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While many baby boomers are downsizing their homes or sending children off to college, Pat Locke, age 50, is just beginning a new adventure — motherhood. She and her husband, Iain, recently adopted two sisters from Kyrgyzstan. Like other aspects of her life, Pat is taking on her new role with gusto.

Locals may know Pat as the owner of Doolally, an eclectic gift shop on Route 119 in Groton. To Ella, 4, and Dina, 6, however, she’s “Mama.”

“Even though it’s only been two months since we brought the girls home, it feels like they’ve always been part of us. It’s amazing how quickly you jump into it, answering questions, setting rules and guiding them,” commented Pat.

Like many couples, the Lockes’ pursuit of parenthood turned out to be long and difficult. They married in 1997 and looked forward to starting a family. “Iain wanted to adopt from the beginning. I took longer to come to that decision. We tried everything scientifically available, but it didn’t happen for us.”

In the fall of 2006, Pat and Iain eagerly began the path to adoption. They decided to adopt from Kyrgyzstan, in central Asia, because it has a shorter time frame than many countries, according to Pat. “Since I was approaching 50 and Iain 47, we needed a shorter process, plus some countries have rules about age.”

With humor she notes, “I thought the process would be bureaucratic, but it exceeded all of my expectations.” She was referring to the mountain of required documentation as well as fingerprints and FBI clearance.

At the time, Pat faced some unexpected turbulence in her life. Her position as a vice president at Fidelity Investments was eliminated in a reorganization and she dealt with an illness.

Things started to turn around for her after she consulted with a career coach.

“I explained that we were starting the adoption process, and I wasn’t interested in a 9-to-5 job. She was very supportive and didn’t try to channel me to a particular job.” The retail industry appealed to Pat as something creative and social. When a Groton gift shop came up for sale, she seized the opportunity.

Not long after Pat opened the gift shop, the adoption process got into full gear. She and Iain flew to Kyrgyzstan to meet the girls for the first time. “We fell in love with them immediately.”

Less than four months later, Pat and Iain returned to Kyrgyzstan to bring the girls home. “It was somewhat bizarre to me. After traveling for 20 hours, you go straight to the orphanage, dress the children in the clothes you brought, give the other clothes back to the orphanage, and drive away. There’s no ceremony. You’re jet lagged, dazed and confused, and suddenly you are parents.”

She recalls their first days together while still in Kyrgyzstan. “I woke up one morning to the sound of the girls laughing and it was the sweetest thing in the world. All my life I’ve heard other people’s children laughing outside in the summer. This time I realized they’re ours.”

Once back in the U.S., the girls began adjusting to a new home, different food and a new language. Pat studied a bit of Russian before the trip, enough to understand if one of them had a stomachache, but not the details. “Iain is great with them,” she quips. “They’ll go on and on to him in Russian and somehow he understands them.”

The language barrier quickly began to diminish once Dina started kindergarten and Ella preschool in March. “I’m amazed at how their speech and comprehension are coming along. They’re doing so well. Dina even wants to ride the bus. I don’t think I would have been that brave.”

As the instant mother of a 4- and 6-year-old, Pat experienced her own kind of transformation. She had very little time to figure out the morning and bedtime routines, what to cook, and other daily issues that most families develop gradually. “I’m learning so much and I have new respect for anyone who can get themselves and their kids out the door in the morning. I also have new respect for any parent who takes their kids to the supermarket!”

Pat said she knew it wouldn’t be one long honeymoon. “It’s all very real. There are rules and tantrums and doubts about my parenting decisions, but it feels so amazingly natural. It never felt artificial for one minute.”

Over the past few years, Pat has been inspired by other people’s stories of adoption. “I hope my story will inspire others. I’d like other people to understand just how happy we are.”

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