My five-year-old son woke up this morning and announced with great joy, “Tomorrow we are going to China.” It was the perfect beginning to Thanksgiving.
We are going to China tomorrow to pick up our second child, Lily. We have been working toward this last piece of our family for eight years, and in the midst of paperwork, travel plans, and visas, his declaration was a wonderful reminder of the miracle of adoption.
We have been talking about adopting Lily since before she was born. When we first got in line to be matched with an infant in China, we called the baby Lily. We needed something to call her. Otherwise people just referred to her as “the baby” and she was much more real than that to us.
The path to Lily took a couple of turns. After waiting four years in line, we decided to look at waiting children in China. We still thought we wanted a “Lily,” a little girl, just over a year old. Then our caseworker at Gladney sent us a picture of a pigeon-toed toddler wearing bright yellow shorts and a Mickey Mouse shirt. His mouth was half-opened and his eyes were bright. He was nothing like the Lily we imagined, and yet, he was perfect. We couldn’t keep calling him Lily, so we named him Jack.
Four years later when we to look for our second child, our caseworker sent us a picture of a little girl. She was wearing a striped sweater and white pants. Her eyes were wide and bright like Jack’s. And her name was Lili – as close to Lily as you get in Chinese.
Anyone who had adopted a child knows that there are moments of frustration, disappointment, and panic, but those are all eclipsed by the sheer magic and wonder of everything else. Some of it is jaw-dropping miraculous – the faith it took for Jack to call me Mama moments after he met me for the first time, the fact that his personality fits seamlessly into our family, the love of so many that brought us together.
Then there is the ordinary magic. I like the ordinary magic the best – when they reach for your hand, when they look over their shoulder to see if you are there, when they sit in your lap.
So today I am grateful for the steps that brought our children to us – the frustrating, the impossible, the extraordinary and the ordinary.
This is the passage from the book that I am thinking of today. I suppose because it shows how much love there is in letting go. Maybe that is what gives adoption its magic – in order for me to hold Jack’s and Lily’s hands, there is someone who, with great love, let them go. That might be the greatest miracle of all.
From The Fire Horse Girl:
“I am sorry about this afternoon,” she said. “I should not have scolded you.” Nushi reached into the pocket on her apron. “I have a present for you, not that you deserve it.” The light of the moon showed a tiny red pouch tied with a long silk string in the palm of her hand.
I took it from her and peeked inside. In the corner of the pouch was a fragment of uncut, unpolished jade, smaller than my smallest fingernail.
“It is beautiful!”
“It will bring you good fortune and ward off evil spirits,” she said, her voice unsteady. “And you don’t have to tell me I’m being superstitious,” she added quickly. “You are going to need all the good luck you can get.”
“Thank you.” I closed my eyes, trapping the tears burning inside them.
“It will also remind you of who you are. Jade is sharp, but not cutting. It is beautiful even though you can see its flaws.”
“Nushi . . .”
“You need to sleep,” she said, getting up.
“Nushi.” I stood and took her hands. “How will I survive without you?” It had seemed so easy to go before that moment.
She looked at me and shook her head slowly. “I don’t know anything about this country, America. I asked the peddlers who had been to Hong Kong about the foreigners there. They said that Americans would rather break their skin making a new path than follow an old one.”
“That sounds like me.”
“I thought so too. I like the old path, but if you don’t mind breaking apart what you have, I suppose a new path can get you there,” she said. “I don’t have any stories to help you.”
“You’ve given me enough stories. I will take all of them.”
“I hope you will find your own story. Remember, if America is everything you hope it is, you should stay there. Forget China. If you want a new life, you have to turn your back on the old one. Good-bye, worthless girl,” she cried out, trying to convince any evil spirits that I was beneath their notice. Then she leaned close and whispered, “Good-bye, daughter of my heart.”