Monday morning, we started preparing for check out. It took a long time, because Joe and I were still so weak. Bending over and lifting luggage was difficult. And he and his mother had to go back to the airport because her luggage finally came the day we were about to leave. Another near-miss. This was the day that we would load all of our gear up, and take the overnight train from St. Pete's to Moscow for our exit interviews and doctor's visit.
Before I get much further, dismiss any romantic notion you may have about train travel in Europe. This was not the Hogwart's Express. It was a Cold War remnant. I'm pretty sure I heard the word Chernobyl while on the train. We had a berth all to ourselves, which sounded pretty swank at first. But then we actually got to the train station late and had to run to avoid missing the train. Our translator, who picked up our tickets, shoved them at the boarding agent's face at our car, showed her all our passports, then handed us the tickets and put us in our car .... with all our luggage. There was no checking luggage. Didn't they know we were going to have five carry on bags, four large suitcases, three grown ups, two babies, ... and if we hadn't had to run, I wouldn't have had to leave behind my partridge in the pear tree.
Somehow, because my husband is still an Eagle Scout at heart (although I didn't know there was a badge to earn for "packing an infinite amount of junk in a finite amount of space") he managed to make it all fit and still leave three of the four bunks open for us to sleep - ehhh - on. Just as we were squeezing ourselves into the room, the ticket agent came around and asked to see tickets. We handed her the same tickets our translator had waved at her earlier. She snapped and tore and handed us our stubs, and moved on. She came back after we had been moving for about ten minutes. She showed her pieces of the stubs. There were four of them. Then she held up five fingers. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!! My stomach dropped.
We pulled out our tickets. King, J. King, J. King, P. King, A. ... searching ... searching ... I showed her who all the tickets were for. The A was Addie's. There wasn't a ticket for Anna. I looked up confused. She pointed to the two babies, then held up one finger, then two.
Inner monologue: "What is she asking me for? One ticket for two babies? Are they two years old or one year old? Is this like flying, where you pay lap fare for an infant? Do we have to buy one more ticket?"
I pointed at both girls. I held up two fingers. I held up one finger. I made a baby rocking motion. I don't know. I was just so scared that some of the nightmares I had been having in the past two weeks since court were about to start coming true. I started praying inwardly for peace. She just made a confused look with her face, sniffed, snorted a little, held up one finger then left. Not very long after that, the train lurched one last time and got very quiet.
OH DEAR LORD, ARE WE STOPPING?!!
As it turns out, no. [I haven't ridden a train since I was in kindergarten in Mrs. Thomas' class. The big event was to ride from Hattiesburg to Laurel on the Amtrak. Our parents met us at the station afterward. Mine took me to lunch at McDonald's. Then I got purple velcro sneakers from Sears at Sawmill Square Mall.] I didn't remember that once trains get up to speed, all that lurching and noise subsided for a steady, soft click-click-clicking. I couldn't hear the clicking for the pounding of my heart in my ears. I thought they were about to make us leave the train, or stop at a nearby station for another ticket. I kept waiting for that moment. But it never came. Whatever I said with my fingers, I either got the combination right....or I confused her even more, enough that she was willing to let it slide.
Once we could all calm down enough to think about sleep, we settled into our bunks, dressed in what looked to be unsanitary bed linens and a horse blanket. We all threw our horse blankets into crevices and crannies so the girls wouldn't get fingers pinched or feet stuck in their sleep. I still shudder when I think about the condition of the pillow cases. We covered them up with the sheets we were provided. Those at least looked a little cleaner.
Anna slept great in our Eddie Bauer infant travel bed. It folds up to the size of a laptop bag. So she got uninterrupted sleep. In fact, we were all awake before her this morning, and when she realized the party had started without her, she yawned, put her hands up to her face, pulled them away and said "taa daah" with a big smile. Addie, on the other hand, had to be under my arm all night so she wouldn't try to get down and tear all the linens and packaged breakfasts off the fold down dining table. Needless to say, I didn't sleep at all. And she didn't sleep that well.
We got to Moscow early, only to spend all morning doing the "Hurry Up and Wait" dance. You know this one? We ran to the vehicles because it was snowing really heavy and we didn't want the kids out in the wet cold for very long. Then we first went to the Russian medical clinic to have the children examined by another doctor that would sign off on their U.S. Embassy paperwork. We had to get there early so the driver could get the forms to the Embassy before 11am, the point at which they take no more new files for the day. Missing this window would mean filing on Wednesday, and making it by the skin of our teeth to have all our documents ready in time for our flight home.
Well, the doctor was late. Something about freezing rain, a fallen tree and blocked driveway. Okay, no problem. We were traveling at that point with another US couple who also adopted siblings, a real rarity to have two sets in one group. This created another problem that led to more waiting. Not enough copies of all of the paperwork. They had all of theirs. But we didn't have all of ours. So our new driver was going through all our documents as fast as possible, tying up the clinic's copying machine making new copies of whatever was missing. Another US couple from a different agency had all their ducks in a row, so they got in ahead of us. Then the clinic officially opened for the actual Russian guests for the day. We had to give up our seats in the waiting area. (Call me sensitive, but that actually hurt my feelings.) All the other US couples had come and gone, and we alone were left.
Finally, we got in to see the doctor for what must have been the most cursory exam ever. I was thankful because at least we got to strip the girls down to their pampers for a little while. They had been so overdressed for the bad weather on arrival, but because we kept thinking we were about to go in, we didn't want to start getting them out of the baby backpacks and coveralls. They both had a heat rash by the time we got in there. Other than that, and suggestions about therapies to start with Anna, they got a clean bill of health.
We signed papers we hadn't even had time to fill out because they hadn't been copied earlier, and the driver promised to finish filling it all in for us. We bolted out of the clinic and held our breath that we'd get to the Embassy on time.
Parked finally, I remember looking up at the clock in the car at 11:16am and hoping the U.S. government wouldn't once again be our only real roadblock in adopting. Apparently not, because he came back a little while later with our invitation to have our interview tomorrow at 2pm.
Every step in the process is its own little Ebenezer, its "stone of remembering", as doors that look to be on their way shut leave just enough room for us to slip through. Just one day had enough emotional ups and downs that my mother-in-law uttered the statement that I think has become my new motto.
"This is not for sissies."
No, it's not. It's for a really BIG God.