You are all big head and wiry body. All scarred stomach and wide open eyes. You are all mischief and intensity wrapped into a never-still package that hunts relentlessly for the next curiousity to explore.
Today you become our son. We meet in Civil Affairs. Ava, wiating with zero patience for you to walk through the doors and when you finally do she waves shyly and your whole face breaks into a grin. When you smile, the whole world gets happy. Already I feel I would do anything to make you smile.
You are silent and twitchy, nervous, in your first few minutes, afraid of the newness of us. We move towards you quietly, intentionally and nervously too. For we are strangers about to be united in covenant. This arranged marriage feels strangely forced in some moments and also somehow like a fairy tale. We sign the papers to take your guardianship. We both have 24 hours to decide if we wish to become family. You do not cuddle on our laps through this process as some part of me wishes to insist on, instead you choose to sit on the couch with all your siblings. You hold on to the backpack you have carried with you as if your life depends on it. Now on to pictures, this photo will be on our official adoption certificate granted tomorrow (if we both say yes.) You smile bright and I feel your body start to relax into being sheltered between me and your dad. Something deep inside of you sighs as you realize this is your new job, to allow yourself to be nurtured.
Yo don’t appear to need me as Ava did when we met her. Strong and focused you command me to play in the ways you wish and you question me unceasingly in Mandarin. If I look away for an instant you are down the hall searching the government rooms and I learn to keep you within reach, to call you quickly and to be consistent in expecting you stay with us. You scare us a little with your courage, our little lion man.
The rest of the day passes in a blur of sickness for me. Your dad takes you and your siblings to swim in the hotel pool while I vomit endlessly over the toilet. This as not how it was supposed to be but I know your spirit is here precisely to teach me this lesson, to let go of what should be and to accept what is. David returns home with tales of your fearlessness in the pool despite being a non swimmer. You wander through our two hotel rooms insistently returning to our ipad which you christen “computer”. Ava, the girl who never asks for anything, is so patient with you. She teaches you how to use Minecraft in a careful Chinese as if she is several years older than you rather than several months. i see a new strength rise up in her and my whole heart reaches out in thankfulness for her grace in this pressure.
And still I vomit.
You and Daddy and Ava head out to buy take out KFC chicken for dinner, your favorite if your papers are correct. An hour passes and in between getting sick I panic that you have gotten lost, separated from your dad by your fearless curiousity, but you return, grinning, stomach full and arms laden with a heavy bag of take out, david’s strategy for slowing down your potential escape.
You demand the “computer” again but I say no and we play memory, ava’s favorite game, instead. As soon as you realize the idea of the game you are unstoppable, better even than your sister. But your irrepressible need for action hampers your ability to win. You insist on helping me make correct matches and then laugh and duck in your head in chagrin when you realize what you’ve done. I fall a little more in love each time.
At bedtime you brush your teeth in the funniest manner and Ava tells me that yes, that is the way you all were taught in the home. I laugh as you insist on not flossing. You are so not like the sister you share so many memories with. We give you pajamas to wear and you rush to change then climb into bed. The tiger blanket you find there is wooly soft and you grin and click your tongue with the small sounds you make when happy, somewhere between beat boxing and a baby bird. My heart breaks. I can barely stand with the nausea but I kiss your head and feel your quiet stillness as you wonder at your new world.
This is your first day with a family.