It's your day, Gabriel Artur Preece. For five long years, without even knowing it, you have waited to celebrate the day of your birth with your mother, your father, with a family who cherishes you. It's your day.
We put up the "Happy Birthday" banner, we blew up the balloons, you laughed and giggled every time Jake would shout "happy birthday, Gabriel Artur Preece!" I wasn't quite sure if you remembered what "birthday" meant, although you have seen each of your siblings have their birthday celebrations since you joined us on Valentine's Day. But when daddy finally got home, and friends gathered, and a candle was lit on a special cake, it dawned on you....
|Not a big fan of cakes...what's the big deal?|
|Hey, they're all singing to me!|
|I'm special, I'm loved, I'm celebrated.|
|I'm going to blow out that big number 5 candle with all my might.|
|And then I'm going to ask my dad to light it five more times...|
I should have asked someone else to take photos, because I was so caught up in the moment that I didn't take as many photos as I wanted. So many thoughts ran through my head. Thinking back to the day you were born, in a hospital thousands of miles away, in Moscow, Russia, to a mother who felt like she couldn't raise you. I wonder what she was going through as she signed away her maternal rights, handing you over to the nurses and saying good-bye? As a mother, I can't imagine a world where she wasn't experiencing anguish, despair, hopelessness at the thought of leaving that hospital without her baby, never to see you again until that cold winter day when she came to say a final goodbye to you at the orphanage. If she could only see you now! Her sacrifice, her anguish, became a special gift to our family. The pain of that thought is never lost on me, and I will always be grateful to her for wanting more for you.
In true birthday fashion, you were served your cake and ice cream first. Of course, you didn't touch the cake, but you had three servings of ice cream. You love ice cream. You sat with joy, surrounded by friends who love you, and eating ice cream to your heart's content.
Then it was time for presents. You didn't seem to remember this part, or at least that there were more than just one gift, because when you opened the flashlight you tossed the paper aside and seemed perfectly content that this was your only gift. You have so much to teach us.
But the kids convinced you to stick around for the rest of the presents.
Mom and Dad got you a tool set, since you're always going around the house with a pretend hammer saying "dub dub" for the pounding noise it makes.
The shovel was also a big hit, but you were curious about the box everyone else was so excited about. You didn't know what a slip n' slide was, but I knew you would love it.
Your big brother had to show you the finer points of the toy airport your grandma gave you.
It didn't take long for you to decide you loved it too.
|(remember that little playhouse in the background? Big smiles)|
|I bought you this shirt at the last minute because when I saw it I just knew how handsome you'd look in it. I love your soft brown skin so much.|
You went to bed so quickly that night, spent from the day's excitement. As I rubbed your little head to sleep, I reflected on just what miraculous changes you've made since coming into our lives. I thought about those 32 days I spent in Moscow, fighting for you and your future. That feels like a dream now, another life, but there are still moments it comes rushing back in big waves and I still can't figure out why we were so blessed at every turn in that ordeal, while 300 other kids are still trapped, having met their new parents and now sit wondering why they haven't come back for them. Your life every single day is a testament to the rightness of international adoption. I hope you will always be a beacon and light for the world to see that when it comes to love, there are no borders.
The day after your birthday we pulled out the slip n' slide, and sure enough, you were squealing with joy as soon as the water started squirting across the plastic. All it took was one run-and-slide by Kennedy and you knew just what to do. Pure. Joy.
|I asked you if you like it, if you were having fun...|
|Just lounging with the girls...this is a rough life :-)|
|What summer day would be complete without popsicles?|
|Just hanging out, getting sprinkled on, you know.|
|Jake, the lizard basking in the sun on the slide.|
|Soon friends joined us and it was fun times five.|
|They forgot to slide :-)|
There you are, enjoying your popsicle on a warm chair, not a care in the world, just as it should be.
Happy birthday Gabriel, my little Russian miracle.