how i found you


How I Found: My Daughter
March 24, 2009, 8:10 pm
Filed under: my daughter | Tags: , ,

I remember the moment I opened the e-mail attachment like it was yesterday. No, like it was a minute ago. A second. It contained a headshot of a girl — no longer a baby, not yet a toddler — dressed in a blue and white striped t-shirt with a second yellow t-shirt draped over it, so that you could see some, but not all, of the blue stripes underneath. The striped layer underneath might have been a little roomy for her, as I could see a large swath of her neck on the left side of her face but only a tiny sliver of it on the right. She wasn’t smiling. Why should she? She was looking slightly to the left of the camera, unhappy about something. Perhaps she had just been woken up from a good nap or taken from some toys she would have preferred to play with to have this photo taken. Her eyes were serious. I loved her immediately.

I am on a lot of Yahoo groups related to adoption, particularly Chinese adoption, and this story is common. Our lives are consumed by paperwork for a long time, much of it log-jammed in various government offices in various cities and countries for weeks and months on end, until finally we have completed our thick, authenticated, notarized and translated dossier. It is sent to another country far away and then we wait. And we wait. And people ask us a lot of questions about when it is going to happen and we say we don’t know. And then they ask us again a few months later and we say we still don’t know. And then one day the phone rings and it’s a pleasant-sounding woman saying congratulations, we have a referral for your family. And our heads spin and we sit down if we are able and we try to take notes and ask the questions we have been coached by other parents who have been through exactly this to ask but all we can really repeat to ourselves is: it’s real, she’s real, we can’t believe that she’s real. And then, moments after we hang up the phone, an e-mail appears in our in box and there is a photo of the child who will be, who is already, our child. And we can’t believe how quickly our hearts grow and bloom ad swoon inside our chests, how much in love we are already, even though we have yet to smell her hair or touch her hand or watch her sleep.

There is a saying in China that a thin red thread joins those who are destined to meet. I am watching my daughter dance the Mexican hat dance in our family room in Santa Fe as I write this. It is a year and four months since we first laid eyes on her in China, almost a year and a half since the day I opened that e-mail attachment and saw her wise, unsmiling face. “Hello, mom,” it said to me. “I am your daughter. And I am very sad right now. Will you be there to steward my sadness?” And yes I said yes I will Yes.

Bonnie Schwartz is a writer, editor, reader, teacher, and hiker. She lives with her husband and daughter in New Mexico.

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