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:


  1. You closed the drawer? When she wanted it open?? I guess you did have a few things to learn about raising children. Give them everything they want and everyone is happy.

  2. i know, i know ... foolish me! just wait until i refuse her the keys to the car ... that's when we'll send her out to visit you ♥

  3. We're willing to negotiate a trade of some sort when the time comes. A week or so should be enough time. We're not sure if it will be Ava or Evan. . .

  4. This is SUCH an unbelievable adorable and heartwarming post. Thanks for sharing!!! My heart is lightened.

  5. Wow Lis...such an absolute beautiful family...all I see is LOVE.

  6. there is a really powerful and emotive narrative of a trip to adoption. I can't imagine, and yet I still felt even with my own children, will I be able to soothe, comfort, understand? Many times over the last 17 years I've wanted to be handed the 'children' manual as I;ve felt lost and helpless. I guess it's like this for all parents however we came to be parents :)

    Thank you for your lovely comments on my blog too.

    Happy days.


  7. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It's so moving and the video of Clara makes me smile. Nora hasn't yet had any full on meltdowns but I know the time is coming soon. Toddlerhood is a true test for the eardrums as well as your patience,lol. I can't wait!

    On a side note I also want to say that I think it's great the way you celebrate your family day. I think adoptive families should celebrate like this as a way of bonding and of showing their child how special they are and how happy everyone is that they are a part of the family. My oldest nephew was adopted at the age of 3 by his stepfather (real dad walked out just after he was born) and my sister and her husband have kept it a secret. He doesn't know he's adopted and he's sixteen now. I am sooo worried about how this secret will affect him when it comes out. I wish they had chosen a path of openness and celebration like you instead of a path of secrecy and deception :(. Ugh sorry for rambling. I was just talking with my nephew and he was on my mind while I read your post.

  8. How absolutely wonderful!! This is truly beautiful - honestly, the true meaning of family.

    Ah, and today, we tried to "force" our son to go to a park when all he wanted to do was stay at home and play. We might as well have tried to close a drawer when he wanted it open.

    Geez. When will we learn.

  9. i know you've had lots of great days in those 4 years- love the chronological bday pics! :)

  10. Having read this post I admire you even more so than before ( if that is possible). I adore the yearly celebration photos, what a lovely way to chronicle your family life.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this, Lis. It's truly heartwarming and wonderful. And as for the little clip of Cowgirl ... whoo! That's one strong willed little girl you have there. I get the impression from other things you've said that she still, shall we say, knows what she wants from life!!!! Love to you all. Janice.