Elmo’s Birthday

Elmo's birthday

Elmo! Elmo! I want to call him Elmo,”  Marc insisted  when asked for a name for his younger brother. Doesn’t matter what we said, he would not change his mind. Sesame Street was one of his favourite programs.  We had not long before accepted the offer of a little boy from the Philippines, our second overseas adoption. Finding a name we all liked had become a priority. Reluctantly, Marc agreed to something a little more conventional. And a toy named Elmo as a sweetener.

We had arrived in Manila on the Saturday of a long weekend leading up to the local election. Election related  rioting and killings were reported in the news on a daily basis. However, our taxi only drove past one election rally that seemed a little heated but still under control. Perhaps our driver (we used the same one all week) took us on  routes that avoided the hot spots. That was 21 years ago. Two days had to be filled in with sight seeing and shopping before we could proceed with any formalities.

I bought. TRH bartered. We both had a ball. Suitcases were bulging at the seams with all sorts of local wares from clothing, to local arts and crafts and toys. It’s quite interesting how much can be fitted into a suitcase with clever packing. And we weren’t even over the allowed weight. I’d packed frugally for the trip to Manila, leaving room in the suitcases for empty cabin bags. They came in handy on the return trip home. I still call it the Flight from Hell. We’d left the bulk of our belongings with my sister in Gympie. We were returning there for a while before travelling home. That way our Queensland relatives would be able to spend time with all of us and get to know the new family member. A week in Manila in the middle of a hot, tropical summer only required light weight clothes. All our consumables we bought once we got there.

Four days after arrival we had ‘Elmo’ fully in our care. We had chosen to name our real, live two year old, Christopher. Elmo was  a cute, bright yellow soft dog we found on our first trip as a family of four to a shopping centre to buy essentials like shoes and some clothes for our new son. Elmo joined us and continues to live happily in Christopher’s room.

On the 26th April we celebrated Elmo’s 21st birthday.  And Christopher’s 23rd.  In Manila, they came into our family a week after his birthday. Just in time for Dad’s. We had lunch in McDonald’s across the road from our hotel. Our one and only foray into junk food whilst there. Armed guards flanked the entrance, resplendant in gold braided uniforms, cudgels, pistols and hand cuffs dangling from their belts. The menu we discovered, was very different to what we were used to. I was delighted to discover they served spaghetti bolognese. It arrived served in a cardboard burger container. One lonely little piece of mince meat floated in tomato sauce poured over soggy noodles. I couldn’t eat it. Christopher had plain boiled rice. A cup shaped solid blob of rice sat lonely in the middle of the plate.  Tasteless and gluggy, it didn’t seem to bother Christopher who ate every last little grain. He still loves just plain rice. The others were wiser and ordered the traditional burger and fries. I had to as well.

Twenty one years later we celebrated at home with a family meal. The menu consisted of corned silverside, mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and steamed mixed vegetables. It was followed by Christopher’s favourite strawberry jelly glazed cheesecake.  It tasted nicer than our first celebration in Manila. But that first one was special. It was the beginning of very many more celebrations to come.

© Raili Tanska

22 thoughts on “Elmo’s Birthday

  1. Warm Congratulations to Elmo aswell Christopher alias Karjalanpiirakka!

    It amazing how soon times go by. When I saw Christopher first time he was a little boy who was like a salama rapid and tried to learn a word Karjalanpiirakka.

    Have a nice festival weekend as a whole family,



    perjantai 29. huhtikuuta 2016 soulgifts – Telling Tales kirjoitti:

    > Soul Gifts posted: ” “Elmo! Elmo! I want to call him Elmo,” Marc > insisted when asked for a name for his younger brother. Doesn’t matter > what we said, he would not change his mind. Sesame Street was one of his > favourite programs. We had not long before accepted the offer ” >

  2. Such a sweet story and an interesting picture of Manila. Corned silverside…a new term for me. All in all a delightful post. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks – corned silverside is made from a cheap cut of beef that has been treated by soaking in a brine and sodium nitrite solution prior to cooking. It can be commercially bought here. Or you can make your own and leave the nitrite out. It is slow cooked and typically the meat is very tasty and tender.

  3. Those eyes! First thing I noticed were his lovely eyes 🙂 What a great story. ..I love adoption stories where the children know you traveled so far in the world to choose them!
    PS: I’m glad you explained the meat dish..I was on my way to Google. 😃

    1. It was a very special time in our family 🙂
      There are lots of recipes on the net for doing your own corned beef without the sodium nitrite. It’s touted to be an additive that is not good for you. I’m lazy and buy the low salt version ready corned. These days I do discard the liquid. I used to make stews and soups with it as it gives a delicious flavour.

  4. I am SO glad we didn’t have to go to India to pick Stef up. Holt International Children’s Services flew her into Portland, Oregon for us. I guess I’m not really the adventurous type. How interesting that both boys had the same birthday!!!

    1. We only went to the Philippines. India would not allow adoptive parents to pick up their children when we adopted Marc. The bureaucratic red tape had created some emotion charged problems in the past. It actually led to the closure of the overseas adoption program for a while (with Australia at least). When it re-opened, it did so with the stipulation that escorts were organised.
      Actually the boys’ birthdays are not the same. TRH has a birthday a week after Christopher. Marc was born on Christmas Eve 🙂

      1. They closed India to international adoptions two weeks after we got Stef here. We came close to losing her. It’s a tricky business, isn’t it…

      2. Yes, it is. Very touchy. It’s embarrassing for countries to admit they can’t care for their own is part of the issue. Our first allocated baby died due to an epidemic of gastro in the Foundling Home in Calcutta. They had no running water and they lost over 20 babies. So sad.

  5. A beautiful post, please pass on Birthday wishes, and yes where does time go, I look at my boys and see two fine men, but at heart they are always are boys………………..we are so lucky to have them in our life
    Have a great week end

  6. How wonderful for both of you to come into each other’s lives. Time goes quickly doesn’t it? Seems only yesterday my teen sons were watching the real Elmo on TV. 🙂

  7. First of all, I think Elmo is a great name and I wish my mother had used it for my younger brother. It was wonderful and uplifting to learn a bit more about your family history. (I have family experience of adoption, so the story was a particularly interesting one for me.) I followed the link to read about the Trip from Hell too. Comments are closed for that post now, so I’ll just mention here that I was amused and horrified in equal measure by your husband’s predicament in the restroom. It must have been so embarrassing. 😀

    1. Thanks Bun 🙂 Elmo is a wonderful name, especially if you are a cute little red Sesame St type. It’s heartwarming to hear that the story was of interest to you. I think the embarrassment was more on the part of the other person!! By then we were so exhausted that I think we were beyond feeling anything other than tired. He has got a lot of mileage out of that, and various other related stories, over the years. And the bonus of course is that it is suitably embarrassing for our almost Elmo named son 🙂

      1. That’s the thing about embarrassing experiences like that, isn’t it? They are terrible at the time, but in the years afterward they do excellent work at parties and family gatherings. 🙂

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