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Growing in a Heartbeat from Three to Four
Submitted by Spence-Chapin
I was born in Moscow, Russia, on August 31, 1992. What I know about my first 13 months of life comes from a book my father created for me. My “Memory Book” contains pictures and a description of the House of the Child where I lived when my parents Larry and Ellen and big sister Beth first met me. It also contains photos of the women who cared for me, some of my playmates and the rooms where I slept and played. Clearly, I was very well cared for and that is something that makes me happy and proud of my birth country, my first country. In November 1993, through the cooperation of the Russian and United States governments and our agency Spence-Chapin Services, I was adopted by my new family. They frequently recall the extraordinary moment when our family “grew in a heartbeat from three to four.”
When I first arrived, I’m told I was very curious … and very hungry. One of my favorite stories is about the evening my grandfather introduced me to solid food. I was 15 months old and he thought it was time for me to give up my bottle and eat real food. So, at a family dinner, he popped a tortellini into my mouth and, as my family says, “the rest is history.” No more bottle for me. I went straight from kefir to tri-color salads and tiramisu!
Another story my parents tell is that, when I first arrived, I had trouble sitting up on my own. Yet within one month, I was standing and walking… and then ran across the playroom straight into the arms of my big sister.
As far back as I can remember, my family celebrated the fact that I was adopted from Russia. My family and I are proud of my heritage. When I was younger, I always attended the Eastern European Heritage Parties Spence-Chapin held to celebrate my culture. Later, I volunteered at Spence-Chapin and attended the heritage parties to assist the new little kids adopted from Eastern Europe with crafts and help serve treats as they enjoyed Russian entertainment and stories.
My life here in the U.S. has been great. In nursery and grammar schools, I did well academically, and enjoyed ballet and Girl Scouts. I was admitted with a scholarship to a very competitive high school where I won the Spanish, Latin and Chemistry Awards and scored at the highest level in a nationwide European History course. My friends and I studied hard but we also had fun together. I loved watching tennis and hockey, was captain of my varsity badminton team, and an editor of my school newspaper. My family is very supportive of my interests and sent me to summer programs at universities to study global health issues and government.
During my junior and senior years in school while I prepared for my college exams, I also worked on creating “Memory Books” for children in orphanages in Eastern Europe. These books will help the caregivers record the milestones of the children so they are not forgotten. My goal was to provide as many children as possible with a keepsake book that is truly personalized and a treasure to look back on for the rest of their lives…just like mine is to me.
A couple of years ago, my family and I were featured on National Public Radio talking about adoption and our personal story. I was a little nervous at first but it turned out to be a great experience to reflect on my life and how much adoption has meant to me, my parents and my sister. Simply put, I needed a home, my sister needed a sibling, and my parents wanted to experience the joy of having another child in their life. It’s a real life story with a happy ending!
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