Five years ago today

January 4, 2007 is when I met Miss Veeka as she was toddling about the baby house in Rudny. I was still quite jet-lagged, as I’d been in Kazakhstan barely two days and was reeling from the cold weather. Piles of snow were outside; the skies seemed to be a permanent grey and the baby house smelled like urine. I later learned that the place couldn’t afford diapers for all the kids so…..

Here I am awkwardly trying to play with Veeka and her little friends in the reception area of her orphanage.

I’m the clueless-looking person in the pink sweater and Veeka’s in the orange sweater probably wondering who this strange person is next to her trying to operate a spinning top. I had no more idea of how to be a mom than fly to the moon BUT there I was – with another couple who were meeting their little boy for the first time. I told Veeka tonight about the anniversary and she was more concerned with how she got a strange scar on her leg, which was a clumsy attempt by a hospital to remove a birth mark when she was a baby. Dressed in the green Talbotts nightgown she got for Christmas, she fell asleep listening to worship music. Tonight she watched the VeggieTales “Jonah” and “The Little Mermaid” which I think came out 20-some years ago.

It’s been fun watching old classics with her. Uncle Rob gave her a copy of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” to watch – this is the 1951 version – and she’s loved that. She likes to hobble around, pretending she is Amahl. She’s also hoping it will snow soon, which it could with these cold temps. Not a whole lot of news here – here’sthe latest of my WaPo pieces – came out Jan. 1 in the Arts section so at least I’m getting around a little.

Veeka at the end of 2011 - an angel for the Christmas pageant

I enjoyed the brief visit to Tennessee; got to see old friends and the weather was nice the whole time. An unexpected surprise was visiting Cumberland Gap National Historical Park – read about it here – which is where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet. I wasn’t planning to go as it seemed quite a distance from where I was staying just east of Knoxville but the places I wanted to visit near Dollywood were all closed so we drove 15 miles east on I-40, then 50 miles north on 25E to this lovely park with gorgeous views over three states. It took about 90 minutes – with 1-2 stops – to get there and I was fascinated by how much of America migrated through this area to reach Kentucky and lands beyond during Revolutionary War days up until about 1810. People basically trekked down the spine of Virginia, then crossed here. A guide showed me where there were other gaps but the way was then blocked by more mountains or Indians whereas this route was much flatter. I hope to go back.

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