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, July 12, 2017

Seven Years Ago...

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break."
-- from an old Chinese story
Seven years ago, the ends of the thread connecting my sister and her daughter finally came together.

The Pipsqueak has spent the past week reminding us that Wednesday is Grandpa's birthday -- and (drum roll, please) her Gotcha Day.

She turned 8 only last month so she's really just wrapping her head around some of what that means, but she understands the whole "you grew in my heart, not beneath it" dynamic about as well as anyone just celebrating their 8th summer in this world is likely going to be able to.  After a seemingly steady increase in "When I was a baby in China..." stories (some of which were physically impossible), Miri's not spoken openly about it for a while. That fuzzy, distant past is continually being muscled aside by the realities of the here and now: worrying about passing the swimming test at summer camp so she can use the water slide (she did, with flying colors); trying to memorize all the words & dance moves for the upcoming parents' show at the camp; wondering what it'll be like to have classes up on the 2nd floor of her school in 3rd grade; trying to decide if she'll want to continue with Chinese school on Saturday mornings or join her neighborhood swim team instead (all for next summer, but she likes to plan ahead); trying to find a way to have her silly uncle schedule a play date at his house (I'm working on it!); and so on.

But for us... well, Gotcha Day is as fresh and sharp in our minds as it was almost 3/4 of a decade ago. It was a beautiful, sunny day, which I described thusly in a post back in 2011: "It was hot. Not, 'hey, the sun is strong' hot. Not, 'wow, I can get sunburned quickly here!' hot. No, it was more like, 'wow, my car just melted!' hot. I mean HOT. With humidity to match."

We all slept through the regular breakfast time and barely got anything to eat, thanks to not getting into bed until around 4:00am the previous night. All my cash was laid out on one of the beds, drying after I sweated through it while climbing the Great Wall the previous day. AJ reviewed her paperwork and re-re-checked the integrity of The Big Envelope at least four times. The entire group circumnavigated the hotel property in the blazing sun just to burn off (almost literally!) all the excess nervous energy. My email confirmed the PandaPhone folks had given up on finding me and were refunding their fee. We rode our agency-chartered minibus to another hotel, and rode upstairs to the government offices in stiflingly hot elevators so small & cramped that our little group had to split up. We spent 20 minutes trying to stay calm, planning camera angles and watching the two about-to-become-Big-Sisters in the group recklessly ride the two little hobbyhorses in the waiting room. AJ sat on the big, worn 1970s Burnt Orange sofa quietly twisting her hands this way, that way, this way again....

And then, a fast eternity later, I heard something in the hallway, stepped out the door to check, then darted back into the room yelling, "I SEE BABIES!" Several people came in, most notably two women and a man, each with a child; one walking easily with a worried expression, one walking a little less steadily with a "what's going on?" expression, and in the man's arms at the end of the procession a scrawny, nearly bald almost baby looking around silently but with obvious curiosity. The first two girls were introduced to their forever families almost simultaneously, with some obvious concern but none of the ear-splitting histrionics we'd learned to fear from YouTube videos.

And then, at exactly 3:33pm local (Nanning) time:

I think the appropriate comment at this point is, "And they lived happily ever after." Seriously, aside from the usual "stuff" life throws at us, that's an accurate statement; bonding problems were nearly nonexistent, health problems were nearly nonexistent, sleeping problems were nearly nonexistent... Sure, there were some days that were rougher than others (especially the day the Pipsqueak decided we were NOT allowed to put her down or stop moving while holding her) , and since then there have been the usual "moments" that every life includes, but that scrawny little thing in yellow print pajama top and blue print pajama bottoms is a caring, loving, intelligent, empathic, active, and curious child with an old soul who helps without being asked (most of the time), helps Mommy keep an eye on Grandma & Grandpa (especially the latter), and loves sharing together time with her family.

Meet the Pipsqueak! (Waiting for fireworks on July 4th.)
A closing note... We all had dinner together Tuesday night (Mom & Dad had a new central HVAC system put in the house to replace the rapidly-dying old system, and after picking up the Pipsqueak from summer camp I stuck around to help move furniture back, re-hang pictures, etc.). As we headed back to our respective houses, I leaned into AJ's van to say goodnight to the Pipsqueak and I commented that seven years earlier, at that time in China she was just beginning her last night in an orphanage. She paused for a moment, then smiled and blew me a kiss with a big smile and said, "Happy Gotcha Day Eve, Uncle Brian!"

Happy Gotcha Day, Pipsqueak! (And happy 87th birthday, Dad!)

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