Twas the night before Christmas

 December 24, 2008

Our first full day with Nina was Christmas Eve. Between the travel, jet lag and drama of the preceding night we were all pretty exhausted. I think we were running on a combination of adrenaline and red bull. We wanted to make this feel like Christmas at home so of course we needed a tree. Our first family outing as the Printy Six and likely my dear Nina’s first shopping trip (which after all is like a boy’s first baseball game) was to the open air market to find a Christmas tree.
In Kazakhstan there is a holiday on the first of the year that is much like Christmas, as far as the usual holiday trappings go. They celebrate the New Year with decorated trees and boughs of fresh evergreen and Father Frost so we were able to find all we needed. We bought an artificial tree for about 3500 tenge. We then found lights in the shapes of bananas, apples, peaches, and snowflakes. Next, we got strands of garland in various Mardi Gras colors. When we were satisfied that we had all the makings for a perfect tree, we walked the 10 minutes home, over the snow, and through the throngs of people waiting for buses….Kazakhstan over the river and through the woods ehhh?
Nina safe and warm in her carrier, took it all in. Her eyes darted from side to side and she wiggled trying to get better position so she could see it all. I cannot begin to imagine how it all seemed to her. This child has not left the orphanage since she was 8 months old. She is a tough little one, curious and resilient. She wanted to see everything.
Once back at the Shiny River we set up our tree. We finished it using Nina’s red tutu as a tree skirt and crowned it with a traditional Kazakh hat we picked up in Almaty. The kids declared it was the most beautiful tree we have ever had. (Now for the record I routinely put up four perfectly decorated, coordinated with the room, make Martha jealous, Christmas trees at home.) But I had to agree, it was beautiful.
The rest of the day was spent bonding as a family; playing games, rolling around on the floor, napping and eating together. Nina took to the boys so much easier than I ever imagined. By the end of the day, we made more progress with her than the entire 1st trip. With the constraints of the orphanage removed, a sweet, playful Nina began to emerge. It was incredible to watch my three tough sons fall over each other to do whatever Nina wanted. I about melted watching Kiefer put Nina’s bow back on her head. Are these three gentle creatures really mine???
Later that night after the kids were asleep (in their matching Christmas jammies of course), Dart and I unpacked the gifts we had hauled across three continents. Nolan believes in Santa and there was no way we were taking any chances on this being the year he stopped believing. So under the tree went the football for Nolan, new cell phone for Kiefer, video game for Aidan. The stockings too were packed and we hung them around the room filled with candy canes, chocolate coins and lifesaver books. Out of two well packed suitcases, we produced all the trimmings of a “normal” Christmas.
Then just as always when we were done, Dart and I turned off all of the lights except for the twinkle of the fruit colored Christmas lights and we admired our work. It wasn’t the biggest tree. It wasn’t surrounded by the most presents. It did not even coordinate with the rest of the room! Nevertheless, it was here, in a hotel room in Ust-Kamenogorsk Kazakhstan, surrounded by our new family of six, safe and healthy and together. It was perfect.
The cost of this trip was enough to make me think twice. But how do you put a price on these memories? I don’t want to sound too cliché but years from now the money spent will not matter or even remembered. The memory of this once in a lifetime trip, the lesson to our children about the importance of family and our amazing journey to Nina…. that will remain forever warm in our hearts.

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Design by Deluxe Designs