Note: I wrote all of this except the last couple of sentences on August 22nd, but… okay, I’m going to be honest here– I have no idea what happened. I think I was working or something.
Today was a big day for us, as I know it was for the families we were in China with. For it was one year ago today, August 22nd, when we went to the Welfare Institute in Guangzhou and paced nervously in the waiting room on the 3rd floor, practically shaking with anticipation and fear.
I seem to remember they brought Ava second, right after Karen?, but
honestly, I was out of my mind at that point. I just remember looking in her serious, dark eyes and sad face and feeling like I would do anything to protect her and take care of her and make her happy.
Well, I ain’t gonna lie. Ava has mostly been pure joy to be with. She’s happy, inquisitive, cute, loving, playful, silly and determined. Anyone who only knows her from China would not believe the child she has become. Shoot, I barely do. I remember thinking, “well, she’s kind of serious and thoughtful,” in China. Now, watching her babble and grin like a total goofball while trying to do a headstand, then shrieking with delight and dissolving into giggles when she ends up falling over, I wonder what happened. Is it all this sugar in her diet?
She still adopts the same attitude when watching Elmo, though. I can relate. Something about the bright, flashing colors of television turns me into a zombie. I have to watch myself around a live television or I end up in the middle of the night, thinking, “What happened? Did I just watch a six hour Family Feud marathon? When did Louie Anderson start doing this show?”
We took Ava out to a Chinese restaurant in town we like a lot, Tsing Tao. We also gave her this Chinese animal puzzle we bought in China. When I saw it, I thought it was too complicated for her. I have to tell you, and you know I hate to brag, Ava figured it out. We helped her a little the first time, but the second time she just busted it out. I’m no child developmental specialist, but I’m definitely liquidating her college fund and taking it to Vegas. She’ll be getting scholarships.
Anyway, it turned out that our waitress was a former student of Diana’s (from her very first year at Eldorado, actually), and she was the daughter of the restaurant owners. Her father came out of the kitchen, and her sister, who was also waiting tables and has a nine-month-old baby, came over and talked to us. Their family started out in Southern China, moved to Vietnam, then Hong Kong, then finally California and Colorado. They weren’t from Guangdong, but the father said they spoke Cantonese. He and the mother also know Vietnamese and English and, “a couple of other languages”, the daughters told us.
It was a wonderful evening. Ava devoured lo mein with some children’s chopsticks and kept informing us, “Yum! Pretty good!” and, “I did it!” if she navigated a particularly large bite into her mouth. Between the chopsticks and the puzzle, the air was ringing with “I did it!” all night.
I went into parenting believing that a child would teach me as much as I could teach him or her, and Ava has not let me down. Her pure, simple joy at accomplishing things and simply being loved and treasured has been a revelation. And yet she’s strong willed, too. She demands to do things on her own, and she wants to do everything she sees the adults and other children around her do.
I’ve heard people say and I’ve read on blogs that people wonder if they would love an adopted child. I can only speak for myself, but I ask myself if I could love a biological child as much as I love Ava. So much of my feelings for her are tied up in knowing her past and watching with amazement and pride as she accomplishes so much.
Anyway, this will come as a shock to anyone who knows me, but words fail me. Ava has been an indescribable blessing in our lives.
I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, Ava, but your Mom and Iove you with all our hearts. We are bursting with pride for your accomplishments in the last year, and we can’t wait for all of the joy and challenges the future will bring.
To all of our friends from the trip, our hearts and thoughts are with you and your beloved children too.