I always think of adding my kids to our family in terms of the holidays. Emma was born on Christmas Eve. Mira was born on December 21, but we met her on the day we celebrate Easter in the west and brought her home on Orthodox Easter, one week later.
And Dara and Johnny we brought home two days before Thanksgiving. I can never remember the date. I just remember it was Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving fifteen years ago. In the adoption community, we call that Gotcha Day.
Dara and Johnny are what are called virtual twins. Virtual twins are biologically unrelated children less than nine months apart who are raised together. Dara and Johnny are nothing alike. Until recently she’s been a head taller than he, but he’s catching up quickly. Even when we met her she was twice as big as he was, though only four weeks older. In Eastern European baby houses they love fat babies. They think it gives them an advantage in the cold winters. Dara weighed 18 pounds at 7 months. Johnny on the other hand, was quite sickly-looking. The fact that they dressed him in pink most of the time didn’t help.
When they were toddlers they almost had a twin-language. Dara followed Johnny around the house obeying his not-quite-evil commands. She could reach the levered door knobs my husband loved. I remember one afternoon sitting on the couch, grabbing a rare peaceful moment, reading. They descended the stairs, Johnny babbling, she listening intently. They toddled to the basement door, and she reached up to door handle, grabbed it and pulled down. They crawled down the stairs, backward. I heard nothing for a while, started panicking. I don’t remember what mess they’d created that time.
I grew to hate those levered handles.
They’ll be sixteen this spring, Dara in April, Johnny in May. I can’t imagine life without them. They are typical teenagers now, and most of the time avoid each other with every breath. But Dara can’t bear to see Johnny in any kind of pain, and Johnny once threatened to bring physical harm to a boy who glanced the wrong way at Dara, so they’re closer than they’d like to admit.
When we landed at Dulles International Airport that Tuesday, Emma and Mira were there to meet us. We were both deliriously happy and exhausted. We’d carried them, sans car seats or decent strollers, across two continents and an ocean to complete our family.
And I’d do it all over again.