Go See China? She asks us this on a regular basis. Her photo album from our time with her in China during adoption week is well worn. We pull out the pictures from her orphanage and talk about them with her.
Some days they bring a smile to her face, but mostly she zones off in the thousand-yard stare. When she asks for more, we find YouTube videos of her SWI. She flip-flops from telling us she, “no like dat house” and, “Anna, go see China?” I can only imagine what it must be like for her processing her memories.
Our girl, adopted through Children's House International, was two months shy of her ninth birthday on adoption day. Her attachment to me was almost instant. She has teenage siblings who she adores and, after a short adjustment, she fiercely loves her Baba.
Anna’s enrolled in a local public Montessori charter school where she has a best friend, also adopted from China, and close relationships with her teachers and other classmates, but if you ask her, she’d tell you she’d rather be at home.
She enjoys the library, likes to wear pretty dresses to church and flat out loves to go to the pool. Girlfriend swims and plays in the water like a baby otter. She readily joins in family outings, however, she frequently asks when we’re going home.
I wouldn’t say she’s an introvert or that she’s shy. She just really likes being home and she likes it most if her mama is there with her. All this to say, as Anna adjusts to so much in her new country, new family, school and friends, I’ve come to believe that she senses or is searching for, needing, some kind of bridge between the world she came from, and the one she occupies now.
We can give our adopted children absolutely everything and still never replace their first home, first country, first language, first flag.
Last week Anna and her Montessori classmates had the opportunity to participate in one of the largest cross-country ski events on this continent. The American Birkebeiner is one of the longest running cross-country ski marathons drawing 13,500 competitors from 49 states and 23 countries across the globe.
The Barnebirkie children’s event has approximately 1,000 skiers ages 3-13. As I attempted to drive through the chaos that is a small Wisconsin town hosting a world class event, I had to stop when I spied the American Birkebeiner International Bridge.
Decorated with national flags, representing participating skiers from all over the world, this temporary bridge allows skiers and spectators to cross over a busy four lane U.S. Highway.
I parked the car and pulled my hat down on my ears as Anna and I climbed out to find “her flag”. As I struggled with the lump in my throat, we found that sea of red with its five golden stars snapping in the wind. I glanced a bit higher, with tears practically freezing on my face, to gaze upon the stars and stripes.
At that moment I was remembering what it felt like to stand at the United States Consulate in Guangzhou and see my flag. On that bright sunny day, I was blown away by how blessed my family has been by adoption and what a huge responsibility we have to teach our children about BOTH of their countries.
We’re planning to return with Anna to visit China someday. We pray it will help her process her memories and she will find some of the answers to her questions, some of them she’s not even yet asking. Together, as a family…a bridge we can cross hand in hand.