Sometimes a Souvenir Can Be Much More Than Just a Souvenir

It wasn’t just any courtroom. It was a Russian courtroom, in Chita, Siberia – The City of Exiles. The famed city in Russia where prominent intellectuals, including the Decembrist and many more were exiled. A “closed city” that foreigners and many Russian citizens weren’t allowed to visit until the collapse of the Soviet Union. I dropped my pen and the courtroom echoed. Looking over to the steel and glass prisoner holding cell that lined the wall reminded me where I was standing and flooded my head (knees and stomach) with the overwhelming lack of control I had in swaying the judge’s verdict. His yes or no would dictate our fate.

We weren’t in trouble with the law. Although it felt as if we were fighting for our lives and in a sense, we were. It was this judge who would dictate if Princess Two would be allowed to legally join our family. It was this judge who would formalize what we already knew – she was our daughter. It was this judge who an hour later hit his gavel and said “da”. It was this judge who made it official; Princess Two was now legally our daughter, or at least she would be in a few weeks per the rules of international adoptions in Russia. (A few months after bringing Princess Two home Russia banned adoptions from the United States. My heart – and prayers – go out to the 46 families who are still in limbo.)

international adoptions in Russia

After the celebratory shot of Russian vodka we headed out into the Siberian winter to go shopping and buy a few mementos from Chita to give to Princess Two. It was on our little shopping excursion The Husband reminded me he needed to buy me a “push present”. In case you’ve never heard this term – it’s the gift the dad gives the mom after she has a baby. Hence the term “push”. Since there wasn’t really any pushing going on with Princess Two – just a lot of paperwork and pulling of the heart-strings – a push present never really crossed my mind. I’m never one to turn down jewelry though and so we set out to find the perfect piece. Something symbolic. Something that represented Russia and Chita, yet it needed to represent the next chapter in her life – having a family.

We soon learned one’s selection of places to purchase jewelry in Chita is severely limited. After more than an hour on the quest, we were about to give up and wait to find something on our next trip into Moscow. And then I saw it. The bracelet.

The colors of the Amber rainbow. Yellow. Orange. Red. Green. All outlined in silver. Stunning. Simple yet elegant. The stones were mined in Russia; 90% of the world’s extractable amber is in Russia. They were perfectly shaped teardrops. The perfect representation of one of the many meanings the stone symbolizes – protection and assuring promises.

shopping chita russia

We paid for my new “push present” and I wore it proudly out of the store carrying photographs from local artists, stacking dolls and wooden carved boxes to give to our little girl when she woke up from her nap.

I practiced my Russian with our translator during the car ride back to the orphanage. How do you say, “Do you need a drink?” and “Are you hungry?” Am I saying “I love you” properly?”

Princess Two entered the room rubbing her eyes from having just woken up, saw the goldfish crackers in my hand and smiled. I asked her if she was hungry. She answered and came and sat next to me. Lifting her up and placing her in my lap I told her, for the first time my heart would let me say it out loud, and my tongue could speak it to where she could fully understand me – “I love you”. Playing with my new bracelet, she looked up into my eyes, and for the first time she hugged me.

It’s just a bracelet. It’s just a thing. But that thing represents so much…love and new beginnings.

international adoptions in Russia

Do you have things you’ve purchased on your travels that ended up becoming more than just a souvenir?

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