Today, December 7, 2011 is a special day for the Parks family. One year ago today, Melinda and I took a short cab ride from our hotel in Ukraine to the orphanage that our newest child, Elliott Peter, had lived in since he arrived there from the hospital as a small baby. In some ways, it was the end of a big step in our journey that had begun exactly one year and one day before when we officially began our adoption journey. In other ways, it was merely the start of an incredible time that we wouldn’t trade for anything. But that wasn’t what was on our minds as we took the ride to the orphanage. Instead, we were excited. We were nervous. We were in awe of how God had been at work during our time in Ukraine. We were ready to officially get our youngest son!
As we made that drive, I had a million and one thoughts running through my mind. But one thing in particular stood out. You see, I was in the delivery room for the birth of Anna and Ryan and I remember what it felt like waiting for them to arrive. I remember the excitement of the birthing process. I remember the activity. I remember the anxiety. And then, almost in an instant, they were born and I got to witness them taking their first breath. It was very exciting to me to know that both Anna and Ryan would grow up calling me “daddy.”
It was different for Elliott. I wasn’t there the day he took his first breath. Unfortunately, we don’t know a lot about that day. I’m sure there was a lot of anxiety as he was born nearly 2 months early. However, I will always remember the day Melinda and I were standing in a small room in an orphanage the day after Thanksgiving 2010 waiting for a worker to walk in carrying our new son. As she entered the room and I saw him for the first time, I knew in an instant that I loved him, just as I had the first time I saw Anna and Ryan. It may seem strange to say that, but we knew that this was the child God had led us to. We were ready right then and there to take Elliott home and oh, how our hearts ached each day that we could only go and visit with him for 3 hours, before we had to return him to the arms of the caregiver. But now, on this day, December 7, 2010, we would welcome him into our arms and we would never, ever have to return him to one of the workers. This is what we had longed for. This is what we were ready for. No longer would Elliott be an orphan. He was now our son.
On that cold, December morning, as we pulled in through the gates of the orphanage one final time, it seemed as through the grey clouds lifted for a short while to signify that it was a new day. I remember the anticipation we felt as we waited to get the coveted slip of paper that would allow us to officially take Elliott home. We made our way to the building his group lived in and climbed the stairs one last time. As we handed the piece of paper to the worker, her eyes grew wide and she became very excited. She knew that this piece of paper, this one small, simple piece of paper meant that their darling little “Petruccio” (their fun way of saying Petr, his given name) was finally getting his forever family. He was going home.
The team of caregivers gathered around us as we held Elliott and they were waving, crying and smiling. This had been the “family” that God placed Elliott in until we could get there. They were all he knew. To be certain, they were sad, but they knew that this was what was best for him. He was now with his “mama” and “papa,” and they told him so. As we started to head out the door, they were shouting “pica, pica, pica,” which was their way of saying “hello” and “goodbye” to our little guy. He smiled, but was very comfortable in Melinda’s arms as we made our way downstairs and into the cab. As we got in the car to drive away, Elliott began to cry. He’d never been in a car before in his life and I’m sure it was quite scary for him. But eventually, we were able to soothe him and reassure him to the point that he settled. From there, we began the journey toward home and all that would be ahead for us as we welcomed him into our family.
Looking back over the past year, we’ve seen so many changes in Elliott from our time in Ukraine. For a boy that was so small, he’s gotten quite a bit bigger! He eats just about everything in sight, he loves playing with trucks and occasionally getting into a little mischief. He’s also built a very
strong bond with his brother and sister. Early on, I made up a little song called “The Best of Brothers” to let them know how special it was to have a brother and would sing it to the boys as we put them to bed. Now, they do all the normal things that brothers do: wrestle, laugh, make strange noises and try their hardest to team up against their sister!
But the most exciting – and revealing – thing, to me, happened fairly recently. The morning after I returned home from a business trip to Minneapolis, I came downstairs to find Elliott running around and playing an elaborate game of “chase” with Anna. Elliott saw me and instantly ran over to me to give me a big hug and was shouting “daddy, daddy, daddy!” In that instant, I knew that this boy, who spent the first 1 1/2 years of his life without a family to call his own, was exactly where he was supposed to be– with his family, in his home, safe, secure and loved.
It’s been an amazing year. Here’s to many more, my son. We thank God for bringing you into our lives and we love you! Happy “gotcha” day!