In adoption circles, they call it the “Gotcha Day” – the day you actually get to physically touch the precious life you have been loving from afar. There really is no preparing for it or planning for it. It just happens like a sudden gust of wind and all you can do is try and brace yourself for the certain alteration of your life. Looking back on that day two years ago, I regret not digging my heals into the terribly fast moments – unaware of how important those first glimpses would become in our hearts.
(We will spare you the details of Gotcha Day but if you want to read about it, here is the post)
The best way I can describe the last two years is like a scavenger hunt for the heart of our new daughter. Each day brings another hint or pathway discovered into an antechamber of her soul. I often look back at the almost 18 years of our marriage (plus 3 years of dating!) and marvel at how little we knew each other back then compared to now. It excites me to see the same relational maturation growing between Meili and her family. It’s only a matter of time, my dear!
Much has changed in our lives and Meili’s yet it seems like only last week that we first set eyes on her. She is growing in health, intelligence, silliness and, most importantly, trust. Her smiles are abundant where once they were rare and her affection is widespread. She has fallen in love with her new brothers and sister to the point of missing them greatly when they are only gone a few hours at school. “Where’s Moemin (Corbin), ChinChin (Tristan) and eeyah (Leila)?” she will say with titled head and raised arms – its a simple question that always warms our hearts. A small sign of her growing into our family.
As our treasure hunt for the heart of Meili has progressed, we have discover a few fun facts about our silly daughter along the way:
- Meili LOVES ballet. Probably all the tutu’s and pink fluffy things (see photo above) – whatever the reason, she makes one adorable ballerina!
- Give her a hot dog or hamburger and when she is done eating you get the bun back for future use! Hot dogs are her favorite as they are easier to get in and out of the bun.
- She loves doing puzzles. But instead of connecting all the outside pieces first (like I was taught), she starts with the inside. In most cases, she begins with a face and constructs the puzzle moving out from there. It’s quite amazing to see.
- Meili is very smart. Consider the fact that she has had to learn two of the most difficult languages in the world, Chinese and English, in the three short years of her life. Although she cannot yet clearly say the words, she knows exactly what we are talking about when we ask her to do things like “Go clean your room”. She knows exactly how to respond (learned from her big sister)… “It is already!”
- She also very much loves to draw, color and paint. There is a creativity in her that is beautiful to witness. Thanks to big sister, Leila, and big brother, Tristan, she already knows her colors and can identify the words of the colors on a page without the color with them. I guess there is a good reason for Crayola to put the name of each color on the side!
- Meili is a thrill junkie! She loves for me to lift her up and sit her on the very top of my head. But soon that was not thrilling enough so we had to move into tossing her up in the air and catching her. Ever higher is the goal – the higher we go the bigger the scream of laughter.
- Lastly, Meili now sleeps however she darn well pleases – surrounded by dolls. If you remember, when we first got her she slept perfectly still, flat as a board and did not want anything in the crib with her. If we ever left a toy, she would toss it out before going to sleep. The flat, sleeping on her back being a result of how they strap the babies into their cribs at night, she now revels in her bedtime freedom. Most often we catch her sleeping upside down with a tiny arm hanging off her bed.
And yet her brief time in the orphanage seems to be a ghost haunting her in the most unexpected ways. If you go to her bed and lift up her princess pillow, under you will find a few small treasures. There might be a small action figure, a coin or two and often something shiny. It’s like pulling back the curtain on her heart in a way she might find violating so we quickly cover them back over and tiptoe back out of the room. We leave them there but her ghost walks away with us like a haunting reminder of a past filled with confusion. I feel so bad for her that one night I slipped into her room and added more stuff to her pillow stash!
Just yesterday we were watching her laugh and play with Tristan, Leila and Corbin. Her laugh is truly infectious! And then like a sudden rush of wind – like the day we first met her in China, I felt an overwhelming series of questions billow up in my mind. Do her birth parents miss her? If they could see this vibrant child laughing, coloring, eating hot dogs without the buns – would they have done what it takes to keep her? If they could experience these itty-bitty hugs and kisses would they sacrifice whatever was required to raise her? How am I going to ever love her enough to chase away these ghosts of doubt? Who knows what brought Meili’s birth parents to the desperate moments of abandoning their newborn – another question I cannot answer. But if I am struggling with these questions, I can only imagine what goes on behind those big dark eyes when Meili stops and stares out into the distance as she does every now and again.
What can we say? We had no idea what was in store for our family when we began this adoption experience! The fun, exhausting, silly, and emotional journey toward the treasured heart of our daughter has been a life altering experience worth its weight in gold. We are still following the trail of affectionate crumbs Meili is leaving us but I think we are somewhere close because the kisses are frequent where they were once rare. The smiles are continuous and the signs of knowing her place in our family are obvious. I would venture to say we are one hidden door away from seeing that gleaming, precious goal. And we are never going to give up!
It’s been an awesome two years. As always, we love you Meili…welcome home.