It was bumpy ride from the hotel to the Civil Affairs Office of Nanjing filled with lighthearted banter and nervous laughter. The sweet family from Indiana joining us where in the back seat with their first adopted Chinese daughter and we were in the front row. The winding road from paperwork to reality seemed so much longer in the rear view mirror and this day felt a little anti-climatic in comparison. Whether we were ready or not, our lives along with the life of one little girl were about to become irrevocably intertwined in a journey sure to be like no other.
I spent the 20 minute drive distracting myself with the exotic sites flying by our windows.
It was different for Tracy – she fell in love with Meili almost instantly. On this day, she was going to embrace our new daughter like holding a baby on the day of her birth. The same anticipation as the day our other children were born showed on her face like a sunset. This was a day long fantasized about for Tracy.
For me – I was on a mission. Flowing cape and all, I was in China to accomplish something that has lingered on my to-do-list for way too long. I was there to take part in something far larger than me and boy did I feel my back getting patted!
What I did not realize at the time was that little crowded room was holding in it more than just our new daughter. Sitting along side of that precious little one stuffed in a yellow fluffy coat were better versions of ourselves just waiting to be brought home. Somewhere along the way, the brochure from our adoption agency left out the part about leaving in China the petty, complaining and infantile version of yourself. After you hold that abandoned soul, life starts to look significantly different and what seemed to matter yesterday really has nothing on today. When you open your heart to an orphan, you shed so much of yourself – much of it you wished wasn’t there to begin with. Adoption is a remarkably complicated experience and different for everyone. However, I venture to say nobody comes out the other side anything like the person they were at the start. You simply can’t.
Meili was sitting by herself on a couch under a window – her orphanage director and his awkward assistant were lurking nearby but neither one offering anything close to affection for the frightened girl in silence. She was alone, once again – but for the last time.
We entered the room with our traveling companions from Indiana and we both spotted our children at the same time. To my surprise, emotion had overcome me as it did Tracy and I could see very little through my blurry eyes. I can just imagine Meili seeing these two lumbering, pale giants with wide (red) eyes and protruding noses coming straight for her. As anyone would at that site, tears came suddenly and soon the three of us collapsed into sobbing circle. Ours of joy, hers of terror!
It was a fantastic day.
These three years have felt like three weeks. They have gone very quickly and I have planted my heals in the ground as much as possible to slow it all down. Back in China is the version of me in a hurry to get from point a to point b. Back in China is that version of me who sees himself through the deceitful eyes of professional accomplishments and selfish motives. A person unable to see the fleeting beauty of these brief moments in time we get to invest in someone else. Good riddance!
We set out on the afternoon of April 19th, 2010, to bring home our Chinese daughter but what we brought home was a life greater than anything we could have ever imagined. Like the warm sun after a long cold winter, Meili has given growth and beauty into our entire family. Forevermore, Gotcha Day will be a celebration of an important turning point in our lives – the day we became more of what we were meant to be.
Thank You Meili and welcome home!