Our friend began singing the words to Tim McGraw’s My Little Girl…
“Gotta hold on easy as I let you go. Gonna tell you how much I love you, though you think you already know.”
I hadn’t expected to cry, but as I watched my husband and our oldest daughter on the dance floor, the tears leaked out. I watched the two of them and thought of that tiny little preemie pictured in our assignment paperwork and the surprisingly fat-cheeked baby my husband carried off the plane. We learned later that her fat cheeks were a result of the drugs that helped her premature lungs develop. As the song continued, “I thought you looked like an angel wrapped in pink so soft and warm,” I remember my husband saying he felt like he was stealing a national treasure as he made his way through Seoul’s Gimpo Airport. And what a treasure she is!
Tiny but mighty (her father-in-law describes her as a Mini Cooper with machine guns), this preemie became a fiercely competitive athlete even when four knee surgeries sidelined her for much of her school career. Never afraid to step out and look silly, she brought a new energy to our family dynamics.
The song continued, “You’ve had me wrapped around your finger since the day you were born.” Well, not exactly since that day, but certainly since the day we first saw her picture. For her 13th birthday my husband gave her a ring to symbolize he’s always been wrapped around her finger.
“You’re beautiful baby from the outside in.”
My husband always took this line to mean she’d come from outside our family, but the truth is, with her birth mother’s facial features and small frame and her birth father’s muscular build, she is beautiful on the outside and, I like to think, with the values with which she was raised, she is indeed beautiful inside as well.
As the dance continued and our friend sang, “Someday a boy will come and ask me for your hand,” I looked over at her groom and saw the awe and love on his face. Would he be good enough for her? Would he appreciate the unique person she is? Do we ever stop worrying about our children?
My husband and our daughter were still swaying on the dance floor as our friend sang the last line of the song, “Go on, take on this whole world, but to me, you know, you’ll always be my little girl.” Born to other parents on a different continent, but placed in our arms when hardship caused their lives to tailspin, she has been loved since the day she was born – first by her birth family and then by us. She has built a bridge between two cultures as she’s celebrated being Korean as well as being part of our family. Did we know how intense our feelings would be as we filled out the mountains of paperwork 20-some years ago? No, but as my husband and our daughter, the bride, exited the dance floor and I wiped the tears from my eyes, I had no doubt in my heart this has all been right and she will always be, “our little girl.”