Saturday afternoons at the Boys & Girls Home found the children dressed in their best and on their best behavior.All the children except Elena, that is.Elena never managed to look quite right, regardless of the care the social workers took in dressing her for the occasion.Her hair was mussed, her stockings frayed, or her dress asunder.For Elena didnt care about impressing the prospective parents-to-be.At the ripe old age of seven, a victim of abuse of every kind, Elena was under no illusion that she would be chosen.She had no desire to be chosen.Relationships were synonymous with pain.Better to be ignored, overlooked, than receive the attention of yet another person out to use her for some selfish motive.
When Mark and Lisa first entered the Boys and Girls Home, Elena was standing inconspicuously by the corner of the great room.Children bustled about everywhere.Most children were younger than Elena, of a much more adoptable age.They would thrive in the love and the home Mark and Lisa had to offer.After all, Mark and Lisa had everything a couple could want successful careers, a beautiful home, and plenty of love to go around.The only thing they lacked was a child to share it all with, but in spite of their incessant hopes and dreams over the years, no child had come into their lives.Now in their early 30s, they decided to take a leap of faith to create a family in a non-traditional way.Their hearts were united in their desire to adopt a hard-to-place child.
Mark was instantly drawn to Elena.There was no apparent reason.Elena ignored them both.Yet, there was something about her, perhaps the hint of a haunted look in her eyes, that he just couldnt dismiss.Lisa wasnt so sure.She didnt have that feeling of instant attraction that draws two people together.Yet, in the weeks to follow, her interest began to be aroused as Mark kept returning the discussion to the little girl with the age-old eyes.
That was the beginning of Mark and Lisas weekly visits to the Boys and Girls Home.Every week they focused their attention on Elena.They took her presents, sometimes took her on outings.There was nothing encouraging about Elenas response.She would answer questions she was asked, but volunteer nothing else.She never played with any of the toys they brought her.All gifts were met only with a stiff, Thank you.She showed little reaction to the outings, whether for ice cream or to the zoo.Most discouraging of all, she never smiled.
In spite of all this, Mark and Lisa fell more and more in love with the little girl every week, and slowly, very slowly, they began to talk about the possibility of adoption.
Lisa still wasnt so sure.Other children at the home expressed more interest in them, and would no doubt be so much easier to raise.But Lisa loved Mark with all her heart, and Mark was captivated by the girl who never smiled.Lisa began to catch the vision of what life might be like if they were to become a family.
The authorities at the Home were not encouraging when Mark and Lisa approached them about the possibility of adopting Elena.Are you sure you know what you would be in for? they asked.Elenas quiet detachment often gave way to fits of rage at school.Even though she was in a special class for emotionally disturbed children, there were times she was still sent home from school because of unmanageable behavior.She had no friends, no real relationships with anyone.The school psychologist suspected a deep-seated attachment disorder, and offered a poor prognosis for her case.Life with Elena would be hard.Plus, they reminded Mark and Lisa, at seven years old it will be much harder to incorporate her into your family than it would be one of our younger children.Mark and Lisa remained undaunted, however.Mark replied, We cant help it, weve fallen in love with her.Elena is the one for us.We have chosen.
The day came when Mark and Lisa finally took Elena home.There were no big changes.Elena remained aloof, in her own world, interacting only minimally.At school, some days were good, some were bad.At home, Elena seemed unmoved, neither happier nor less happy than shed been at the Home.
Regardless of how the day had gone, or how distant Elena seemed, Mark created a special bedtime ritual with her.He would tuck her into bed with a big hug, telling her, I love you, Elena.I have chosen you.You are my beautiful one.
As the months went by, the situation grew somewhat better.Elena began to talk more, at times, even initiating conversations.After much encouragement, she had even begun to call them Mommy and Daddy.There started to be more good days at school than bad ones.And, at bedtime, when Mark said, I love you, Elena.I have chosen you.You are my beautiful one, and would hug her tight, even though she didnt return the hug, she slowly began to lose her stiffness and receive it.
Mark and Lisa grew to love Elena deeply even though their affection never seemed to be returned.They had gone into the relationship with open eyes, knowing it would be a difficult journey.They rejoiced in the small changes they saw in Elena, silently hoped there would be more, and determinedly persisted in their love even though they knew there was no guarantee that it would ever be returned.
One afternoon, while walking past a yard sale, Elena spotted an old-fashioned rag doll.The doll was far from new, with tattered clothes and missing stitches, but Elenas attention was riveted to it.On an impulse, Lisa bought the doll for Elena, even though she had beautiful brand new dolls at home she never played with.That night, when Mark tucked Elena in, hugged her, and said, I love you, Elena.I have chosen you.You are my beautiful one, there was a rag doll named Molly tucked into bed beside her.
Elena began to carry the doll around with her everywhere she went, even to school.Her teachers reported that she seemed to be more settled in than ever before.Occasionally, Mark and Lisa heard her talk to the doll.Rarely, they saw her hug it.One night after Mark had put her to bed, he even thought he heard her whisper to it, I love you, Molly.I have chosen you.You are my beautiful one.
The day came when the principal called Mark to come pick Elena up from school.She had been in a fight, her first one in months.Another child had tried to snatch Molly from Elenas hands.Elena had gripped the doll tightly, and Molly tore in half.Elena had gone wild, hitting the other child repeatedly.By the time Mark arrived at the school, Elena had retreated far into herself.
Mark and Lisa didnt know how to reach her.They tried to talk to her, but Elena wouldnt respond.She wouldnt eat.When they tried to hold her, she just stood limply.They could elicit no response at all, regardless of what they tried.Elena wordlessly went to her room and lay down on her bed.
As bedtime approached, Lisa took the remains of Molly, restuffed her and restitched her.She wasnt quite as good as new, but still, in the end, she was definitely Molly.
When Mark went to tuck Elena in that night, Lisa went with him, taking the newly repaired doll.Elena sat up.When she saw Molly, whole again, though with new scars, a tear trickled down her cheek.Why me? she whispered.Of all the children, why me?Mark gave the same reply he gave every evening.Because we love you, Elena.We have chosen you.You are our beautiful one.This evening, though, was different from all the rest the evening Mark and Lisa had hoped for and prayed for all along.Because this evening, when Mark hugged Elena, Elena hugged him back.Then, she smiled.And, with that smile, as she chose to accept her fathers love, the chosen one became the beautiful one, indeed.