limp straight down at her sides, she fell asleep.
In contrast, today we took our first Treya Forever Family Day trip to Gateway to India for dinner to celebrate, which demanded all the fanfare and finery the girls could imagine. Matching dresses, bangle bracelets, singing and holding hands in the car along the way. After a warm welcome by the restaurant owner we found our seats and the girls, giddy with excitement, ordered their mango lassis drinks. We toasted to our special day and our meal was eaten over laughter, story telling and many trips together to the bathroom :). Both girls stuffed themselves to bursting with their favorite dishes. Devi gobbling her samosas and Treya, a bit miffed that we would dare cover her plate with anything else; shoveled in her basmati rice. An Indian meal would not be complete without gulab jamin for dessert, and chai for mommy, which we all managed to leave just enough room to consume.
Once home, we watched the two videos I've made for each girl that tells their story. They were busy bees playing while the frames clicked by until the portion in each where their lullaby music begins to play. At that moment, each girl stopped what they were doing and climbed into my lap to be rocked and watch the pictures fade from one to the next showing them growing up before their very eyes. Treya was especially giggly watching herself smile and zoom around the screen in a baby walker, taken at about one year of age.
It is times like these that I have to think hard about the girl we first met and the one we know now in Treya. One in the same, but yet so very different. The girl who once dodged even my glances, now has hugging contests with me to see who can give the tightest embrace. The girl who would not let me get close enough for a kiss, now delights in kisses given by lip, or eyelash or even rubbing noses, Eskimo style. This girl holds my hand, tickles me, and teases me. This girl, after our final good nights, yells to me "I-ub-oo" through the cracked door of darkness. This girl, who would not speak now calls me Momma.
Although our first meeting was frustrating, hard, and full of challenges, now I can see that it was perfectly orchestrated. We each learned so much from a two year old in those first difficult days. I was reminded that relationships take work and I learned the true meaning of loving unconditionally, making special milestones like today seem so much more sweet. For these life lessons, I give my thanks to my darling Treya. From you we experience a heightened emotional state as you experience your firsts at an older age than most, with a higher level of comprehension. The awe of newly fallen snow, the delight of a cookie fresh out of the oven, and the joy that comes from successfully threading a bead on a pipe cleaner. You are never a dull moment, a tough teacher, and a blessing to our family in so many incredible ways. Happy Forever Family Day to my Jelly Bean!