Where were you ten years ago today? March 5, 2003. George W. Bush was in his first term. The USA had not yet invaded Iraq. It was a couple of weeks before Chicago would win best picture (yes, the movie we just celebrated again this year) and Adrien Brody best actor for his role in The Pianist. About six weeks prior Jon Gruden and Monte Kiffin had led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII (yes, Jerry, that was 10 years ago and Monte Kiffin was ancient then) where Shania Twain sang at halftime, a year before Janet Jackson would show us her . . . malfunctioning wardrobe. Needless to say, it was some time ago. But I remember March 5, 2003 vividly. That's what happens when you meet your child for the first time.
I've written before about how our adoption story began, how we made our decision, and the process of detailing our lives in triplicate as part of our application and dossier. Those things were done. We had waited and received an unexpected call. I've still got the sheet of paper from my yellow legal pad at work with "February 21, Ryazan, 4 hour car ride from Moscow, boy under one year, travel fairly soon" scribbled on it from that call. We had scrambled, bought gifts, bought plane tickets, received visas, packed, and boarded our Delta flight for the great unknown in Russia. It was exciting and frightening at the same time. Thinking of that time now is like thinking of the first time I rode a roller coaster -- Judge Roy Scream -- it seems much tamer in hindsight!
It's funny looking back. We were worried about calling cards and what CDs to bring with our Sony Discman (and to think by the time we got Alex we just used our iphones for calling and music!). We really didn't know what we didn't know. But that innocence (okay, call it naïveté if you must) made that trip so sweet.
We had arrived in Moscow about noon on March 4. Snow still covered what I think were Aspen trees (my father-in-law is a forester, not me) surrounding Sheretmetyevo airport. We had been awed by the men holding automatic rifles as we walked through immigration control to meet our host/facilitator/and now friend, German outside of baggage claim. We spent that first day and night in Moscow before driving to Ryazan the next day (note: when German is driving, it doesn't take four hours!).
After arriving in Ryazan we stopped at the home of our Ryazan host, Lita, for a quick meal and brief rest before heading to the baby house. I remember the baby house so well. A hand-drawn picture of a woman on the front. We have a video walking up to the front door where Terri and German are ahead of me and German turns back to me and he says, "come on" as he waves me in. Come on, come meet your son, welcome to your new life, come in, and be changed forever.
I didn't take video of the first time we met Jacob. As Tom Hanks says to Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan, that was just for us. But we were immediately changed.
We had passed through a somewhat stale and sanitized hallway of white and linoleum overpowered by the smell of some type of porridge. We went up a flight of stairs into a small waiting room with parquet floor. Through the door we saw a playroom, painted yellow with toys and a large play area. The friendly staff brought Andrei (or as German called him, Andrushka) out to meet us. He was dressed in a strange little workman's suit and layered with clothes as is the custom during the winter months. And he smiled with this incredibly mischievous and curious gleam in his eye that we know only all too well now.
Here's how Terri described the first meeting in Jacob's baby book:
It is difficult to describe how we felt the first time we laid eyes on you. Our breath was taken away: our hearts were pounding. We both were in love with you before we saw you, but seeing you, and holding you, showed us a love much deeper than we had known. We both had love in our hearts and tears in our eyes knowing the dream God had placed in our hearts was finally in our arms.
You treated us on that first day as if you had always known us which was just the way we felt about you. Somehow we think you knew we were your Mommy and Daddy.
The rest of the story is for another time and one that I've told before. In May 2003 Jacob came home. And as we suspected our lives have never been the same. To say we've been blessed is so hollow compared to what we feel getting to be Jacob's parents these past ten years. My mind is flooded with thoughts of feeding him spoonful after spoonful of baby food, rocking him to sleep (I had a theory that by 500 rocks he would be out -- not so much), teaching him to walk, playing new games with him, helping him learn to read, and seeing him score his first basket in basketball. I can't believe it's been ten years but I also can't believe the memories that have been packed into those ten years. Memories rich and textured and sweet and vivid and full.
Today Jacob is a mischievous (important to use that word again), playful, sociable while introverted, smart, musical and fun-loving kid. He inspires us, he challenges us, he loves us and his siblings (all the while teasing his little sister too much), and he loves Jesus. He is quite literally a dream come true. A dream that I saw for the first time ten years ago today.