And just like that we are holding her hand and looking into her eyes. It was only about an hour before our first meeting that David remembered this song he had heard in a store a few days ago . . . turns out it’s a song from Twilight, a movie we’d never watch. But the beauty of this song was sent to us from Holy Spirit, straight for this day, our day to meet our new daughter.
“One Thousand Years”
Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
how to be brave, how can I love when I’m afraid
to fall, watching you stand alone
All of my doubt, suddenly goes away
One step closer . . . . .
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you
for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more
We played it on endless repeat, from the time we got back from running a few last errands till the time we joined hands as a family in our hotel room and prayed and group-hugged before heading to the lobby to meet another Holt family and our guide at 3 pm.
It was a ten minute bus ride to the Civil Affairs Office and Jane spent the time reminding us and the other family of some key mandarin phrases for bathroom, food, water, I love you. It seemed a funny time to brush up on Mandarin but I think she was just trying to keep us all calm.
When we arrived, about six other couples were already there, from other agencies. Baby handovers were in progress – all the other children being adopted were around twenty months and we watched them come out, one by one, smiling and holding the hands of their foster mother. Incredible children, each one. We fell in love over and over. About half of them screamed heartbreakingly as they were handed over to the new strange white people. The other half willingly played toys and became friends. I recognized in each of them the signs of the different methods of coping I had read about in my adoption books.
We were the very last, and about twenty minutes into our time there we glanced to our left and caught sight of a little girl just being brought into a back room. Tiny, absolutely beautiful, with a red hat and a quiet strength, we knew we had just seen our first look at our daughter, whose hand was held tightly by a foster teacher.
Finally we were called to the official’s table and asked to sign forms for the “Harmonious Period” a 24 hour holding time of temporary legal guardianship that serves as a trial period for both adult and child. We have the right to change our mind by the same time tomorrow, and so does JQ. Papers, papers, and a few more papers and suddenly we could see JQ being brought close by as we continued to listen to our instructions and sign papers. I was able to catch her eye and wave and in a moment I held up the teddy bear and caught my very first smile from my daughter, who was otherwise extremely composed and serious.
And then, finally, they were telling her in strident mandarin that this is your new mama and baba and she was pushed into our arms. She was so ready. Her spirit had already decided – I’m going for this. She had no bubbly smile or hug, just a quiet determination to become family with us. We gave her her Teddy but she seemed confused. We pulled out her little purse full of goodies and got her a snack and she opened and closed the purse and looked through everything and began to smile. Then we showed her that her teddy bear had roller skates and she smiled bigger. Her teeth were very dirty and her face was so alive.
Now it was time for our official pictures with the adoption photographer – they would be used tomorrow in her paperwork for the official registration of the adoption. She squeezed in between us and smiled big, like she was made for this.
Time to get back into the big van for the ride home with the other Holt family, whose little one had not yet stopped screaming. JQ took Naomi’s hand and mine and we walked into the great big world together. She was quietly excited, every cell so ready for an adventure, I could feel it inside of her, shaking her.
Into the huge five star hotel where she learned to push the button to the twentieth floor. More paperwork in another lobby, coloring with Naomi. Into the hotel room and changing teddy’s clothes. Laughter. Making beaded bracelets together. Stacking and restacking her things neatly over and over. Double checking that she has not misplaced anything. Us waiting to change her clothing, wanting her to feel safe. She is dressed in three layers of both pants and sweaters so we take off and outermost sweater and her shoes. Budling is a sign of nurture here in China.
Play and more play, exploration, us speaking mostly in English, no words from her yet. Naomi is her best friend, her safety, her buddy and they play side by side for an hour or more. JQ enthralled, Naomi so patient.
Time for dinner and we head out to walk to the Japanese Noodle place and order with her. As usual our lack of Mandarin makes it a bit of a comical mess. JQ seems slightly unsure away from the hotel but enjoys the meal, the juice, and the atmosphere. She keeps looking through her purse and I imagine that she wishes she had not left her teddy at the hotel when she does not know when she will return.
But return we do, within an hour and I see her trust grow as we walk back through those hotel doors, back to the button for the elevator, back into the hotel and everything is still there where she left it, ready for more fun. It’s time for laughter and we learn that JQ has an infectious giggle as we play wild ball games with a big beach ball. She falls in love with David, who does silly slapstick things making her laugh until she falls off the bed. We are enchanted.
Now she is hyper, racing around the hotel room, wanting to be buried under the covers, be tickled, be played with . . . BE. WITH US! It’s like she’s finally realizing she’s family and it’s the BEST. THING. EVER.
We pull out her little camelback sippy water bottle and she loves it. Sucking and sucking – the oral connection is so good for these kids. We draw, we wrestle, we tickler her feet, she begins to bond, even with Quinn whom she has seemed a little unsure around. She speaks more and more words to us, in Mandarin, but does not seem to need us to answer her.
I learn that this little girl can count to ten in English and write all of her numbers. She also knows most of her alphabet! Shower time and she bathes like a champ, despite the new shower, unlike any she has used before. No trouble with the western toilet either though I teach her to wash her hands afterwards. Wow, this girl is making it look easy! On go the first of our clothes for her, transfiguring her one more step into “our” child. Cute little jammies with “here comes the sun” on them (and it/He IS coming) only size six/seven but much too big, along with tinkerbell undies. Teeth are brushed side by side with Naomi and she runs, crazy, around the hotel room again, excited by all her experiences.
Bedtime at 9 and I do not think she will settle down, but Naomi who has been her main bridge, her first connection, is tired. I tuck Naomi in, we have learned that JQ will do anything if only Naomi does it first. Naomi takes a sip of juice? JQ takes a sip. Naomi pours water from a bottle on her toothbrush – well of course JQ will do it in the same way.
Into bed for all three of them and I tuck the covers tight around Naomi, kiss her three times and pray our usual prayer “Jesus, give Naomi good thoughts and good dreams”. Now to JQ in the bed just besides Naomi’s and I expect her to withdraw at the unfamiliarity but instead her little face absolutely beams up at me, tucked in among all the covers with her new lovey blanket and her teddy. I kiss her three times too and pray the same prayer. Then “NightyNight” I say, and whispered up with perfect eye contact comes her first real english words to me . . . . “night night.”
And I melt.