After we came back from Romania, we were living in the country in Ohio on the old Everson farm. It was a place of green rolling hills outside of Belpre, Ohio. I had been teaching at the university, and my husband had tried to get a job as a chaplain in the prison system, but was unable to, so went to work as a prison guard. He met a prison chaplain who along with his wife had adopted a Romanian girl from a Romanian orphanage. She had long black hair, big black eyes, and beautiful mocha skin. She may have been of gypsy descent, but no one actually knew.
The girl had not been treated well in the orphanage. She had basically been starved, so her growth was stunted. She was 16 years old, but not any bigger than a 12 year old. She had been unable to run and play with the other children in the orphanage. She had a hurt leg that had needed to be operated on, but they just ignored it, so she had become a cripple. She had been neglected and not even taught to read in Romanian. She had been a burden in the orphanage because of her leg.
This American couple went to Romania looking for a child to adopt. They really liked this little girl and decided to adopt her. She couldn’t speak English, and they couldn’t speak Romanian. They brought her to the States, sent her to school, and began trying to teach her English. Neither of them studied Romanian, but expected her to cross the language barrier. They took her to the doctor and had her leg operated on, so she could begin walking. She was miserable because of the operation, the rehabilitation from the operation, and the English. However, she learned to speak English and learned to walk long distances at her adopted mother’s prompting. However, she never felt comfortable speaking English. She had to learn to read in English, but she couldn’t even read in Romanian. Her English reading level was very low and Romanian reading was non existent.
There was another obstacle, her new adoptive parent’s religion. After being starved all her early years, her new parents were very strict with her diet and fed her all kinds of strange food. They were Seventh Day Adventists. They had special Seventh Day Adventists recipes they used telling her she must eat that food because it was what God wanted. The girl longed to try ice cream, cookies, fried chicken, hamburgers, pizza, all kinds of food she saw around her in America, but her mother always told her, “no.” When they brought her to me, I didn’t know about the food problem.
My husband had told this chaplain that we had been in Romania, and the adoptive parents wanted me to help the girl since I was a teacher and fluent in Romanian. They began setting up bi-weekly appointments for them to bring the girl and let me teach her. I was supposed to help her English reading and writing as well as start her reading and writing in Romanian. They brought the girl and I worked with her while the chaplain and his wife visited with my husband. The girl and I spoke in Romanian together, and the girl loved having someone to speak Romanian with her. She was learning and coming right along. She was actually very bright. She always told her parents how much she enjoyed it when I taught her.
The girl got it in her head that she had wished that I had adopted her instead of her parents. She talked her mother and I into letting her spend a few days at my house. The plan was for her mother to drop her off, let her stay a couple of days, and then at the regular appointment time, her mother would come back and get her. Her parents and I both consented to let her spend a couple of days with me. We were becoming good friends.
When her mother brought her, she brought more than clothes. Her mother had made up all kinds of Seventh Day Adventist dishes for the girl to eat while she was at our house. The food looked strange .and interesting. I had no idea what it was. After the mother left, the daughter went about doing what she actually wanted to do.
She turned my phone off secretly so her mother couldn’t call her. No one at my house knew the phone was off. It was a land line, and there was a place on the bottom of the phone where you could turn it off. We didn’t even know it was there and had never considered something like that.
She suggested a cultural exchange with me. She wanted to try the ice cream in our fridge so badly! I didn’t realize her mother had brought that food because her mother didn’t want her eating things like ice cream and other normal American foods. She had been curious about eating them since she came to the States, but she told me she hadn’t been allowed to eat them. She asked me if I had ever eaten the Seventh Day Adventist foods, and I hadn’t. They looked interesting, and I didn’t know anything about them. She offered them to me and asked me to eat some, so I ate some. She wanted some ice cream, so I let her try the ice cream. She was eating regular meals with us. I made a nice dinner every evening. I made oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and at lunch, we often ate sandwiches or left overs. I also did a lot of baking for my kids, so there were cookies on hand, and she tried the cookies. She was really enjoying herself and melding right into the family with my kids. It was a mistake for me to try that strange Seventh Day Adventist food because it gave me diarrhea. I didn’t know what it was, and decided I better stay away from it. She kept encouraging me to eat it and even offered it to my kids, but she wasn’t eating any of it. She was trying to get rid of it. Later, I realized that one of her big problems with her parents was that crazy Seventh Day Adventist food. Everything was going smooth.
A couple of days later, when it was time for her mother to come, her mother showed up. Her mother was upset because she had been unable to get through to us by phone. She accused me of turning my phone off. I didn’t even know how to turn the phone off. The lady picked my phone up and showed me the bottom, and my phone was turned off. She deduced that if I hadn’t done it, her daughter had done it.
She confronted her Romanian daughter. Her daughter began telling everyone she felt abused by being forced to eat the Seventh Day Adventist food. She felt abused by her mother pushing her to take long walks when her leg hurt. She was very unhappy! She didn’t like all the English, and she liked me because I could speak to her in Romanian. She pointed out that she even looked more like me than her mother. She had decided that the wrong family had adopted her and wanted to be my daughter. She asked me to adopt her instead of her parents. Legally, they had all the rights, not me. I already had four children, and I liked the girl, but I wasn’t looking to take her from her parents. It was hard to send her back to eat that terrible food. I wished her mother would give her normal food, but legally, there was nothing I could do. She was not my daughter. They had gone to Romania and rescued her. She was better off with them than in an orphanage in Romania, but I wished she had gotten better parents. I tried to convince her that she was better off with her parents than in Romania and apologized for not being able to help her. Needless to say, her mother never brought her back for any more lessons.