My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

So Many Names for Such A Little Girl...!

Sorry about breaking the "One Year Ago Today" chain -- was a bit under the weather and a lot under deadline for several things simultaneously... it's hard to blog when your vision's too blurry to see the screen and your mind's too blurry to properly words together put. <yawn>

In any case, the "One Year Ago Today" entry for Thursday would've been a mention of The Bus Ride From Hell and I'll just let you read the original post. (AJ and I clearly remember many things about that bus ride, and somehow the memories insist on remaining crystal clear.) The entry for Friday would've looked back at the extremely hot & sweaty but very pleasant time we spent at Seven Stars Park in Guilin, followed by our tour of a silk factory (where I took a goodly number of "illegal" photos).

If I followed the usual pattern, the Saturday post would've been reminiscing about the amazing things we saw from a boat heading up the Li River to Yangshuo, and our stop at an art gallery where we watched a scene of bamboo magically appear on paper under the expert guidance of an artist carrying on his father's craft... and where we learned a lesson about the Pipsqueak, feeding times, and crochetiness that still holds true a year later.

But something very special happened on Saturday that I wanted to share. A year ago, the Pipsqueak was a nearly bald, quiet (usually) little baby; now she's an active, energetic, verbose little girl whose bangs are already in need of trimming again. Part of the change was reflected in the Naming ceremony on Saturday, where in the presence of loving family and many friends she was formally given her Hebrew name. Somewhere in all the happy noise & chaos, the hugging and happy sniffles, and the aching backs & feet, a quiet thought came floating into my mind: my niece is a barely waist-high to an ant, and yet she has more names than anyone else I know.

Just as with most of her family, she has her "everyday" name that we use all the time when talking to or about her, along with a Hebrew name chosen to honor relatives of a previous generation (whose behaviors & attributes she shares to a level that's positively spooky.)  But the Pipsqueak has another name, one that identified who she was for -- at this point in time -- longer than any other name she's known.

As far as we can tell, my niece doesn't recognize her Chinese name at all; I've tried it out on her a couple of times, and only once did I get any kind of reaction -- the same one I get any time I make a funny noise or use a word she hasn't heard before. She will learn her Chinese name as she grows older;  AJ has no intention of keeping it a secret or severing the Pipsqueak's ties to her birth culture... But I couldn't help but notice that she got a new name midday Saturday that she will eventually learn and hopefully keep as part of the heritage she is being raised within; that she recognizes, answers to, and has begun to identify herself verbally with the name her Mommy gave her roughly a year ago; and yet the name that was "her" for what is currently more than half her life is essentially just meaningless sounds to her.

I'm pretty sure this would have a different level of meaning if Miri had been adopted at her current age or older, at a time when she would've been identifying herself with/to her Chinese name... but it still shook me a bit. I'm used to dealing with the complexities of self-identity relating to being a TCK, but this is a whole new level of complexity attached to what -- for me -- has always been a relatively straightforward concept.

I have to apologize for a lack of sufficient mental acuity to discuss this issue further in this post due to many days' worth of stress & sleep deprivation. I'll be revisiting the subject later on, possibly several times over the coming months & years, but I think my brain has finally begun to wrap itself around the idea that something as "simple" as one's name can be an intensely complex concept... even if you're just a tiny little girl busy sleeping off the day's excitement (and a likely massive sugar high).

Oh, and she did take one tumble headfirst off a chair that left us all shaken (and that ended with that oh-so-familiar "THUNK!"), but the Pipsqueak only got a little upset -- and she came straight to her uncle to kiss the boo-boo and make it better.  :-)

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