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A few years ago, when I was eleven years old, my family returned to my birthland -- Vietnam -- where I met my birth mother and a great big extended birth family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even an infant half-sister. For one whole year beforehand, I worried about that meeting. Many times, I swore I wouldn’t go. I felt scared and confused about this mysterious, long ago, far away family and how meeting them was sure to jeopardize, somehow, my security in the world of the family I have always known. But in the end I found my courage, took a deep breath, and opened the door to my earliest family.
My reunion was delicious, emotional, overwhelming. We waited nervously at the predesignated spot until my birthmother -- young, pretty and pink-helmeted -- zipped in on a motorcycle to escort us to her remote village. A hundred people lined the street there and then crowded into her tiny home where I saw that her few possessions included two framed photos of me. There was so much chatter and joy and pride in that room. There were many tears too, but little sadness.
I am sixteen years old now, and I count that day as one of the most meaningful days of my life. Somehow instead of threatening my feelings of family security and belonging, that experience has helped me to feel surer and prouder about my place. For the first time, I talk openly and easily about myself, even when the topic involves my heritage and my adoption. And I now see that, in letting my birth family “in,” I am more genuinely sure that, in opening her heart to adoption, my birth mother allowed me to find my way to where I was meant to be.
I think of a story my mom often tells. It is one of our family’s “meant to be” stories, and this one involves my sister, Julia, who was adopted from China ten months after I came home. I sometimes wondered if Mom’s story was a fairy tale, but I no longer wonder about that. The story goes like this: Even before my Mom knew who I was, she planted a garden for me. After I had been home for a couple of months, my Mom began planning for my sister, Julia, and started a garden for her too. One day, my mom took me outside and laid me on a blanket while she was transplanting plants from the back garden to the front garden. I was nine months old. At one point while my Mom was gardening, I fell asleep. My mom thought it would be the perfect opportunity to drive to the plant nursery. The only reason that we went to the nursery that day is because I had fallen asleep. When she returned home with me an hour later, my Mom couldn't believe her eyes. First, she saw downed power wires at the top of the driveway. When she walked up the driveway to investigate, she saw that an eighty foot tree had fallen into the yard, obliterating the entire garden where we had been. Carrying me inside, my mom thought to herself if we hadn’t gone to the nursery, then we could both be dead.
Just then, she noticed something quite remarkable. Even though the downed wires had caused a power outage, the light on the answering machine was blinking to indicate a new message. When she pressed the lighted button, my mom heard the voice of a someone from the adoption agency. “ We have good news,” the voice said. “We have identified your daughter from China. Please buy your airline tickets. You will be leaving for China in three days.” This story means a lot to me because I believe the truth of it. I think there was nothing random about the events of that day, or the events of my own early life. I am home. My sister is home. Together, all of us, we are the family we are meant to be.
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