“My name is Waiter – not waiter in the sense of someone who waits at tables in a restaurant, but meaning someone who waits for a future which never comes.”
– Xinran, “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother.”
I’m supposed to be finishing my senior policy analysis right now. But approaching the fertility management laws in China from a policy angle, while important and necessary, leaves a gaping sore in my heart that cries out for catharsis. That and my copy of “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother” arrived today and it utterly and completely killed me inside. While I have an extensive dance background, I’m not really feeling the whole interpretive dance from the balcony form of therapy, and nobody wants to see me draw. So here I am.
I know a lot of people assume that I have a heart for China because they feel my parents somehow expect me to. Sometimes they’ll ask me,
“But what would you want to do if you DIDN’T have siblings from China?”
The answer? Exactly what I’m doing right now.
I don’t love China because it’s trendy. I don’t love China because I think Chinese adoptees are some kind of special designer child. A social status. I love it for that awkward burnt-liver smell that I can smell every now and then when I open a box that was made in China. I love hunting groceries in the Carrefour, not having to leave my name with a laundry mat in Guangzhou because mom and I have curly hair, I love letting the students practicing English make fun of my Texas accent that grows thicker the more exhausted/jet-lagged/emotionally spent I am, I love seeing the countryside – I can’t really say driving through the countryside because I get carsick in Dallas, much less China – I even love the food, and the not knowing what anyone around me is talking about, and letting elderly Chinese ladies drag me into Tai Chi sessions in the park, and watching homosexual ballroom dancers try to persuade my big, macho-manly-man-Texas-rancher-father to join them in a tango. . .(but that’s another story). . .
I hate being in the orphanages. I hate walking through the halls and seeing the faces of the twelve and thirteen-year-old girls that have spent their lives in the Social Welfare Institutes, excited at seeing new faces, but pain and bitterness in their eyes because they know the new faces aren’t for them.
But it isn’t a matter of feeling sorry for them. It’s not pity. It’s not philanthropy. And that’s where I do owe my family. Because it’s a sense of connection, in some small way. Connection to the mother who clung to Cait as long as she could, waiting until she was several months old before she left her wrapped warmly in a box on the orphanage steps in Nan Ping. Cami, found in a bus station still wet from her birth. Trent, abandoned for his missing foot. Aeren, left in the mouth of a coal mine. Sisters and a brother that mean every bit as much to me as Whitney, Logan, Kyle, and Trey. Cami who cried over Spring Break because she realized that I’m never really going to live at home again. Aeren who has fought for her life since the beginning – and has the stubbornness to prove it. Trent who was so ashamed of his foot that he screamed and cried the first night with our family because we had to take his three-sizes-too-small shoes off. Cait, 9 going on 40, who sits around reading science textbooks instead of picture books because she’s too old for childish things like fiction. . .and all four of them who pray diligently and sincerely every single night, with absolutely no prodding or instruction from anyone in our family, for their mother and father in China, and the rest of their biological families – and God help you if you tuck them in and forget to pray with them.
Just like my other four siblings have characteristics from our family members, somewhere in China someone passed those on to my siblings. Their families are out there, and I may not share any more blood with them than I share with my Penguins. But in a way, they’re my family too. I won’t ever meet them this side of Heaven, but I will fight for them. Through policy, through advocacy, through prayer.
Maybe someday I won’t have to think about the mothers that are watching from a distance right now, making sure their babies are found safely and swiftly. But until then I join my prayers with those of the Blessed Mother, who gave her son up to death on a cross, and knows perhaps better than any other human what those mothers are feeling now.