I had written in a previous blog about how Cava had decided to paint a mural of Ukraine for school (murals-mourning-moving-toward-acceptance). This was a huge step for him coming to terms with being able to love where he lives now and grieve the loss of where he came from and to have a love for Ukraine. For those who've followed our blog know, he didn't get to finish out the school year and one of the biggest disappointments for us was that he didn't get to complete the mural that was so monumentally important to him.
Since we were able to visit his school and say goodbye to his teachers, Cava got the unfinished mural. I then bought him some paints so that he could complete it and we checked out the same book from the library, Ukraine: Enchantment of the World by Patricia Kummer, that he used to get ideas from.
We also went online to look up photos of Shabo, the town where he was born, so that he could incorporate images from there as well. As we were researching Ukraine for the mural, Cava's attitude changed from thinking of his home country as bad to seeing the beauty of his homeland. While waiting to pick up Benjamin from school, Cava normally plays on my iPod, but the day we checked out the book on Ukraine, that's all he wanted to look at and every few seconds he would say, "Papa, look," and point out something new he'd discovered about where he was from. I loved his excitement and his desire to now see a country he really saw very little of.
I know I've learned that Shabo, where he was born, was originally founded as a Tartar village in the 1500's. The village was originally called Acha-abag, which means "lower vineyards," as this was and continues to be a region that is famous for its wines.
It is part of the Oblast, Odessa region in Ukraine. Below are some photos of Shabo:
When Cava saw these photos, he said, "Wow, Papa. It's beautiful." I don't think he'd ever seen or thought of where he was from like that before and I kissed his head, "Yes, Cava, it is. And it's even more so to us because that's where you're from."
So I was thrilled that Cava picked up his paintbrush and began working on his mural again.
He was so proud of his work that every time he would paint something new on it, he would come and get me and say, "Papa, come, see."
Cava would paint for awhile and then come and tell me, "Papa, I'm tired."
"So you're done painting for today?"
We'd let the mural dry before putting it up before the next time he was inspired to return to working on it.
And each time he returned to it, Cava would add something new: another hryvnia (pronounced grivna), a pysanky (one of their elaborately decorated Easter eggs), and the Ukrainian flag. What I loved about all of this was Cava was expressing himself. He was thinking about what he wanted to paint from his homeland. This mural was thought out and he didn't just rush to get it finished.
Each time he began to paint his mural also gave me another opportunity to talk with him about his past, his memories, and about his country and to see the beauty in it.
When he was almost done, he called me in to look at his mural and I stood there a moment and studied his work and studied it more closely. Finally, I said, "It can't be done. You've left off my favorite thing from Ukraine."
Cava looked at me puzzled.
"Don't you know what my favorite thing from Ukraine is?"
I knew when he understood what I meant when that smile of his came across his face and he pointed at himself, "Cava."
Giving him a big hug, I replied, "Of course it's Cava. None of the rest would matter to me without a Cava. To me, you're the most important thing about Ukraine."
It was such a huge step for him to have not only started this mural but to bring it to completion. I love how he is opening up a little more to talk about his past and his time there.
This past weekend, when Danelle was playing a game with Benjamin, I was sitting on the couch talking with Cava. I don't know how the topic came up, but we got around to the subject of when we first met Cava. It was interesting hearing Cava tell me about it, as opposed to my usually being the one to talk about meeting him for the first time. He spoke of how they had told him a family was coming to visit him and how excited this family was to get to meet him. Cava said he was excited because no one had ever come to visit him before. When they brought him to the lawyer's office to meet us, he said he was very scared that we would not like him and that we would want to leave. He was very happy when Benjamin gave him the toys (Legos and a truck) and how Benjamin played with him on the floor of the office. No one had ever given him anything before, he said and he told me how all of this made him feel special for the first time.
Hearing him tell about what it meant that we wanted him and loved him made me tear up. Of course I had to give him a hug, kiss him, and tell him as I have so many times before and will tell him so many, many, many times to come, "I love you, Cava, and I am very thankful that you are my son."
So now when I look at that mural, I will see the huge journey that my son has taken and continues to take in his new life as a child who's loved by his family.