Already the memories are blurring as I fall behind on writing. I am afraid to forget, afraid not to process here in this place that allows my heart to write these feelings on it’s walls.
On Day 3 we go to breakfast already comfortable with the ways you will change our family’s dining experience. I accept all of your ways until you finish in five minutes flat and insist you are ready to go back to your room. I know you are able to cope with this boundary and say no. I want you to sit. I hold my ground for only a few minutes before allowing you to leave early but we are setting the stage, doing the important work of balancing your current needs with those of the rest of our family.
We spend a lazy morning in the hotel room as we pack up our things for our five pm flight to Guangzhou. Check out is at 12 and we must be ready. It’s a good time to break out the nerf guns for the first time and heavy fire erupts as you leap through the rooms shooting wildly with your sister, brother and dad. Naomi keeps me company finding peace in organizing the littles suitcases and helping me keep the most precious memory items in carry on bags.
Bags safely handed over to the concierge, we walk back to the shopping center for lunch and ice skating. It turns out you already know how, someone has taken you ice skating before, and as always I am hungry to know more of your story. Who was the person who first taught you to fly across the cold whiteness? Did you fall? Were you afraid? And how did your face look when you learned the power of your skates? But I do not get to know these things, I know only the magic of your laughter, the way you show off your skills, the fun of seeing the two of you fly by together as Daddy chases.
By two we are off to the airport. Six people with six carry-on’s and six backpacks. We double and triple check that we have your required paperwork to fly. Without a passport or other identification you travel with your adoption certificate proving that you are ours. We hold this precious red book tightly as we pass through security and wait at our gate. You are nervous, very nervous, all angry and loud noises and wild motion. We ask our guide to talk with you about what’s going on and we learn that someone has told you about plane crashes and you are sure yours will too. I feel so powerless without the words to communicate but instead I hold you and rock you as you make your dinosaur sounds, the ones that remind me of my brother James. We walk and talk and I point out all the planes and the little cars and the luggage. You are very worried about our luggage and what has happened to the new things you have only just been given. You do not like to lose control of your things.
Finally we board, me sending out an emergency message for prayer because I am not feeling well at all and your needs are almost more than I can manage. Of course I will manage. I am a mother. It is what we have done for millennia – manage when we feel not enough.
Jing Yun flies beautifully, all full of expectation and wonder. He waits impatiently for his TV time, a gift I have promised once we take off. I bless Wendy for loaning me her player for just such a time as this. We are delayed on the ground, waiting for our turn to take off and Jing Yun reminds me impatiently again and again about the plane, about TV, about why is it taking so long. I rub his head and smile. We talk in words that the other does not understand. We survive.
Our flight is very short and uneventful. The “twins” watch Elf together in English and Jing Yun laughs in all the right places not seeming to mind the lack of Mandarin. Now it is time to land and the TV goes off. The change in air pressure surprises Yun and suddenly he is waving his arms wildly around his ears and yelling like a cave man, his instant reaction to the pain he finds there. I cannot help but laugh. He is all impulse and action. I love it even as it pulls the rug from under me. Everything he does comes from the gut, wild, irrepressible, free. I see myself in his eyes. I teach him how to plug his nose and blow and he nods, satisfied, the pain is gone.
We walk out through our gate, heading to pick up luggage and satisfying Jing Yun that our belongings are with us once again. As always, I keep him at my side, holding him tight, but still he manages to explore the wrong side of the escalator, approaches strangers for use of their phones, and tries to steal some candy from the gift shop. I smile wide and let go of the embarrassment and the overwhelm. This is my son. This is our journey. I laugh so I don’t cry and the more I laugh the easier it gets.
We are almost to our new guide and driver when he leaves me, running back towards security. I chase him, calling his name and he slows to a stop to show me his gum, he speaks in Mandarin but I can thoroughly imagine the english version ” calm down mom, I’m just throwing away my gum.” I break into hysterical laughter and I just can’t stop. Between gasps I call back to David, Jing Yun now back hand in hand with me, “he’s like a convict, he has to get permission to throw away his gum.” It’s not really funny and it is, this new journey we are on, these new lines we are walking. So much for all of us. So many miscommunications and lack of explanations, so much to learn. I’m gonna mess it up all the time and hope that my little lion man gives me so much grace.
At the hotel we walk into the sparkling lobby where Jing Yun declares it is “hao cho (sp????)” SO STINKY. He holds his nose with both hands and falls on the ground dramatically gagging at the lobby perfume, overly strong probably to cover sewage smells. This is a sign of things to come for him and the short fifteen minutes it takes to arrange our room are a comedy of melt downs. Before I know it he has gone from irritable and over tired to full blown yelling and pounding the floor amidst a gaggle of wondering Chinese guests. I bring him back to a lobby chair, so tired. Holding him tight I begin to scratch his back, murmuring over and over as I do, making a pattern with my nails against his back. And lo and behold, a miracle happens. My wild lion stills, he falls silent and his eyes half close. He is in a trance. This continues for as long as I scratch and I feel him fall quiet against me.
Another way to his heart, another way past his defenses, another way we connect, another way he starts to need me.