Connecting Cultures…

Yesterday was a full day.

It started with Tot Shabbat, in the morning at Tikvat Israel, and despite following the excellent advice of my friend Mary (Thanks, Mary!), the morning didn’t go much better that last month‘s (separate post on this to come).

J and I drove the car to the synagogue, as we had plans immediately after services to drive up to Cacoctin Creek Park & Nature Center to meet up with other families with adopted children from Ethiopia.  We joined up with this group last year when they gathered at Sandy Point State Park, and had a wonderful time, and it gave S (and J) a chance to connect with kids with stories similar to theirs.

Our decision to attend this gathering, on a Saturday, was weighed against our decision to avoid using the car for non-shabbat activities.  We try hard not to use the car from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, unless it’s with the intent of sharing a meal with our Jewish friends on Friday night.  But, we feel that the opportunity to connect our kids to their country of origin, and a shared experience, is too important to quibble over whether to drive or not.

So, we got into the car right after Tot Shabbat ended, and headed home to get into play clothes and pack up a picnic lunch.  We made great time, and expected to arrive at the park at 2pm, and made it there by 1:45pm.  The event was scheduled from 11am – 5pm, so it was in full swing when we got there.  We unpacked our picnic, but S ran off right away, first to play ball, and then straight down to the creek where kids were wading through the shallows, and skipping stones.  J had a quick bite to eat, and then wanted to climb on the rock-climbing structures in the nearby playground.  I ended up going with him, and Dad ultimately headed down to the creek to monitor S.

J and I went into the Nature Center after he had his fill of climbing, sliding, and exploring the playground.  Inside, there were an assortment of turtles, snakes, and various taxidermy specimens – a wild turkey, squirrels, foxes, ducks, etc – and all of these were fascinating to J.  Equally fascinating, they had a play area with a cool puzzle of a human skeleton, and puppets of all kinds of wildlife that might be found in the park (or, more broadly in Maryland, like a hermit crab, which I suspect doesn’t live natively in Cacoctin Creek!).  While J was playing, the park ranger started taking various animals out of the aquaria and cages to show to the visitors – she brought out box turtles, and demonstrated the differences between the male and female (as always, male box turtles are more colorful than the drab females), and she brought out a rat snake.  J was timid, but did manage to poke his finger at the specimens.  Later in the day, he confidently brought Dad to the Nature Center to show him all the cool animals, and toys!

When we finally tired of the Nature Center, we walked back to the picnic pavilion to find one of our hosts who told us that S and dad were down at the creek (still!) and he showed us the way there.  We got there, and J immediately wanted to follow S into the water, and we ended up stripping him down to his underpants to wade in.  We all spent the next hour or more there, getting very wet and muddy, but having a wonderful time.  I so enjoyed watching S leading his young friend D along the bank – it really reminded me of the kids I saw along the sides of the roads we traveled in Ethiopia when we visited our kids birth family – the bigger kids watching out for the littler ones.  They also had a bit of the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn look about them, as they navigated the far bank of the creek – “exploring”.

I didn’t take any photos, as I was trying to maintain a “shabbat” atmosphere as much as possible (we didn’t have to spend any money, and so the only thing we did that was not our usual shabbat practice was to drive a distance).  The day was perfect, the weather sunny but not too hot.  I’m so glad that we went.

And, an added bonus, we got to connect with a couple that we’ve been emailing and talking on the phone with, but hadn’t actually met face-to-face until yesterday.  They are in the process of adopting a sibling pair from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and have gotten mired in some bureaucratic red tape that is delaying their actually bringing home their kids.  They invited me to participate in a radio interview last Sunday, with Rabbi Elan Adler, who lives in Israel, and produces the Derech Eretz Hour, broadcast on Sunday afternoons in Israel.  Derech Eretz translates directly as “The way of the world”.  But, it really implies being good, participating in Tikkun Olam – repairing the world, being a good citizen.

You can listen to the interview here.  (You’ll here my portion of the interview at the 25:30 minute mark)

It felt good to meet this couple, who has suffered tremendous loss (they adopted a little girl who died from SSPE, a sequela of measles infection).  They are looking forward to forming new ties with the two children they have been connected with in the DRC.  We hope to continue to help them in the journey that we have derived so much joy from.  We realize how truly blessed we have been to have healthy, happy, talented children (all three of our kids, let me be perfectly clear!), and how much they have all brought to our lives.

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