Anya screamed and fought Ms. Murdock’s grasp as she realized her aunt was leaving her behind. Her grief consumed her as she wailed inconsolably. Ms. Murdock led her gently down the corridor to a small room, furnished only with a metal-framed bed and a small wooden desk. Ms. Murdock closed the door quietly behind her. Anya continued to scream and yell until she finally wore herself out, collapsing in a heap on the bed.
Anya didn’t understand why her mommy had died, and then her daddy. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t stay with her aunt and grandfather. They had tried to keep her, but finally succumbed to the realization that they were too poor to feed her or care for her, that she would be better off alone in this orphanage than starving at home with them. Their hearts broke for her when they left her there, praying for an end to the desolation and hopelessness of the world they lived in, for a chance for Anya to have a life other than the early death she would inevitably meet if she stayed with them.
At six years old, she was a petite, bright girl with a sunny disposition. But her face no longer broke into her wide, happy smile, and these days she rarely spoke to anyone.
Charles and Terry Givens had tried for more than five years to have a child. When they decided to adopt, their long years of yearning and bitter disappointment began to be overshadowed by the excitement that their dream of being parents was finally within reach. A friend told them of the international adoption program. As soon as Terry told Charles about it, he agreed he too felt called – “Let’s do it,” he told Terry with a grin.
They filled out the applications and paperwork with growing anticipation. When they began to review the videos of children available to adopt, they didn’t know how they could possibly choose. Suddenly, there was Anya’s sweet face on the screen. They looked at each other and immediately knew, she was the one. They watched her video again and again, trying to memorize every detail of the girl they knew was their daughter.
Anya’s eyes grew wide as the couple emerged from the taxi. Today, it was her turn to be adopted. She ran up to Terry and gave her a hug, smashing her face into Terry’s neck. “Mama?” she asked.
“Yes, honey, I’m your new mommy,” Terry told her, her eyes shining with tears. She pointed to Charles. “And he’s your new Daddy.”
“America?” she asked tentatively.
“Yes, America,” Terry smiled.
At the hotel where they would stay for the two weeks until the adoption was complete, Anya was amazed at the beautiful clothes spread on the bed in front of her. Beautiful skirts, flowing nightgowns, soft cotton shirts and pants in pretty pastel colors – were these all for her? For the first time since arriving at the orphanage, Anya smiled, grinning from ear to ear. She immediately stripped off her too-big, donated clothes and began to try them all on. She showered Terry and Charles with kisses, thanking and hugging them, and finally passed out on the bed between them.
After the grueling 19-hour flight to Chicago, Anya could barely keep her eyes open as the taxi pulled up in front of the Givens’ two-story, three bedroom house. Anya was suddenly wide-awake, bursting through the front door and running from room to room. When she opened the door of the purple bedroom decorated with flowers and butterflies, Anya squealed with delight. She ran and flopped across the bed, hugging the big fluffy pillows. Then she turned to Terry and Charles, smiling at her from the doorway, and asked, “America?”
“Yes, Anya,” Terry said as she walked over to hug her new daughter. “This is America.”
Months later, as Anya’s English improved, she told Terry about the day her aunt took her to the orphanage.
“Mommy, when they leave me, I scream and scream,” Anya told her.
“Why did you scream?” Terry asked her, gently stroking her cheek.
“I want my family,” Anya said. She paused, then added, “and I have no hope.”
“No one told me you were coming.”
Terry wrapped her arms tightly around Anya, kissing the top of her head. “It’s okay, sweetie, you’re here with us now.”
“Yes,” Anya smiled up at her mommy. “Now I am home.”
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