Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saturday Night Revelations

In Guangzhou riding to one appointment or another
January 2013
We are beginning our 8th week as a family of 7. To be honest, I was shocked at that realization. I feel like Elli has been part of our family for such a long time. Is it really still February? Yes, I suppose it is. I guess I shouldn't be surprised then at the conversation we had the other night.

I am almost fascinated at how we, she and I, communicate. It's less and less through Google translate and more and more that she understands what I'm asking her or saying to her. There are hand gestures for sure, she has beautiful, tiny, almost infant-sized hands. They are practically perfect and miniature. They speak volumes when she uses them to help her ask for something specific or when she uses them to express some emotion that she has had.

Sam and Elli... their first meeting.
It had been a really fun day. Most of her days are. There is a lot of laughter, giggles, and lately, silly faces around here as she loves to delight in her surroundings and loves to make people laugh. I suppose for the most part that is somewhat of a defense mechanism. After all, if you make the people around you happy, they are less likely to send you back where you came from. She's always a winner when Sam is around. He cannot help but smile and laugh at her whether she is being appropriate or not. It's always a great day in Elli's mind when Sam comes over. It's never for long but it's always for an Elli fix (and sometimes for dinner).

As adults, we assume a lot. I assumed that after "all this time" Elli should be totally secure in our love for her and the permanence of her as a member of our family. Then, I looked at the calendar and realized it'd only been 7 weeks from the day we first met. I am not sure I am convinced of much of anything after 7 weeks let alone being a loved and adored part of a family. She is a 5 yr. old little girl who is only just now becoming comfortable with a language she hardly ever heard. She is only just now considering American food to be palatable. She is only just now dropping her defenses and being honest about an occasional negative feeling.

Before 10 minutes ago, I was shocked about our conversation of Saturday night. Now it makes a lot of sense.

Saturday was a busy day, most of it because of all the rain we've been having was spent inside and, for me, in the kitchen preparing food for the coming week. Kate spent most of the day with a friend down the street and Josh was typically upstairs in his room hunkered down with friends on Xbox Live or drumsticks flying filling our home with downbeats and fills or strumming and plucking on his guitar. Saturday, Elli had daddy, that was important because daddy was leaving for the week beginning on Sunday morning. Daddy is Elli's Chinese communicator and when he's gone she doesn't get a lot of easy communication.

By Saturday evening Kate had returned and she and Elli had disappeared into her closet. Within 15 minutes I  saw two silly girls emerge dressed in a mish-mash of colorful apparel and ready to put on a show. They danced and twirled and sang and laughed and before they knew it, it was time to dial down, take a bath and head off to bed.

Usually if daddy is around, Elli insistes that he put her to bed. Saturday night was no exception, except one, after he kissed her goodnight and left the room she called for me. That has never happened. I was almost a little put out. After all I had more to do and she had already been tucked in. I put on my happy face, told myself to suck it up and headed in to give her a kiss goodnight. That was not the plan that Elli had, though.

I could tell that she was jazzed. Not really relaxed and sleepy enough to close her eyes. Her mind had been racing. Elliot jumped up onto the bed and cuddled up next to her (because after all it's not possible for me to be out of his sight). She began to ask me about daddy being gone. Elli wanted me to reassure her of all the things her daddy told her. One thing he said, the most important thing he said, was that he would be home in 5 days, "on mommy's birthday".

I confirmed for her that what he told her was true. That it was time to sleep. She would have none of it. She started talking about birthdays, that my birthday was next, then her birthday, then Kate's birthday then Sam's birthday, then Drew's birthday... all of this she said to me in English. She has come a long way in 7 weeks. I confirmed, once again, that she was correct. She's excited about her birthday. We've looked at birthday cakes. She had made sure earlier in the week that she would have one and that it would be "BIGGGGG" (with her arms open as wide as she possibly could open them).

Josh's birthday cake made of milk chocolate
delivered to our room in Guangzhou
compliments of The Garden Hotel
I told her that she would be 6 on her birthday. Then she did something I didn't expect. She did her typical "point towards the floor" meaning "here at home". I said "yes, of course, you will be here for your 6th birthday."

She began to list everyone's birthdays in order again. She got to Josh's and I told her it was a long way away because he had had his birthday in Guangzhou.

Once again, she made a comment about Guangzhou. Guangzhou was the city in China just Northeast of Hong Kong where the American consulate is. That is where all the Americans have to go and stay for about a week after leaving the province where they received their children. That is where all the paperwork is finalized in order that our children, born in China, can arrive in the states and become immediate citizens. I was a little baffled about her mentioning Guangzhou because it was not a place she'd ever been before the 11th of January of this year. I was confused and honestly thought she was telling me she wanted to go back.


With a little fear and a lot of trepidation I asked her. "Baby, do you want to go back to Guangzhou?"

"NO NO NO NO NO!!!! Meiguo" (pronounced Megwah - meaning America)

 She promised me that she had no interest in going back. She wanted to be in America. I asked her if she was happy to be here. I asked her if she was happy I was her mommy. She said yes, very happy.

Then she again asked me about her 6th birthday and I realized what she needed to hear.

I held up the appropriate fingers and I said "Elli, you will be 6 here, and 7 here, and 8, here..." she joined in the counting. "and 9 here, and 10 here..." we got as far as 30 and I then said "then you will meet a man..." she looked at me puzzled and I sorta laughed to myself. I knew very well that her smile and pretty face and heart of gold she would meet a man before she was 30.

Her first look at her bedroom "is this all mine?"
She began her daily reminder to me (often several times a day) of all that was "Elli's". She pointed to her bed and her room and her toys. She just wanted to confirm that she BELONGED. After all, if that room was hers she was surely staying.

Then, she sat up, looked in my eyes and said "Mommy," making her hands into fists and putting them to her eyes as if she was rubbing them (her symbol for crying) "Guangzhou" she added. I knew what she meant.

Her first plane ride... Jan 11, 2013 - from Haikou to Guangzhou
On our last day in Guangzhou, first thing in the morning, before breakfast, she had a throw-down of sorts. It was to a degree legit but it got out of hand. It was crunch time, we needed to eat breakfast and hand off our baggage to be taken to the van. We needed to get to the airport and begin our 20 hour excursion back home. She decided to stand in the middle of the hotel room crying at the top of her lungs for one full hour. She wasn't going to move, she wasn't going to be quiet, there was no calming her as I had successfully done previously. There was only one thing to do - ask our guide to speak to her.

Sweet Rebecca did just that. She came to our room and not only calmed her down but did it with reason, not allowing her to continue to wallow in her circumstances. She basically told her to "get a grip". We ended up leaving for the airport with a very angry but tearless and quiet little girl. I, on the other hand, lost it on the van ride to the airport. That had put me over the edge. I wasn't crying for myself, I was crying for her. Crying because we were taking this little princess to begin a wonderful life in America but she had no way of being assured of that. Thankfully, within the hour, she was her old happy self.

A new American Citizen. Antics on the
Plane-Train in the Atlanta Airport
 "Mommy," she said again, "Guangzhou" and again she made her symbol for crying.

I smiled and said, "Yes, Elli, I remember. You cried in Guangzhou."

"Mommy, I sorry."

I was stunned... "What?"

"I sorry" symbol for crying "Guangzhou"

Oh my, I really didn't know what to say. I took her hands in mine. I smiled at her.

 "I love you, Elli"

"I love you too, Mommy"

She laid down and cuddled under her blankets. She looked up at me and grabbed my face in her hands. She has a routine of kisses before she closes her eyes. She turned my face and kissed my right cheek, then my left cheek. She pushed my face down and kissed my forehead and then, the most prized kiss of all - a big pucker to my lips. I did the same and she said. "Goodnight, Mommy, see you in morning."

"See you in the morning, Elli. I love you."


I  cringe every time I hear her say that. There's something unnerving when your daughter tells you "bye" as you leave her room after tucking her in. She has always said that so I've tried not to let it bother me too much. I think when she learns more English, I'm gonna tell her not to say that anymore.

1 comment:

  1. OMIGOSH. Totally crying here..... So sweet. So sad. So "adoption." The beauty. The pain. What a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing this intimate peek into your heart and hers.