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!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Something Shared

At the very end of my "trying to catch up" post, I mentioned I had another point to make about this year's FCC-Maryland Chinese New Year event...

When she signed the family up to attend, AJ also volunteered her big brother to serve food during lunch (a minor detail she failed to mention to me until several days beforehand). Although I wasn't sure about having to "work" instead of wandering through the various activities offered, I wound up having a lot of fun loading plates with various types of rice and moving 'em up the assembly line with friends old & new. (Point of pride: we fed 350 people in 30 minutes!)

The one scary thing was that for the first 15-20 minutes, no matter how many filled plates were passed to hungry attendees, the line seemed to get longer every time one of us paused to turn around & take a look. I could've sworn that there were at least 50 people waiting for food right up until we got the "all clear" to put together plates for ourselves... and yet there was nary a grumble, no request to hurry it up, no complaints that we were keeping little kids hungry. In fact, everyone seemed content to wait patiently while talking with whoever happened to be near them in line, with just an occasional, "I needed three of those, please, not two" or similar comment.

Afterwards, belly full and back only slightly sore (Dude, next time bend at your knees, not your lower back!) as I followed the Pipsqueak around with my camera, I found myself contemplating the mystery of so many people waiting so patiently while the food was in plain sight, kidlings were running around asking when they'd eat, and the time available to eat kept ticking down. And then it hit me.

Every person in that redecorated gym was in some way directly connected with the process of adopting at least one child from China. Older siblings had gone through the paperchase and wait with their parents. Older adoptees would have been aware, during their time in orphanages and SWIs and foster homes, of the time passing as they waited to be introduced to their new families and begin their new lives. And every adoptive parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle there had slogged through year upon year of, "fill out forms, mail forms out, wait to hear, pay some fees, fill out new forms, mail new forms out, wait to hear some more, pay some more fees..." repeated ad nauseam and then repeated some more until that day when a (possibly terrified and screaming) child was [handed to them / thrust into their arms / guided in their direction / urged to walk to them] only to then begin the (possibly years-long) process of building the mutual care, trust and loving that make a family a family.

These are people who know how to wait.

This is, as varied as it might be internally, a unique demographic with a shared skill set: the (painfully, expensively, emotionally draining, stressfully, dreamily, sleeplessly, hopefully, powerlessly) learned skill of waiting for something so strongly desired that entire families' lives are placed into a holding pattern for the better part of a decade. Once you've been through the paperchase, what's a few minutes standing in line for lukewarm Chinese food? You're with your child(ren) and the room is chock-full of people who understand what you're talking about (and what you feel) when you say things like, "The I-800 took forever and between DTC and LID time just seemed to stand still but it moved even slower between LID and LOA and I can't understand why the CCCWA even bothers with LSC these days because of Hague and somehow it didn't feel real when we finally got TA because there was still trouble lining up CA..." I mean, c'mon, what's ten, fifteen minutes in line compared to that?

Note to non-international adoption readers: I did not make up any of the preceding paragraph's alphabet soup, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you're a random visitor or family friend reading this post, you may not understand... but if you're a member of a family with at least one member adopted from overseas, I apologize for possibly resurrecting bad memories!

All those acronyms and forms and fees and phone calls and investigations and documentation require one to pay close attention to sometimes miniscule details, remember unmemorable tidbits from previous decades, and the ability to deal with having one's life examined in extreme detail -- and judged! -- by total strangers whose job description sometimes involves acting as an obstruction in your quest to achieve an important dream.

You learn patience. You learn to bite your tongue. You learn... to wait.

And when, after years of increasing desperation, impatience, and second-guessing the actions of bureaucrats in at least two nations thousands of miles apart, followed by anything from days to years of  working on a minute-by-minute basis to overcome all the emotional and experiential obstacles that may block the path to comfortable, loving, "easy" familyhood... Well, one day you realize you've achieved what you were waiting for, and there isn't likely to be anything else in your life (with the possible exception of additional international adoptions) for which waiting will be so difficult, so intense, so much of an 800 pound gorilla sulking in the corner of every room.

Yes, we were slingin' hash as fast as we could, and will do so again in the future -- but this is a bunch of people who know how to wait like almost no one else.

And you (we) should all be proud of that hard-earned skill.

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