Welcome to The Nine States

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.”

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A mere slip of the pen


Our wedding

Our Wedding -- April 8, 2000

Hey, look. It’s an artist’s sketch of a wedding day.
There on the left is the groom, all dashing and dapper in his tuxedo. He’s smiling with that faraway look in his eyes of a man in love. Maybe he’s thinking about the honeymoon.
Firmly planted in the middle is Flower Girl Extraordinaire, also known as the real star of this show. After all, this is HER day.
See her crown of flowers? The beautiful blue dress that coordinates with the bride and attendants? See the basket of rose petals?

A psychological analysis of this drawing would probably suggest that Flower Girl is creating an alliance with her new stepfather rather than with her clearly psychotic mother. Or maybe secretly she was glad her mother was getting married again — even if she’d never say it aloud. 
Which brings us to the curious figure on the right.
Dr. Phil, what say you? Where to begin?
The artist insists it was a slip of the pen that caused the bride to have a wonky eye, a twisted grin, an askew headpiece, streaks of red spilling down the center of her bodice. Nothing passive-aggressive going on here, right?

Of course, anyone who knows this wedded pair, this blended family, does not question the depiction of the bride. Not a one.
Even the bride herself laughed when she first saw this rendering of the day. You’d just have to know this bride to understand.

How did that ceremony go? Why, it was a fine and simple service that carried on while snow and sleet swirled outside,  high winds howled and knocked out power, and  airports closed leaving guests at the gate.

Love’s hypnotic power kept both the bride’s and groom’s eyes locked. Neither looked out the window at the meteorological meltdown. Neither saw the dramatic impressions from Flower Girl.  NOTHING could stop these two lovebirds from tying the knot. And so they did, in spite of being upstaged at every turn by the weather and Flower Girl Extraordinaire.

Nine years later, the bride  still has a few tics. Flower Girl has retired her crown and rose petals. And the husband? I think he still has that look once in a while, especially when there’s a glass of sauvignon blanc in his hand.