Read an Excerpt
Claiming My Own
I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.
The Stuffed Animal
What gift has Providence bestowed on man that is so dear to him as children?
'This one is for my baby sister.' She tossed a furry, spotted dog into the box. 'For baby Annie,' she said in her endearing voice.
We sealed the box shut and addressed it to a Romanian orphanage in the town of Buzau. We felt a need to give back to the place that had given us Juliana, our only child. Friends from our church and neighborhood helped collect supplies and fill the boxes.
With the doors to adoptions closed, my husband and I were disappointed that we couldn't adopt from Romania again. But two-year-old Juliana insisted each time we packed boxes of medical supplies, food, toys, and clothes that it was all going to her sister.
'Juliana, sweetie, you don't have a sister,' I'd say as gently as I could.
My husband smiled. 'We have all the paperwork completed for another adoption.'
Indeed, our fingerprints were traced through the FBI. Copies of our birth certificates, marriage license, and home study were already notarized and certified. Bank reference letters, police reports, and criminal records were officially compiled, waiting to be used again.
'Maybe we should adopt a sister for Juliana.'
He was right. We called Elena, the Romanian lawyer who helped us with Juliana's private adoption. 'The process is a lot longer and more difficult,' she warned us in her delightful accent. 'Americans are adopting through agencies now. No more private adoptions.' She hesitated slightly before my heart had a chance to sink. 'But send me your paperwork. I'll see what I can do. While I petition the courts, I'll visit the orphanages and try to find you a little girl.'
I tried to be hopeful, but it wasn't easy. 'Maybe we should use an agency,' I confided in my husband. The agencies I contacted brought few children into the United States because of the mountains of bureaucratic red tape. There simply were no easy routes, no easy answers, and no guarantees.
Weeks turned into months. The agonizing wait was unbearable. The Immigration and Naturalization Service advised us to adopt from another country, one with easier laws. The U.S. State Department tried to persuade us against adopting a Romanian orphan, too, but their cautious words were left unheeded. Even though Juliana was only two, she constantly reminded us that somewhere out there she had a sister.
Finally, Elena called from Romania. 'I have wonderful news. I found a baby girl. She's beautiful!' she cried. 'Her name is Andrea.'
A wave of relief washed over me as happiness bubbled out. I wanted to say something to let Elena know I was still there, listening, but I was unable to talk.
'I mailed a picture of her to you.'
'You did?' I managed to say, my voice garbled over transatlantic phone lines. 'What does she look like?'
'Well, she has big brown eyes, lots of dark, curly hair, chunky cheeks, and she smiles all of the time.'
I closed my eyes, imagining the baby she was describing. I could see myself picking her up and cuddling her close. I couldn't wait to hold her and take her for long walks in the stroller. I couldn't wait to push her on the swing set in the backyard. 'When can we fly to Romania to get her?'
'I'll have her paperwork complete in a month. You can come then.'
'I can't wait a month!' I protested.
I could hear her laugh at my comment.
I hung up the phone, my excitement soaring. I knelt beside Juliana and told her the news. She began to dance around the kitchen in tiny, uncoordinated steps. 'Baby Annie!' she said happily.
I watched her in amazement, nodding my head, even mimicking the words, 'Baby Annie.'
My husband asked through a cynical smile, 'We're not calling her little orphan Annie, are we?'
'No. We're calling her Andrea.' I frowned in mock disapproval while I thought about the names, how close Annie and Andrea were.
When the time came to fly to Romania, it was bittersweet. We didn't want to leave Juliana, but I had to find this little orphaned girl Juliana had predicted. We packed ruffled pink dresses, soft pastel blankets, and a teddy bear for our new daughter.
We arrived at the orphanage in Buzau, in the poverty-stricken countryside of Romania, wearing our hearts on our sleeves. Elena led us down the dimly lit corridor where our future daughter had spent practically the entire first year of her life. It was damp and eerily quiet, except for the buzzing of flies.
I noticed a few toys stacked near the wall. 'Look!' I nearly shouted. 'These are the toys we sent!'
Just then, a dozen little children ran to us for the one thing they got too little of at the orphanage—affection. I recognized their tattered Mickey Mouse shirts from the boxes of clothes I'd mailed months ago, hand-me-downs from my neighbors. I bent down to touch the children, each one eager to be held. As much as I wanted to spend the day holding them, I knew there was one special child I couldn't wait to hold.
The orphanage director urged me on, leading me into a room filled with endless rows of white metal cribs. Had I not known it was in a Romanian orphanage, I would have thought I had entered a cloning factory in the middle of Eastern Europe. My eyes scanned the tiny faces, searching for the one that matched the picture Elena had mailed to us. They were all beautiful babies, and I wanted them all.
They quietly rocked themselves because they had no one to rock them.
Mobiles dangled over most cribs, and the children looked away from them with inquisitive glances as we strolled past.
Across the room, farthest from the window, a baby lay propped against the side of the paint-chipped bedrail. She was the most beautiful child there. Rich curls spilled across her pale forehead, the first place I planned to kiss. I leaned into the crib and gingerly lifted our daughter into my arms. Her frail arms refused to release the toy she'd been clenching . . . the spotted dog Juliana had packed months before, claiming, 'This is for my baby sister!'
Barbara S. Canale
©2008. Barbara S. Canale. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.