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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Coming to America

Sashenka promised me with all the seriousness that an eight-year-old with no life experience outside of a small Russian village can muster, that she would indeed become carsick, airsick, and simply everyday sick at her earliest opportunity. During the hour-long drive from her orphanage to the regional capital, she complained non-stop about the length of the “otchen dolgah” ride, but no sickness surfaced, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Our first night together, she came to sleep with me in the middle of the night with some unspecified complaint, after which she promptly threw up. The cardinal rule that adoptive parents are not to sleep for the first six months had slipped my mind.

I thought the flight to Moscow would be fine. It wasn’t. She took her seat belt off at least twenty times, stood up, sat down, went into moany-groany-whiney mode, saying she needed water, air, food, and a trust fund for life.

It was not until we were banking and descending for Moscow, that she threw up. Over and over again. We filled several airsickness bags, a rather notable accomplishment for such a tiny girl. Each time she would assure me, “Vsyoh, Mama” (that’s all), and then start again, clamping her hand over her mouth as we made the mad scramble for more bags. I finally pulled out a plastic bag from my purse, carried for any emergency emanating from child or dog.

I had to do something. I looked longingly at business travelers, well-groomed, sane in mind, and not smelling of puke. I was none of the above any longer. I prayed, I researched, and I headed to the apteka.

I explained our situation to the pharmacist on duty who suggested a type of motion-sickness pill for children ages 5+. We were to give two tablets at a time, not to exceed six in a 24-hour period.

Our final summer day in Moscow dawned early, the city shrouded in rain showers and chilly. I picked out track suits for the girls, sure to be comfy for a long flight with tennis shoes, t-shirts, and rain coats. Vlad arrived early, but we were fairly ready and packed. Before breakfast, I had given tablets to both of the girls. All we needed to do was zip the suitcases, and head on out.

In the car, I told Vlad stories of other crazy adoptive parents and some of the strange-but-true adventures they reported. The time passed quickly and soon we were seeing signs for Domodedovo Airport. That’s when it all hit. Literally.

Projectiles from the back seat hurled forward at me. Vlad turned around and said to me, “Maybe we pull over.” There, on the side of the road, I opened the back door and found a pink track suit covered in pink yogurt vomit. It ran down her face, into her hair, down her black spring coat, and all over said track suit, also covering half of the car’s interior.

Vlad said it was not the first time for new kids. He had a big jug of water in the back of his trunk, and some rags. He cleaned the car, while I cleaned Sashenka, fighting off the urge to upchuck myself. I barely made a dent in the job before me. The stench, the soaking clothes, the possibility that the paparazzi would be recording our utterly abject appearance led us to desperate measures for desperate times.

There, on the side of the whizzing highway leading to the airport, standing in the cool mist that was making my hair into a blond Afro in three minutes flat, I opened their suitcase and fished out another outfit, a black tunic and jogging pants, sealing the soiled coat and clothes in another plastic bag. I washed the vomit out of her hair, and off of her face, and we had her delicately step out of her aromatic, stinking-to-high heaven apparel.

That’s how we came to airport check-in, security, and Passport Control not looking nor smelling our best. But in Russia, I must admit, we were among good company, where deodorant was an unknown novelty in many sectors. Sashenka and I headed to the bathroom where I washed out her strands of matted hair with liquid soap and water. Our hands, and her face, all had some residual reeking that we tried to exorcise once and for all. It didn’t hurt to dash into Duty Free, a crazed woman needing her free shot of perfume. I should have checked into a full makeover, if not an undereye lift for myself, but having heard that medicinal leeches were all the rage in Russia, I decided to delay any non-essential procedures.

We killed an hour and a half in the terminal, setting up our base of operations at a gate, lest the girls discover too many goodies in the shops. I buy them a magazine that they argue over and I slip little princess another couple of motion sickness tablets. Gone were my days of leisurely lounging, strolling, and shopping through international airport terminals.

At last we walk down the sleeve to the plane. We are the last to board since, for some reason, we have not been assigned seats, and this naturally increases the kids’ anxiety. My own anxiety levels have long since bypassed the Danger-High range, leading me to pre-emptively pick up every puke bag down the path to Seats 597 X, Y, and Z. The girls are excited beyond belief.

“America! America!” they skip and sing down the aisle. “Soon we will see Papa, and the boys, and the dogs!”

The three of us take our seats across the middle. I try to share some safety tips with them, reviewing with the girls about buckling their seatbelts, and the nearest emergency exit.

“See the sign lighted in red? Where would we run in case the plane goes down, in case of an emergency?” I coach.

“The tooalyet!” Sashenka declares.

Out of the mouth of babes.

We enter American airspace and all is well until our snack of a sandwich and chips arrives. Washed down with liberal amounts of juice, our little one announces that she will now upchuck it all. We rush for a bag, but for some reason she decides not to aim. As we make our final descent, vomit streams down the side of the bag and the front of her new clothes.

I have no other outfits, no more patience, and long ago ran out of wet wipes. Our journey is over. Never has home and a hot shower sounded so good.

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