After she left, I sat down at the kitchen table and went over the material. Pavel. His name was Pavel. He came from a small city not far from Moscow. I turned to his pictures and smiled. A good-looking boy, tall and lanky, peeking out bashfully from behind a curtain of light-brown bangs. In one picture he was sitting in a tree. The caption read, "I like nature." In the next he was standing shirtless in his garden, his arms flexed, displaying his modest build.
Alyosha drifted down to breakfast and draped himself over my shoulder. "What's this?" he asked.
"Pavel," I said, "the Russian boy I told you about."
My son became interested in the pictures, smiling when he saw Pavel and his dog, taking great interest in the photo of him with his karate team.
"He looks like a good kid," I said, raising my eyes to Alyosha.
He rocked his head from side to side. "You really think we should do this?" he asked, his voice tinged with doubt.
"You'll have to share the house," I told him, biting my lip. I knew that my son would really have to want this experience enough to make it work. I caught my breath as my son hovered between yea and nay. Then, unexpectedly, he said, "OK." Having made his decision, he went to fetch his cereal.
The weeks and days preceding Pavel's arrival had a familiar feeling to them: the sense of hectic dread one associates with a long trip, worrying that one will forget something or is unprepared for every eventuality.
And then it struck me: This is how I felt before I adopted Alyosha in Russia. The adoption agency had mined every doubt and inhibition before I realized an earnest truth: I would never feel completely ready, and that was OK.
And so my son and I readied the house - and our lives - for the advent of our new family member from Russia. We prepared a room for him, mailed family photographs, and accepted neighbors' generous donations of winter clothing and a pair of soccer cleats. Before long, we had written Pavel into the book of our lives and couldn't imagine his not coming.