Monday, July 15, 2013

LTYM Submission: A Christmas Story

This past winter I submitted a piece for consideration for the NW Arkansas chapter of the "Listen to Your Mother" show.  LTYM is a national show that takes place in 24 cities across the U.S. during the month of May as an opportunity to celebrate, well, mothers.  While I wasn't one of the fifteen storytellers chosen for the show, I was honored to be one of 25 writers invited to audition. I mean, some of my favorite, most respected writers participated in this show in such amazing venues as Chicago, Kansas City, and Minneapolis.  To be included among these talented writers was truly humbling.

Here I'd like to share with you the story I submitted. I hope you enjoy, and, don't worry, I've already begun working on next year's submission!

A Christmas Story

On September 11, 2001, people around the world were transfixed by televised images depicting the worst terrorist attack in modern history to take place on U.S. soil.  Collectively we watched in disbelief as commercial airliners slammed into the Twin Towers in New York City.  Initially viewers wondered what had gone so terribly wrong to cause a pilot to travel so far off course.  Minutes later, however, as a second plane slammed into the other World Trade Center building, fear, anger, and understanding began to creep into our minds and hearts as we were forced to acknowledge the fact that these “accidents” were intentional deeds meant to provoke terror among innocent bystanders.  Why would someone do something so senseless?  WHO would do such a heinous thing?  As the smoke billowed over Manhattan, reports of more renegade airplanes found their way to various media outlets:  a wayward plane slammed into the Pentagon while another crashed onto a vacant field in Pennsylvania.  How many more were out there, and what targets would be next?

The FAA reacted swiftly by grounding planes that were waiting for takeoff and carefully observing those already in flight for more signs of threatening or unusual behavior.  For Americans, the world suddenly came to a standstill as we tried desperately to digest what had just happened – and what these acts meant for our future.  Should we be angry?  Afraid?  Suddenly we no longer questioned IF something bad would happen, but WHEN and WHERE the next horrific act would take place. 

Immediately a feeling of unity swept the nation as people flew their American flags with pride.  In Joplin, my husband, Charlie, and I installed a flag pole to the front of our home and stood in awe as we watched our recently purchased Star-Spangled Banner wave over our heads.  At St. Mary’s Grade School (where my daughter attended school at the time), another mom and I helped the school’s principal organize a care package for New York firefighters and their families as a small token of our community’s appreciation for their bravery during such an unprecedented time of uncertainty and terror in our country.

And suddenly Charlie and I were forced to decide what to do about our impending adoption from Russia.  For a year and a half I had been working on our second Russian adoption, and by September 11 our homestudy and paperwork had finally been completed and mailed to the agency.  But as the days passed and the FAA contemplated when it would be safe to allow commercial flights to resume, we grew increasingly uncomfortable about the idea of flying overseas without our three children.

I pushed the decision to the back of my mind until October 30, when we received a phone call from The Gladney Center in Ft. Worth, TX.  Arianne Harvey, the Center’s director of Russian adoptions, informed us that they had matched us with a baby boy.  The baby was in the Ryazan Baby House, and he looked so much like our older son that they performed a thorough background check to determine if they were biologically related (which they weren’t). 

What to do?  I told her to send us the information (a bootlegged video and some pictures) and we would know what to do when we saw him.  Twenty-four hours later we knew our son was waiting for us in Russia and we needed to bring him home.  The next question was, how?

After careful consideration it was decided that we could not leave our children in Joplin while we traveled halfway around the world to retrieve our youngest child.  We consulted the folks at Gladney and they agreed – this was a family event that everyone should participate in.  However, in light of new impending Russian adoption laws which would require all families to make two trips to the country before adoptions would be finalized, our court date would need to be set before the end of the year in order to ensure we would only need to travel overseas once.  We hastily scrambled to find someone to travel with us who could stay with the older kids in Moscow while we traveled to Ryazan to attend court and adopt our newest addition, Billy.  Fortunately we had a regular sitter, Audrey, who not only possessed a current passport, but also harbored a strong fondness for overseas travel.  She was booked.  Next I had to acquire visas and airline tickets for everyone.  On Gladney’s end, our liaisons arranged for lodging both in Moscow and in Ryazan as well as helped expedite our paperwork through the appropriate government agencies in order to make sure everything was in order for the adoption.

On December 21, 2001, the six of us boarded a plane in Dallas bound for Russia.  Fourteen hours later my three oldest children stepped out onto Russian soil (and snow).  Three days later, on Christmas Eve, 2001, I stood before our friend, Judge Marina, in a Russian courthouse as she informed us that she would be delighted to bestow upon our family the greatest Christmas gift ever: Billy.  Later that evening Charlie, Judge Marina, our Russian liaison, German, and I celebrated over an amazing dinner as we spoke about the events of the past couple of months and how we hoped our children will help make the world a better place.  On Christmas Day we returned to Moscow and introduced Billy to his siblings. 

Christmas in Russia

The next morning my youngest daughter, Katie, woke up and, upon seeing that Baby Billy was still with us, told me, “Mommy, we need to take that baby back to his mom.”

“Katie,” I said, “He IS with his mom.”

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