Thursday, August 5, 2010

Happy 15th Birthday to Reid!

This is our son Reid Mattison Shyam Arnold, lover of dogs, soccer, cars, NCIS, and driving his younger siblings crazy. We first met Reid when he was about 7 months old. We were in the beginning process of our second adoption. I had contacted WACAP about some waiting children they had listed. Trina sent me their info, and also some info on another baby boy, along with a note that said, "This little guy is new." His name was Shyam, and he had actually been born the summer before, on August 5, 1995. He was 'new' because he had not previously been available for adoption - they were not sure that he would live. He had been about 3 and a half pounds at birth - and had been very ill. We went over every detail of his extensive medical report - it was quite scary. Going by that report, I would have pictured a very small, sickly little boy. Thankfully, Trina sent us pictures and a video of Shyam that told a very different story. He was SO cute and active, small but he looked great. I remember so clearly staring at that video and thinking, "Are you my son?" We took his medical records to our wonderful pediatrician at Andrews AFB, Dr. Catherine Biersack, and she carefully reviewed them. Her verdict? "I see no reason not to adopt this baby."

She was right. We accepted his referral and things moved fairly quickly. In January of 1997, we found ourselves in an airplane, flying half way around the world to meet our new son. It was my first trip to Asia and I have to admit that I went through some major culture shock. The poverty in Calcutta was difficult to see, but we soon fell in love with India and its amazing people. The orphanage where Shyam had spent his first 17 months was a clean, loving place. A worker brought him in to us, saying, "Shyam, look who's come!" in a wonderfully sing-songy voice. He went to us without hesitation - we found out later that the orphanage carefully prepared the children for the arrival of their new families. We had sent pictures of us - me, with my fair skin and blond hair must have looked especially unusual to him! - and the children saw other parents come for their little friends. It was as if he were thinking, "It's my turn!" We went into an adjacent room to get to know him, we sat down on the floor and starting playing with toys. At one point, I looked up and saw all his little buddies leaning over their cribs as far as possible, watching us. I could tell what THEY were thinking, "It's Shyam's turn!"

At the advice of the orphanage (Sheela in particular, who was so good to us while we were there.) we came to visit him every day, so he could get to know us. On the last day before he would come with us forever, we took a day to sightsee and they said he looked for us all day! Talk about some parental guilt! On the day he was leaving with us, the massi who had cared for him when he was an infant came to say good-bye. He would not even look at her, he just clung to me. It was as if he knew his life was about to change in a dramatic way and he was dealing with it the best he could. I could tell she loved him and credit her, and the other workers there who obviously loved him, for his easy transition to our family. He was able to love us because he had been shown love all during his time at the orphanage - which was from the day of his birth.

As the driver pulled up out in front of the orphanage, there were many tears. I was crying, Sheela was crying, others from the orphanage were crying, maybe even Chris was crying - but not Shyam! He was up for the adventure and got into the car (a huge thrill for him!) easily, his eyes huge. That night, he slept easily between us in the big bed at the guest house, and not even a noisy, unusual Calcutta thunderstorm woke him. The next day, we left for the biggest adventure of all, the journey back to America and his new home.

Brianna and Chase were eagerly waiting for us at the airport, along with some other good friends. They greeted him with enthusiasm, but I could read his mind once again, "Hey! I thought I was an only child!" They soon won him over and we pulled into our driveway sometime past midnight in utter silence: all 3 backseat carseats were full of sleeping children. Inside, his eyes were as huge as saucers, but he allowed Brianna and Chase to lead him around the house. He wasn't speaking English yet, but his face said, "Jackpot!!" quite clearly when they took him into the infamous toy room. He slept well that night, and the next morning, all 5 of us piled into bed together - at least 2 of us suffering from some major jetlag. I'll never forget Brianna whispering in my ear, "Mommy! I've never seen anything like it! He's got brown, just like me!" I knew then, not that I had any doubts, that we had certainly made the right decision in adopting from India again.

So, today that toddler turns 15 and is looking forward to getting his driver's permit. He has been my most active child, the one with the most visits to the ER, the one whose name I always call first, out of habit, since he was always the one most likely to be in trouble. He has more common sense than anyone I've ever known. He can fix all kinds of things, is not afraid of hard work, and for all his beginning physical problems, is now a superb athlete. He's been playing soccer since we met him. Right now, he's at the soccer fields with his Dad, mowing. No place he'd rather be.

Each child in the family gets to choose where they want to go for dinner on their birthday. Just about anything goes. For Reid, it's Five Guys. Every time. The boy loves his hamburgers.


  1. Happy birthday to Reid! Thank you for sharing your story, Lisa!

  2. I loved reading the story of how he came to you. Happy Birthday, Reid!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I loved reading this, Lisa. Happy Birthday, Reid.