Monday, August 23, 2010
august 23 - yesterday and today
An album of Family Days going back four years ...
Feeling pretty nostalgic here. Even though it has been four years since our trip to China, the memories of our time there seem very fresh and vivid. Kind of like waking up from a dream and you remember all these details and spend the entire day haunted by the desire to link them all together into a coherent narrative.
Besides the obvious fact that it was the time we became a family, there are so many other aspects that made our time in China a memory that seems to linger and which I find myself compulsively reliving in my mind. There was the jet lag, the culture shock and the surreal experience of being handed your daughter with a "here she is!" and being left on your own. I changed my first diaper and made my first bottle in China. I was pretty green when it came to caring for a young child! We had to make ourselves understood and we had to figure out what this pretty determined little girl wanted and we had to learn fast!
On top of a huge learning curve (no manual and even if there was one, it would have been in Chinese) there was the fact we were surrounded by dozens of other adoptive families in various states of shock. For some, the transition was smooth but there were many - the haunted faces in elevators and dining rooms - who were struggling with sick children and children in the process of deep grieving. It was odd being in a luxury hotel and nothing but strollers, squeaky shoes and families all around you. It was comforting on one level: I learned a lot from other families sitting next to our table at meal times as boundaries broke down quickly amongst the groups. But it was also isolating as everyone was engaged in very private process of attaching while in a public and unfamiliar setting.
Mixed with feelings of elation and joy - the first smile, hug or laugh - was incredible anxiety and fear. Am I up for this challenge? Will she attach to me? Do I have the proper instincts to mother this child? The day after you are given your child, you return to the Civil Affairs office for a series of final interviews where the adoption legal process in China is completed. In one interview we sat at an official's desk while another family in the room answered a series of grueling questions: what kind of education did they have planned for this child? Their schedules? When our official finally looked up, I believe all she asked us was "are you pleased with this baby?"
It was incredibly hot, babies were constantly crying and we nodded yes, signed some forms and were ushered into a new line. (I believe we also were praying Cowgirl would stay calm and not reveal our total ineptitude to soothe her; this did happen the next day when it was time for passport pictures and clearly frustrated by unending queues, cried the entire afternoon.) This was the moment we officially became a family and it was like being in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney.
So like an intense dream full of Alice in Wonderland images, I return again and again in my mind to the events of that time, wanting to create a coherent narrative. I guess I am realizing by its nature, that is impossible. And what made our trip so memorable was the wild range of emotions and experiences underwent in three weeks time. As crazy as it sounds, I loved the intensity of southern China in August; it prepared us for the intensity of our future life with Cowgirl.
An anniversary treat - Cowgirl Unplugged: