(if you haven’t read the last post, read that one first . . . 🙂 )
Once through airport customs and immigration, we rode the sky tram. Standing on the platform, the most solid wonderful different thing about America assaulted our senses in the best way; the sweet fresh American air. It’s noon Thursday on our SECOND Thursday, the first was in China. We head down to the rental car garage where we pick up a car big enough for five to take us home. Qiao is delighted. We apparently have a CAR? And Baba can DRIVE? Again, best.
I do not know quite how to describe to you the trust this little girl has in us; HAS to have in us. Arriving in a strange country without words to communicate. We cannot explain that this is a rental, or that we live four hours from here. We can not tell her it will only be a little while to lunch. She holds our hands and looks into our eyes and she simply trusts. I am stunned, and humbled, and my heart is broken-soft with the wish to more fully communicate with her. How I long to speak her language.
Off to lunch and a little playground in Berkley. Yes, we were crazy to be on a playground after 27 hours of travel, but we were desperate to miss rush hour and another round of throwing up. There was a park with beautiful woods and shady creeks and three bridges and a dog park – just quintessential America. Grass everywhere, happy children playing, dogs chasing balls. We walked over a bridge and up the hill to the playground equipment; Qiao’s first time on an American playground. We never quite found the equivalent in China, no matter how hard we looked and how often “playground” was listed on the map of the parks!
We watch Qiao Qiao discovering swinging, arms way too high, holding way too tight, slipping off the seat and all the while asking for more pushes. She climbed to the top of the playground with me close by but then needed one of us at the bottom to catch her as she tried out the slide. She took it all in, fearless, yet clingy.
And it’s on that American playground that I begin to see how much farther she has to go . . . . brave, kind, good, full of joy . . . but oh-so-different from every other child there. She is the nine year old on the playground calling Mama every two minutes, much like the two year olds do. She is the one shouting excitedly in Mandarin so that a small group of polite children stop their play to simply stare in fascination. She is the one not sure of how to use a fire pole. The one who has never seen a mini rock climbing wall.
Yes, girl. You stand out. We like you that way. Never be afraid to keep fearlessly trying new things; don’t worry about watching the others, and be okay with them watching you. You are a leader, through and through.
Back in the SUV and mercifully less throwing up on the way to the hotel – I think she has never ridden in cars enough to be used to the motion. We pull through the gates at Travis AFB where we will spend the night in cheap military lodging, and Qiao Qiao watches in wonderment as the guards salute her daddy. Our “hotel room” is a full family apartment with two rooms. We do what we know how to do so well; bring in the luggage, baths for all, late dinner of take out around the coffee table, and to bed at 11 pm, hopefully late enough to keep everyone sleeping through the night.
I go in to make sure all is well and the sight of my two daughters, back to back in the full size bed, makes my eyes shimmer.
Whole new life; here we come.