Thursday, August 27, 2009
Writing at Dawn
It is nearly six, and the sun is just beginning to peek over the mountains. In the past hour, I've watched as the dark sky has gone deep blue and then purple streaked with gold and pink.
My house is silent for a change. Shorter days bring longer sleep to my crew, and I find myself awake and as alone as I ever am. I peeked in on Cheeky and Sassy when I woke at four. They slept deeply. Sassy face down, her hair a wild mass of silky strands. Cheeky face up, her white hair spiked around her face, her arms flung wide as if, even in sleep, she was prepared to embrace whatever came her way.
And I thought, "What were you afraid of?"
I will never forget the day I met Cheeky. I was absolutely sick with dread. I wanted to get on the plane and go back to my safe and relatively easy life. I wanted to forget the insane notion that we could bring a seven-year-old into our home and create one family from two.
My husband and the guide chatted easily as we drove through Chongqing (crazy, beautiful city), but I really had nothing to say. I wanted to get it over with, see what the damage was going to be. Cheeky had been described as active, restless, talkative, stubborn and obstinate. No one would give me any answers about how she functioned in school. I was sure she'd be hyperactive and strong-willed, and that she'd probably scream her dislike as we dragged her from the civil affairs office.
I was also sure I'd made a terrible mistake, and every warning from every ill-informed friend, family member and stranger whispered through my mind as we took an elevator up to the lobby where we were to meet our new daughter.
"Please, God, let me love this child. Please, let me love her," was my prayer as I waited.
Because I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to. That maybe she would feel as much a stranger to me as I was to her. That maybe we would never click as mother and daughter, and I would spend the rest of my daughter's life trying to make up for the emotion I lacked.
And then Cheeky walked around the corner with her strawberry ice cream cone. She wore the same purple dress she'd had on in her referral photo, and her arms were nothing but skin and bone. She was smiling, and when we said her name, she came happily. Bouncing. Bubbling over with the love that always seems to be part of Cheeky Q.
And I looked into her clear blue eyes, and I knew she was mine.
I loved her then.
But I love her more now.
I love the little girl who drove me crazy in China. The one who threw two raging fits, but who also smiled and danced and laughed her way from Chongqing to Guangzhou. The little girl who sat beside me on the plane and never once whined or cried or complained despite the fact that she was sick. I love the kid who called all her siblings by name when she met them, but who still mixes up her brothers on occasion. I love the child who is willing to try anything, but who reaches for my hand when trying is just a little scary. I love the little girl who runs across the grass barefoot after being stung twice, the child who sits in my lap and looks at photo after photo. The one who sometimes mopes and whines and scowls because she is as imperfect as I am. The sweet, sweet child who can't see worth beans, but who does her schoolwork with gusto, who loves to clean the school table and who organized the coat closet without me even asking.
What was I afraid of?
Last year at this time, we'd just completed our cross country move. I remember driving through South Dakota, Montana and Idaho and wondering what it was like for those long ago explorers. I imagined them trekking along, the blue-green mountains always in front of them, and I wondered if they were afraid. Did they want to turn around and go back east? Did they worry that they'd made a mistake? Or did they simply trust that when they got to the other side of the mountain, they'd be home?
I've heard it said that fear is the absence of faith. I'm not sure that's true. It is human nature to be afraid of the unknown. It is faith that pushes us through those moments of doubt and worry and brings us to exactly the place we were always meant to be.