She was baptized once, and we weren’t there. Not part of her life, her story. And the way she tells it, her grandmother held her in a deep pool and together they went under.
I still don’t understand it. And neither does she.
Katya came to us first during the summer of her seventh year. For a month she played little sister to six siblings. Painting, and splashing, and swinging on rope swings.
She refused ice cream. and wanted ketchup for pasta, and ate every potato in the house. Searching for familiar.
Between playing with the water hose and riding the tire swing, she gave us glimpses of grooves running deep.
The summer of “Welcoming Katya” is six years past. While potatoes are still a favorite, she can’t imagine that she ever wanted ketchup on her pasta. And she would never refuse ice cream.
But the grooves are still there.
And now the grooves run with adolescent hormones and five years under our roof. It’s hard to tease out what’s what.
It’s hard for me.
It feels a bit like trying to find a splinter that’s buried deep and beginning to fester. The splinter needs to come out, but the digging, the poking is so painful. And the closer you get to the splinter, the more painful it becomes.
We talked to her grandmother on Friday. Katya learned that her cat, Simone, had died a year ago. When she heard the news, she quickly changed the subject. As we talked about it later, she said that she didn’t want to talk about it more with her grandmother because it would make her grandmother sad.
Katya lived with her grandmother until she was six. But one day, her grandmother packed up a few things and rode the trolley with her out to #5. She loved her granddaughter deeply, but knew that Katya’s greatest chance at a good life was to get adopted. To hold her for her remaining years, that she thought would be few, seemed selfish to her. Wrong.
When we visited Ukraine in the summer of ’09, I walked with Tamara and listened as she told the story.
Katya has questions for her grandmother, but won’t ask because it will make her grandmother sad. But I’m asking.
Grooves running deep.
And God knit her fearfully, wonderfully in another woman’s womb. I don’t know a thing about this mother, except her name and that she was 24 when she gave birth to Katya. Katya came early. We don’t know how early, but early. She tipped the scale at 2.2 pounds.
I wonder what that mother was thinking, feeling as she gave birth to this one so tiny and then walked out of the hospital. Did she look back? Does she wonder now?
I see, though I don’t know, this baby girl with no chance in the world. Like the baby of Ezekiel, an uncut cord, unwashed, unwrapped, unpitied, as her mother slipped away.
But God said, “Live!” And her grandmother swooped in with fierce love. And then with love ever fiercer said to Bill and me, “She is your daughter now.”
And she is.
We’re asking questions, and seeking answers, and digging deeper. We know there’s a splinter or two buried. Probably from the orphanage years. Splinters that keep her awake at night, and drive her to take food, and make it hard for her to really trust.
None of us can take long stretches of digging. I struggle with this. I want to hold her down and press the needle deep and find the foreign object lodged deep in her heart, her mind, her soul.
But you know, and I know this strategy will never work. I’ll just push the splinter or two deeper and make it worse. At a loss, I pray.
Bind up her broken heart.
Whisper freedom over her soul,.
Bring light to her darkness and proclaim your favor.
Give her freedom to grieve the loss, the pain.
And turn to You in hope.
Bring beauty from her ashes.
And gently, so gently tease up the splinter.