Tonight we showered you, quick. Together we packed your backpack, small and light. Nothing much to put into it. You are a mid-year student – we don’t even have a shopping list of what to buy for you. I feel like bad-mom-of-the-year . . . with nothing to send you to school with. I have to remind myself that these are extraordinary times, extraordinary circumstances. And that Grace covers this too.
I work on your school forms, ready to carry them in in the morning. And they are filled with the uniqueness of you. Your ethnicity, your lack of known educational history, your three languages and where you are in the learning of English.
And this afternoon I filled out another set of formss, medical forms at the doctors office. Two whole pages, double-sided, filled with “no information known”. Your first parents medical histories? Not known. Your previous sickness and hospitalizations? Not known. Your allergies, aches, pains? None known.
But, beautiful girl, this makes you an incredible enigma, nothing less, and yet so much more. You are a gift we are still unwrapping. You are a bundle of complexity, beautiful in it’s intricacy. We know so little of you – but you are whole, you are well, you are ours. It’s enough.
So we sat in that doctors office waiting room. Me trying desperately to somehow make you ready, for the culture clash that will be nine year old you in an American 3rd grade. I thought of how you have asked me, all day, to carry you like a baby. How you have tried to be as little and small in my arms as a newborn. How you have wanted to be held and fed and put to sleep there. I think too of how this whole American world is new to you. Of how you do not recognize a can opener, or know how to open a car door if it is different than ours. And I think that the process of you going to school will have to be full of miracles. And I decide to take another leap and trust that it will be.
So we sit together, you and I. Waiting for the office door to open. And the staff to call your new name, “Ava”. I remember how you have told me you wish to be called Ava now. And I think that tomorrow, you will begin to sign your name on school papers, time after time. And you have that “ava” down. We have talked so many times, written so many times, your full name. And now I teach you, right on the waiting room couch, how to write “Ava Pierce” and you say your new last name like this “Pee uh sss” and you write it twice, big and scrawled and imperfect on the page. And my eyes tear up.
If someone asks you in Mandarin your name, you still automatically blurt out your old full name – complete with your last name given to you and all the other orphans from that center. And each time I want to rub that old last name out – scrub it furiously off of you, remove the identity that said “she is an orphan” and be sure the whole world knows you are renamed. You are known. You are found. You are redeemed. You belong. You have a family. You carry an inheritance. You are . . . . .
Ava Jing Qiao Pierce.
Sometimes Qiao Qiao, sometimes Ava.