This day is steeped in tradition.
In some parts of the country, it is known as Devil’s Night. Here it is called Angel’s Night.
Today is our Family Day. Three years ago today we opened our arms to Girl from the East, closed them around her slight frame and haven’t let go.
When we met her for the first time, we saw many things. Mostly, we noticed she was sick. We were jet lagged and soon after we were sick as well. Every year thereafter (except for our first anniversary in 2007), one or more of us has been sick. Last year I had pneumonia on our Family Day.
Today, the entire family is possessed by a respiratory virus. I am particularly disappointed because we had a costume party to attend this evening. I’ve spent quite a bit of time pulling it together, practicing the makeup and even painting my fingernails black. (I hate fingernail polish and haven’t painted them since the 1980s.)
In light of my lack of energy, I am reposting what I wrote last year with a few updates:
Three years ago today we awakened very early in China and rode a bus to the provincial civil affairs office in Nanchang. We were a bundle of nerves. During the bumpy ride, I clutched a stuffed bear in my hands to keep me from wringing them excessively. Two years of preparing and waiting and wondering were about to end.
Soon we would meet our Girl from the East, who’d been a plan, a hope and a dream for so long. Her referral picture was posted everywhere in our house. We looked at it constantly, held it up to the light, tilted it and stared at it in search of answers: Who are you? What does your laugh sound like? Will you be happy with us? Will we know you when we meet you?
Then, it all happened so fast.
Our normally chatty group silently disembarked the tour bus. Our guide led us down a crowded alleyway, through glass doors into the marbled lobby of a high-rise, loaded us onto several elevator cars that ascended to a crowded, smoke-filled room. The din of voices in Chinese and English, the squalling of babies, the mixture of laughter and tears of newly formed families all blended to become a high-pitched babble. The sounds, the haze of cigarette smoke, the heat, all were almost too much to bear. I feared I’d cry on this day. Instead, I retreated to a bench and sat with my head tucked between my knees, praying I wouldn’t pass out. Girl from the West sat next to me and rubbed my back, assuring me that all would be OK.
Then, I heard our guide call out our family name. I sat up to see a cluster of orphanage workers rushing toward us with the tiniest living doll I’ve ever seen. And then she was in my arms. Smaller and lighter than I’d imagined. Her eyes wide, brows raised as if to ask: What’s all this about? Suddenly all the commotion retreated from the room and we were alone, living the moment in slow motion. She let me hold her, but did not meet my gaze for more than a second. She wiggled and twisted around to face outward, content to look at the world around her.
Today, that tiny doll who was smaller than any 10-1/2 month-old I’d ever seen is now a robust, soccer-playing girlie-girl who knows she was born in China and waited for her family to come and take her home to “The Nine States.”