Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sweetest 16!

Who is the sweetest 16 year old in all the world?  Our daughter, our lovely, tender-hearted, resilient Olesya.

It is hard to believe that she came to us as a meek, quiet 10 year old who cried quiet tears of frustration over how "stupid" she was, who gave in to everyone over everything, and who struggled to even offer a firm hug because it didn't quite feel safe.

Confidence has taken over, at least on many days, and identifying a learning disability in math has helped her grab hold of the fact that she may always find numbers a challenge, but she is NOT dumb, and she is experiencing academic success all over the place!

Olesya has dreams now...little ones, big ones, and in between ones.  She has dreams she can make come true, dreams she can walk toward, dreams that lead to even more dreams.

Today it is owning a donut shop and translating with Angela, tomorrow it might be working in modern art, and sometimes it is solely about the family of her own she might one day have.  At 16, the world is barely opening up to her, gradually revealing possibilities and promise.

Our family simply wouldn't be the same without this gentle spirit in our midst, the second mom who remembers everything I forget...the hand wipes, the water bottles, the appointments.  She is our Organized One, with gifts galore which will serve her well as she matures into lovely womanhood.

And when I think of her as a little girl, I still feel such an ache that I have no memory of her laughter, her first steps, her first lost tooth.  I ache for the year we lost in a single moment, as we discovered AFTER court that she was really a year older than we had been told.  I ache for all she suffered at the hands of her first family, at a system that cruelly lied to her then ripped her from her sister's protective and nurturing arms, and at adults who led her to believe she was hopelessly incapable of learning which has led to years of undoing what was internalized.

The memory I will always recall with a lump in my throat is the vision of her staring out at us through the orphanage winter that long ago winter evening as we left for what we thought was the last time, thinking our hopes for being their family were lost.  I will never forget the look of grief on her face as she felt held hostage by a sister's understandable anxiety and inability to trust at the moment, and her deep love for that sister that held her there.  I couldn't take my eyes off her, this innocent, hurting little girl whose future was out of her control, and who clearly yearned for the family that was being forced to drive away without her.  I turned in the back seat, tears unchecked as I waved one last time at my daughter as she waved back through the frosty window pane.

We all know how that story ended, thanks to God's work on a bruised and guarded heart.

Now she stands before me, 16 years old, admitting to feeling a couple of years younger, reaching tentatively for older teenagedom as she still has fingertips flitting gingerly around younger youth.  Her excitement as we headed toward the bank to open the traditional checking account was so obvious, this girl wears her anticipation on her sleeve for all the world to see!  Grinning from ear to ear, she sat there as she pondered what her customized ATM card should look like, and as we left she tightly clasped her new account information in her hands, looking an inch taller as we exited the building.  It is a little rite of passage, nothing as big as being given a new car with a new driver's license, but it is something that marks the gradual movement toward full maturity.

This blessing of ours, dressed up in auburn hair and grins galore, this sweet, sweet spirit that resides among us, always looking out for others, always caretaking, always leaving kind love notes to her mom and dad for no reason other than that she wants us to know she is happy and that she loves and appreciates us...this blessing is above and beyond anything we could have ever thought to ask for.

As is also our tradition, we took the family out to eat at any restaurant of the 16 year old birthday girl's choosing, so off to Chili's we went!  It is a rare treat for us to eat at a "real" restaurant, so everyone dressed up a bit and there was a hint of excitement in the air.  I can only imagine what people thought of our clan storming the restaurant with Josh in his jaunty fedora.   Laughter danced above our table as conversation moved from politics, to the level of service we received, to trivia questions, to teasing Matt mercilessly about his order of a "Sweet and Smoky Burger" repeated endlessly by mom in a husky, Lauren Bacall style voice, bringing out a cheeky grin and blush from him.

Arriving home, a lopsided chocolate cake made by the boys awaited the also-traditional devouring, and it sat there untouched just long enough for Olesya to open her gifts.  Here are some photos from our evening:

Waiting at the bank to walk one step closer to eventual independence.

Helping make the scraping the bowl clean.

The whole gang, growing taller with each passing day, burrowing ever deeper into my heart...something I thought was literally impossible, and yet deeper they each go.
How I love this family of mine!

Lessie and Josh have a special relationship as our "youngers", I love this photo of them.

Sharing an ice cold mug!
The kids begged us to take a pic, so we did...I am not a fan of being in front of the camera at.all.
So this is my one annual pic allowed! Hahaha!

Back home, time for gifts!  The boys bought Olesya a longed for sushi making kit.  We cracked up when Matt said, "The ingredients are inside!" and almost all of us said, "Ewwwww!!", then he added, "Well, I meant the seasonings."
A Buddha Board from Auntie Kim, a big hit!

Finally...something with her name on it and spelled correctly!  From Auntie Candi, a personalized Coke bottle.
Time for mom and dad's gift.  We have considered 16 years old the "Big Birthday" and have tried to buy each of the kids an extra special gift, something we would normally never be able to afford, as we usually keep gifts in general very low key.  But 16 is different, 16 is marking moving out of childhood and into adulthood, so 16 means something a little more.

As we did for Angela, Olesya received her first "real" jewelry, which Angela actually helped me select on an Olesya-less trip to the mall on HER birthday!  We had the double fun of being together and shopping for "our girl".  You can't see it much from the photo, but the stones are light blue topaz.  When Angela and I saw it, we both said, "That's it!" excitedly at the same time.
Olesya loved it.
Dad examining the gift, which he had yet to see...hahaha!

Beautiful heart, beautiful soul, beautiful young lady inside and out.

The evening just ended not long ago, as we all gathered in the deepest dark on our patio, beneath a twinkling starlight sky, eyes turned upward as we waited to catch a glimpse of the promised meteor shower.  There we stood, draped in silence broken only by exclamations of, "I saw one!  Right over there!".

No longer children, not yet quite adults, these young people who grace our lives with their depth and goodness remind us to be filled with wonder, and teach us daily what it means to be "family".  Olesya said it best when she declared in sweet tones, "God knew it was my birthday and sent me this as a gift!" as yet another meteor streaked across the heavens, ablaze as its trail left a hint of where it had traveled from.  One day, too, this young woman will have her light shine brightly on many others as she walks through the world, as God certainly sent her as a gift as well.

Happy birthday, dearest Olesya...daughter of my heart, love of our lives.  May the next few years offer your opportunities to blossom as never before.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bit of a follower on you blog. Your family's last name totally suits all of you. You'll leave evidence of your presence in your children's hearts, but my favorite quote that pushed me more often in front of the family camera was "I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them...I am not perfect to look at...but I am perfectly their mother."