An undersized body of muscles in oversized athletic shorts strikes a Barishnykov pose in a St. Petersburg apartment and introduces himself to the world, “Kolya, Artiste.” Learning disabilities hinder his mastering of English at the same time he is losing his Russian. He is without voice in two countries. The teacher calls and wants to meet with us. Uh oh, what will it be – his hyperactivity? his learning issues too much to handle? his lack of English? “What I wanted from you two was some suggestion on how to keep from laughing when I try to be serious with him. He won’t stop making me laugh long enough to teach.” I know. I feel her pain. A 53-pound Robin Williams, sprinkled with a little Jim Carrey. “I wish I could be 12 forever,” he tells me when he is 21. He is serious. But at 21 he has problems that tell him he has to move forward; he has to stop looking back. He runs like the wind. He loves the constant motion of Paris. He cannot only sing the entire soundtrack from Jurassic Park , but he can also tell you what’s happening in the scene at any given measure. How did he learn such joy? His anger comes from frustration. He has no patience for it. How can we help him find a path through the world?
Her dark eyes watch and watch. She sees all; she shares nothing. She could not spell her name and did not even have a regular supply of toilet paper in the orphanage, yet a pencil in her hand is a tool for drawing masterpieces. From somewhere in her soul she sees and then creates. She says she wants to work for Human Rights Watch. Perhaps you can begin with some community service here at home. Family is a community. Family is not the enemy. Family needs and deserves your effort and concern and energy. Perhaps tonight at the dinner table you can be the person you show the rest of the world. You are a rock star that has teachers fawning, neighbors adoring, friends crowding and calling day and night. But you are silent and suspicious at home. Who are these people called “parents”? You refuse to be parented; you refuse to capitulate. No Saturday nights washing hair in the bathtub. No shopping for pretty dresses or braiding hair and tying bows. No teaching to bake or to throw a softball. No prom pictures or invitations to college parents’ weekend. She has never admitted that she remembers anything from her years in Russia. She announces to us that next year she’ll study in St. Petersburg before she graduates from college.
People say I should be so proud of these two and how far they’ve come. I don’t need to be a martyr or saint. We didn’t adopt because of a commitment to a “Be Kind to Russian Orphans” movement sweeping the land. I wanted to be a parent. I wanted to recreate the family I was born into. Be careful what you wish for . . . . God answers all prayers.