Making weeds into flowers

Monday, August 22, 2011

Goodbye to Selga

Justin Bieber
It occurred to us that there might be a going away party at Selga for the girls after our court appearance. That day, we found out there would be, and that we were the hosts. After court, and our late lunch, we went to a nearby store and purchased two cakes, several bags of chips and four large bottles of Pepsi—all selected by Baiba and Agnese as desirable treats for the orphans and staff. We also brought gifts for all the children ranging from teens to the newest arrival, Anastasi. At eleven months old, she and three-year old brother, Justin had become the newest young residents of Selga.

Agnese has been very active in caring for Anastasi in the couple of weeks that she’s been there. Anastasi sleeps in a small, plain room furnished with a crib and another bed. Staff and older children all seem to take part in her care. At one point Baiba was holding her and handed her to me. Her face crumbled into anxious sobs as she longed to be back in Baiba’s familiar arms. I thought about adoptive mothers who are given their babies to hold for the first time and receive a reaction of tears and fear.

Justin bounced around with a big chubby-cheeked grin, laughing and mimicking back when people called him Justin Bieber. “Justin Bieber! Justin Bieber!” he repeated merrily. Every time I smiled at him, he grinned ear-to-ear and said, “Mama?”

Resilience as a survival mechanism is readily apparent in his cheerful demeanor. If you saw him on the street or in a grocery store you would think he was the happiest kid in the world. All the children behave this way when we’re at Selga. There is lots of smiling, showing off, and asking to be picked up. It makes me wonder if they develop a habit of looking happy and agreeable in the hopes that someone will want to take them home.

On this visit, and the last, one little girl named, Megia wanted me to pick her up repeatedly. The first time I did so at the party, she put her arms around me and squeezed with all her might.

Another little girl, probably five or six years old, with a dark complexion, large brown eyes, and long black lashes just got back from a hospital stay. Baiba asked Marite what she was in the hospital for and she replied, “For mental. She have a lot of psychological problems.”

The Party
The common area echoed with the voices of the children and staff as they all gathered around the treat-filled table. There was much excitement about yo-yos, colorful pens, flavored lip balm, and super balls from America. Hair bands for the girls, and a sleeper and new bottle for Anastasi were placed in the guardianship of the staff for use as needed later.

Marite said a few words mentioning that Baiba was not much older than Anastasi when she came to the children’s home.  Then she gave Baiba and Agnese a framed picture of the workers at Selga. She asked if we would like to say something. David responded that we would, smoothly indicating to me that I should speak. I thanked them for taking care of the girls and acknowledged that a happy day for us was a sad day for them.

Yankee Go Home
Peers and little ones gathered around the girls to say their goodbyes. Marite told us that one young man, who has grown up with Baiba and Agnese wouldn’t come out of his room because he was too sad to come to the party. We took lots of photos and video while young and old alike gobbled down the sugary feast.

Shortly after all had been consumed, the children ran outside to play. The workers went about the business of cleaning up the party, stopping occasionally to hug the girls and express their well wishes. Marite insisted that none of us get too emotional since we’ll be back in five weeks for our final visit. She said, “Don’t cry. You go.” Then she joked, “Yankee go home! Yankee go home!”

We walked outside Selga where the incongruity of a stark institution surrounded by lush vegetation is immediately apparent. Megia tried to crawl onto my lap in the car to go along, but settled for one more hug. Justin was running around laughing and playing with the other children. We pulled away, Selga receding in the rearview mirror, certain that Baiba and Agnese had spent their last night in an orphanage.

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