Friday morning we manage to wake at nine am with the help of multiple alarms; it’s still 1 am in China. Much noise, light and shaking gets all three children out of bed while David runs down to the commisary to grab fruit and pastry – we are so happy to be eating somewhat fresh food again.
As we step outside with our bags packed, a half hour later, the air is shining it’s bright clearness, the birds singing. It’s one of those perfect days California is famous for. The air is so blue it almost hurts your eyes and the air is crisp, cool and the sun warm and shining. Our car ride involves arguing yet again with Qiao Qiao about the need for a seatbelt, something she regards as entirely optional and not particularly nice on the tummy situation. Finally she is buckled with the usual yard of extra seatbelt gathered in her hand to make sure it never gets too tight around her waist. We shall deal with this situation another day. She’s survived this far; survived the loss of her first family, years of foster living . . . .she shall survive a loose seatbelt. Funny how your perspective changes.
It’s only a half mile drive anyway. We pull up to the center where we can get Qiao Qiao added to our military status making her “legal” for such important bennies as medical insurance. It’s a short wait and we are in, all five of us in a little cubicle, watching the bewildered kindness of the Airman First Class who is inputting Qiao Qiao’s data. Documents in Chinese are pulled from our backpacks, along with her adoption certificate in English, and within a few minutes she is military legal.
This is the closest military installation to our home, three hours away, so despite how easy this all was, it was a necessary stop. Quinn has been waiting and waiting to finally get his military id, a rite of passage at 10 that we have not taken to time to have done because of the long drive. He sits for his photo and signs his signature and proudly holds his card. Now Naomi does the same, due for an update .. . . her card is almost four years old. The sweet officer asks if Qiao Qiao would like one too – she is not quite the age for one, but I guess the rules are softer than we thought. I think she will love to be like her siblings. And she too, proudly poses for the camera. He tells us we can sign for her but I ask her to write her name on the card before lamination and she does. Out it comes from the machine, shiny and beautiful. And the sight of her Mandarin signature on the military card is just about beauitful. The Airman marvels at her writing. Yes, this girl’s got skilz.
We troop back to the SUV and I sit in the back between child #2 and #3 . . . . hoping she will sleep. She wisely does, completely missing the three hour ride home. We are grateful because her tummy misses out on the motion too. Now we are in Red Bluff – so close!! Now we are in Redding City Limits – almost there!! Now we have pulled off on our exit and Naomi and Quinn’s excitement is boundless. Qiao Qiao sleeps on. We pull up to our little yellow house and with the gift that she always has, she wakes upon arrival, sleepy-eyed and yawning. It’s not quite the homecoming I pictured, her wide eyes catching sight of the house pictured in the photo album we sent her. But it will do.
We go slowly in. Naomi and Quinn exclaiming over the cats while Qiao Qiao steers clear. She walks right in and collapses on the couch to yawn some more. At home already! After a few minutes she is ready to walk around and see the place and we give her a tour of the bedrooms: mama and baba’s, jiejie’s and Quinn’s then Qiao Qiao’s. She takes it all in, smiling. But as we get to her room she shakes her head and runs back to Naomi’s room, pointing. That’s where I want to stay, Mom. That’s where I want to sleep. With big sister. We anticipated this; she has always slept with five other girls to a room. But big sister’s main stipulation on the adoption was that she wanted to keep her own room. So Qiao Qiao will learn to love hers. 🙂
And she does, and quicker than you would believe. Within a few minutes she is sprawled on the new bed, this sensory girl loving the feel of the fuzzy blanket Auntie Kristin bought her and the soft down comfortor provided by Auntie Lauren. I bring in her suitcase and her backpack and she realizes that she gets to organize this space and place everything just-so. This is one of her favorite things and we spend the next hour unpacking some things, opening up all the drawers of the desk and the Claire Dresser, finding gifts from Holly and others, left in her room. It’s pretty much wonderful and I see her growing more and more excited.
We wander the house a bit more, as I get drinks for everyone, get settled. She thinks the water in the fridge door is AMAZING and tries it out herself with encouragement, getting ice in her water too. In China water is drunk warm, in fact public places have hot water dispensers for a steaming cup whenever needed, it’s thought that cold drinks are unhealthy. So when Qiao Qiao gets a mouthful of that icy cold fridge dispensed water, her whole body shivers and she just takes these deep sucking breaths as if she was eating something unbearably hot. 🙂 This will happen again and again each day and makes me laugh each time.
We lead her out to the trampoline and she is in heaven; jumping and jumping and falling down and laughing and laughing. She cannot get enough. She is a child who loves action, loves motion, loves to be challenged. The trampoline is so perfect for her and I feel so thankful.
It’s hard to get used to just being home; quiet after the busy China schedule. We arrive at 1 and by 2 we are ready to see people. The adoption advice about creating a quiet closed environment for your newly adopted child kind of flies out the window as we are a bit desperate for community. We can tell she will be okay as long as we are sensitive to her needs for me. So Kristin stops by, then Lauren and Sydney, then the Jernigans, and before long it’s been a non stop stream of visitors. We ride scooters in the driveway and continue to play and each time Qiao Qiao greets the visitors with a “hi” when I ask her to and then leads me away to play on our own, not ready to interact with more people. That’s perfect.
When bedtime comes, she is so happy for our routine, already established in the hotels. A shower, teeth brushing, then our special three books in their special order in her new bed. When it’s time for lights out she holds me in bed, asking me in Mandarin to stay with her. I only debate for a half second. I know that she CAN fall asleep on her own. And I know that if I stay now I will be staying for the next year. But the choice is easy; attachment and bonding win. I stay in bed with her, and she wraps her arms around me in the darkness, breathing quiet and still and within a few moments she is asleep. The diffuser puffs out it’s sweet breaths of essential oil, the Chinese lanterns glow softly. I pray over her again and tuck her in tight. She is home.