One year ago I met her (almost to the day!). She was quiet and very reserved. Her coping skill when things got hard was a vacant stare. When life was more than she could bear, she would hide under her blankets. She was a little mother to her two little sisters. She wanted to help them shower and put on their clothes and brush their teeth and get them dressed. She wanted to gather their bathing suits for swimming. Her sisters preferred her as well as then they could delay the scary work of bonding with this English speaking stranger named "Mama."
Inch by inch, I "unseated" little Mama. "I can comb her hair, why don't you go play?" Little by little she let me. Then the day came when I received the comb in my hand and she motioned me to comb HER hair...and I combed...trying so hard to do it just the way she liked so she would ask again.
Little by little, I took over all the "Mama duties" while she transformed into a "full child". But if there was any tension between myself and her sisters, she would quickly step in. If one refused to take a shower, she would quickly step in to bring that one to the shower (or try!). She would get their clothes for them. She would lay out their toothbrush.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" we would ask. "I want to be in the Army," she AND her 3 siblings replied. "Why?", we asked. "I don't know," they said. We wondered if someone had been preparing them for the day they would age out of orphanage life.
But one day...after we had been home in the United States for a couple of months, she said...
"I want to go to Africa."
I rejoiced over this new dream!! And I asked, "Why?"
"I want to see the lions!!"
Other dreams came out: her brother wants to fly a plane, her sister wants to visit New Zealand, and on and on the beautiful dreams fly!
What a difference a year makes...
One year later, my Crisia is an 8 year old girl who loves to play Barbies and play in snow and watch lions on Animal Planet and play soccer and play with makeup. She wants all her fingernails painted different colors. She rarely hides under blankets and now we can coax her out. She'll sometimes agree to do her siblings' hair when she can make fun braids but sometimes will say "no" because she's busy playing. She's no longer a little "Mama". She's too busy being a little girl. She loves the United States and loves her big family and her dog.
And she's got dreams...big ones!