Tuesday, January 21, 2014
A Conversation About Rooms, Family, & Ukraine
Cava was thrilled when we took him to Home Depot to pick out the color he wanted his room painted. It was important that we let him decide, as it helps to give him a sense of identity and importance as he is making the decision. After looking at a lot of those paint swatches, he finally chose a dark blue that was inspired by the blue in Spider-man's costume. As I've written, Spider-man looms large in this boy's psyche.
We live in an old house (old by American standards - just over 100 years - not those of the country he came from), so we had to patch spots and fix cracks before we could paint. When I finally did, I started with his ceiling. The paint went on pink but became white as it dried, but when Cava first walked in while I was painting, he freaked out, "I didn't want pink!" He calmed down when I explained to him that the paint wouldn't stay pink but would dry white. Cava was relieved when he saw that this was true.
Each time I started a new step in the process, Cava would come in, look around as inspecting my work, and ask, "How much more 'til you're done?" I had to explain numerous times that it would take me a couple of days to paint his room right. I was glad when I finally had.
Cava was busy working on his latest puzzle, so I had Benjamin help me put the furniture back in Cava's room and have all of it ready as a surprise. Then I went and got him without telling him I'd finished. As he entered his room, his eyes got big and he hugged me, "Papa, I love it." This was quickly followed by, "Can we put the Spider-man stickers on?" (For his birthday, our friends the Philbecks, gave him Spider-man wall decals and Cava has been chomping at the bit to put them on his room's walls ever since he got them in November).
We took the sheets of decals out and I let Cava show me where he wanted me to put them. Luckily, they are easy to put on and take off, as he kept changing his mind on where he wanted them placed. Here he is posing with two that he wanted near the ladder to his bunk-bed. (I love that with the blue of the wall and the yellow of his hoodie that he looks like the Ukrainian flag).
After we had finished putting the stickers up, I asked him if he was happy with his newly painted room.
"Oh yeah, it's cool," he replied. Then he rushed back up onto the bunk, "Papa, take another picture of me."
I should've known I'd get one of my favorite web-slinger, Spider-Cava!
Later that day, I asked him, "When you were in Ukraine, did you ever imagine you would have your own room?"
"Noooo. Never," he replied.
"Did you think your life was ever going to change or did you believe it would just stay the same as it was?"
"Did you want it to change?"
"Did you or any of the other children talk about wanting a family?"
"Talked about being adopted?"
"Oh, no. Uh-huh. Had a family."
"They had family?"
He then told me how his friend Zhana had a mother and a sister. "Sometimes her Mom would come and get her. Sometimes she would bring her back." Hearing this made me feel for that little girl. How difficult it must be on a child to go in and out of orphanages and not understand why. Cava also told me how other kids had siblings who were in the boarding school (something I knew since I met so many of the kids there).
"Did you wish you had a brother or sister?"
He looked at me puzzled. "I do. Benjmain."
"No, I meant when you were back in Ukraine."
"Yes." Cava told me how he wanted one so that he wouldn't be lonely. It always breaks my heart to hear him talk of being so alone.
"So you wanted to be in a family?"
"When you first got here, you told Mrs. Yulia in Ukrainian that they made you get adopted. Was that true or did you want us to adopt you?"
"I wanted you to adopt me."
"Then they didn't make you agree to be apart of our family?"
While I'm sure there may have been some pressure on him to be adopted, I also think that he probably said that because he was so angry at the time and wanted to hurt us.
Soon we began to talk about the boarding school and what his daily routine was like. He told me about the gym where they had physical education. "There were different centers where we could each do something different: jump rope, ping-pong . . ."
"Wow, really? They never showed us the gym."
"I'll show it to you."
"When we go visit there." (We have talked about returning to Ukraine when Cava's older to see his homeland).
"So you would like to go back and visit?"
"Even the boarding school?"
"Now, if we did go back to the boarding school, do you think you'll be able to talk to those kids?"
"What you mean?"
"They speak Ukrainian. Can you still speak it?"
"Then, do you think those kids will understand you or will you sound like we did when we were there."
Cava laughed. "Yeah, you sounded funny." Then he added, "Blah, blah, blah."
(It was interesting that this past weekend, he came up to Danelle one morning and told her, "I'm sorry, Mama."
"Sorry for what, sweetie?" she asked.
"For not talking to you."
"When we were in Ukraine."
She gathered him up in her arms. "That's okay, Cavitchka. I'm sorry that we couldn't talk to each other." Danelle asked him if he was scared after they'd left the boarding school and, he only admitted he was when she told him that she was scared, "It was all new to me, too.").
As we continued talking, he laughed when he remembered how he didn't want any of the other kids to come into our room at the boarding school. "I slammed the door on them and told them, "Go away! My family!"
"What did that word, "family," mean to you then?"
"I dunno'." He shrugged and then thought for a minute before saying, "You were mine. I had never had anything that was just mine before."
"Well, we are definitely your family."
It is rare for Cava to openly talk about his time back in Ukraine, so I am always grateful to get these small gifts of glimpses into his past. Even though they are small details, they are still details of his life before us and are what shaped who he is. Whenever he does share with me, I always make sure to tell him how much such stories mean to me because they are a part of who he is.