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!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Catching Up: FCC-MD's Spring Festival Celebration

There's an ongoing family joke that we celebrate three new years every year: standard, Jewish (Rosh Hashonah), and Chinese. What that doesn't mention is the fact that Chinese new year celebrations are never just one or two days -- they occupy almost an entire month! As a result, my May 5th post was about the Year of the Monkey celebration, this post is about the Year of the Monkey celebration, and there's one more post coming about the Year of the Monkey celebration.

Hey, this is our version of normal. Deal with it.  <grin>

As they have for the past a couple of decades, on February 14th Families with Children from China - Maryland held a big Spring Festival/Chinese New Year event, which has wandered around the regional map but for the past couple of years has been at the Garrison Forest School.  We  attended & sometimes volunteered at a couple of these events before Gotcha Day (we actually skipped the 2010 event because it was just a little too painful waiting at that point), but have made a point of attending every year since the Pipsqueak came home. (At least we have on those years the event wasn't snowed out -- I'm talkin' 'bout you, 2014!)

A few years back, AJ volunteered me to help serve lunch, a little something she neglected to tell me until just a few days before the event itself. I actually had a great time so I've done it each year since then, and this year AJ & our folks volunteered to help with setup so we all arrived a bit early. It wasn't long before tables were being dragged & boxes lugged around the gym -- work that became much easier once I figured out how to use one of the big hydraulic pallet lifts the school made available to us and everyone worked out a system of moving, unfolding, and placement teams.

After a bunch of, "Maybe those tables should be there instead?" and a bit  "Holy crap, it's cold outside, close that door!" everything was in place and the event got started right on schedule. (Some of us helpers even got to sneak a hot egg roll as thanks for our work.) There was a silent auction, a bake sale, face painting, lots of different crafts, live performances, and more...

And then it was time to serve lunch and I got way too busy to take any photos.  Somehow our serving operation went a little more slowly this year despite (or perhaps because of) more people prepping & handing out plates, but everyone was patient and there was even time for some seconds -- although the leftovers were limited -- before the big lion dance was scheduled to begin.

As in the past, the Tai Yim Kung Fu School provided the lion dancers, and treated the crowd to a demonstration of various Kung Fu styles & techniques before the dance began.

Finally, the crashing of cymbals and the booming of the big drum signaled the start of the lion dance. After waking up from his nap, the golden creature pranced and leapt and strutted through the crowd as kids of all ages tried to feed it the traditional hong bao (red envelopes filled with money).

Eventually the lion (in this case, representing the Nian monster) ate the requisite head of lettuce & spit out what it didn't like to the crowd of kids scrambling to recover some. (Dude, when did lion puke become a good luck talisman?) At this point, the event began to wind down. There was time for one last visit to the bake sale table, replete with cute & yummy close-out discounts, and then almost everyone still there pitched in to help fold and stack all the chairs & tables. The last batch of volunteers tried to clean the gym floor despite a lack of brooms & dustpans, working around the kids who happily spread out over the almost-empty expanse of the gym with a level of energy that left most of us grownups jealous. We finished up as some of the school's lacrosse players began trickling in for an afternoon practice session (it was still bitterly cold outside).

After a last few conversations in the lobby we headed home, tired but happy. One of the things we had noticed during the event was how much it has changed in character over the years. While chuckling over the exclusion of the Chinese opera performances of many previous celebrations (usually much louder & cacophonous than most attendees liked) and reminiscing over the wide variety of locations over the years, we also had noticed some changes that are likely a harbinger of things to come. The overall number of families attending seems to be in a slow but steady decline; as crowded as the Garrison gym has been, there seems to be a little more room each year, and even the silent auction is shrinking just a tad each time.

The most obvious change, though, has been a slow but steady decline in the number of rug rats in attendance. Back in the early 2000s, babies, toddlers, and kindergarteners were underfoot no matter where you'd look, and for several years there were more with each celebration; no matter how many of the Chinese adoptees grew older, an equal or greater number of very young new adoptees would always fill in behind them. Then came the big slowdown in 2009-10, followed by a very large annual reduction in the number of new adoptions from China[1]... and the families attending the FCC new year celebrations reflect this with an average adoptee age that's slowly but steadily rising. Yes, there are still new & very young Chinese children being brought by their parents each year, but there are a lot more tweens & teens in attendance while the really little kids stand out mainly because of their relative rarity. What this means for organizations like FCC remains to be seen -- but the demographics of the China adoption community are definitely changing, and it will be interesting to see how the adoptees themselves relate to the existing organizations & event schedules as they grow older.

In any case, the second of this year's family Year of the Monkey celebrations came off with only a few minor hitches, and we all had a good time sharing it with each other & friends... and isn't that what this is all really about?

[1] According to CNN (whose numbers are good median values of those from many different sources), adoptions from China to the USA peaked at 7,903 in 2005 (when AJ first filed to adopt), and have been trending downward ever since to just 2,040 in 2014. (I don't have newer figures, sorry). The wait time when AJ filed her papers was 12-18 months; now it's not unusual for parents seeking to adopt from China to wait 7-8 years in the non-special needs track.

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