Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 13, 2003
Only a short time remains before our Bolivian daughter Cecilia returns home to South America. I know she's anxious to get home to her family and friends, but we are not anxious to see her leave. Her departure will leave a hole in our family.
Although Cecilia's father Cesín has several siblings and their families residing in Rhode Island, he and Cecilia's mother Marlene decided they wanted Cecilia to learn as much English as possible and to experience life with a U.S. family. They made it clear that we were to treat their daughter as if she were a part of the family, not a special guest. So rather than heading to Rhode Island, Cecilia came to Kansas to join us.
For the past three months, we've had an extra chair at our table, more stray hair bands appearing in odd places, one more person to wake up on school days, more teenage music to listen to, more bantering at suppertime.
Cecilia - who likes to be called Cecy - arrived in the United States on Nov. 19, the day after Dad died. She was thrust into a whirlwind of activities, including a memorial service for Dad, Katie's 10th birthday party and Thanksgiving.
She has attended classes at Riley County High School with Mariya and has participated in school activities, such as dancing in the school talent show, helping pre-schoolers make gingerbread houses at Christmas time, assisting in Spanish classrooms, attending high school basketball games and dances, and making pots in 3-D art class.
A routine eye exam at the school showed that Cecy had a severe astigmatism problem so we took her to the eye doctor. She was as unhappy as any teenager when she found out she had to wear glasses, concerned about what they would do to her appearance.
She went Christmas shopping and traveled to Wisconsin with us during the holiday. We sang Christmas carols and goofy songs. Mariya taught her "Great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts" - not English she would likely learn from a textbook! And even though she was far from home, Santa Claus found her and brought her some gifts.
While we were in Wisconsin, she stood on a frozen lake for the first time. She became part of the family there, too, answering Grandma Vaughan's ever-persistent questions about her family back home in Bolivia.
Cecy's experience on the North Woods lake prompted her desire to learn to ice skate. When we returned home, I enrolled the girls in ice skating lessons at the Manhattan City Park rink. Our winter hasn't been as cold and hasn't produced as much snow as we sometimes have, but there was enough one day to cancel school. The girls spent that afternoon sliding down our small hill, making snow angels and fashioning an odd little snowman - activities that Cecy wouldn't have been able to do at home. Snow is rare in Bolivia, which has it only on the highest mountain peaks and sometimes on the high plains.
Twice she visited Kansas State University to check out the possibility of attending college here. We had lunch with the former head of the chemistry department, who knew her Dad when he was a K-State graduate student in the 1970s. He said Cesín was an excellent student and he commented how much Cecy resembles him. In Willard Hall, I took a photo of them pointing to Cesín's name on a plaque recognizing him as the top graduate research assistant in chemistry for 1978.
Cecy attended a couple of Lady Cats basketball games - a favorite sport of hers - participated in a Spanish via Satellite program, and was interviewed on Wildcat 91.9.
On Groundhog Day, we headed off to Sunset Zoo on a day the temperature hit a balmy 65 degrees. Cecilia especially enjoyed watching the prairie dogs warning each other of our presence and disappearing down their holes. Four days later the temperature dipped down to 4 degrees.
Another outing involved a trip to Topeka to see the exotic "Treasures of the Czars" exhibit at the Kansas International Museum followed by hours of shopping.
In short, we've included ordinary and special events in Cecilia's schedule - just like we do with our own girls.
We appreciate Cesín and Marlene sharing their daughter with us for this short time.
We're probably more likely to see Cecy again than we would a student from another country since my sister and family live in Bolivia. Still, the despedida - farewell - won't be easy.
Adiós, Cecy. Que Dios te bendiga - Goodbye, Cecy. May God bless you.
Top, Cecy and Bill Fateley point to her Dad's name on a plaque in K-State's
Willard Hall. Bottom, Cecy makes friends with a goat at Manhattan's Sunset Zoo.