Monday, December 3, 2007

The X-Files, Continued

We're in the Tropic of Cancer (oops, I first typed Tropic of Cantor) in the city of Haikou (pronounced high-KO) on the island province of Hainan off the southern coast of China. This is the island of our daughter's birthplace. It is also the southernmost part of the world we have ever visited, but that will change on Wednesday when we take a van to Sanya.

Mark and I have also recently been to the top of the world, literally - we took the Great Circle route in the plane from Newark to Beijing. When you fly West to go East, you go over the top of the North Pole. This route brings you to Asia sooner than flying laterally west. The only place farther north than that is the moon, I guess.

Anyway, back to Saturday. We got our excited but rather sleepy daughter back to the hotel and proceeded to get acquainted. She amused herself and us by turning all the lights on and off, massaging our hands with moisturizer, singing and dancing, and charming us in her deliciously sunny way. She loves to draw (and is good at it!) but when she started throwing the pens and paper around we knew it was nap time. Which led to her first meltdown with us.

As we petted her and hummed gently, she howled for her friends and her art supplies. Many tears of anguish fell down her lovely cheeks; clearly she had kicked off the mourning process for her old life. We'd been through it with Harry during his first two weeks with us, and we would see it through this time also. The fine line here is to let her know you're there with heaps of love, but to allow her to grieve as much as she needs to. If you stanch the tears, you cramp the soul and clot the healing process.

Eventually she and I fell asleep. I woke up five hours later next to a very limp, very cute bundle. Xiao-Ling is used to a tight schedule, but her life is changing now and she needs rest, so Mark and I chose to stick to our prime directive of "let sleeping babies lie." After she woke up we watched Chinese opera and ballet on TV and she was fascinated. Dinner was soup and salads from room service. Xiao-Ling insisted on serving herself, taking bowlful after bowlful of soup without spilling a drop. I can't do that with two good hands. She is amazing.

I'd conked out in the afternoon, so it was Mark's turn to conked out in the evening. Then it was girls' night in and I gave Xiao-Ling a shower bath. She protested with many squeaks of indignation when I lifted her into the tub, but as soon as she was clean and I started to drain the water, she sat down and began to play in it with a meltingly devastating smile. For the first time I got a full look at the surgery scar on her sternum. It's about six inches long and rather neat except for the very bottom which is slightly wavy in terms of skin texture. This little one has been through so much, but none of her scars are internal, thank God.

Xiao-Ling came to us wearing the clothes on her back, with her pajamas from the night before underneath. Although I put fresh underwear on her, I let her sleep in the pajamas she brought so that she would have a familiar bouquet in which to slumber. She got into the rollaway cot and indicated that I was to lie down with her. What a privilege. I gently opened the fingers of her left hand and massaged her limb as we launched into her first bedtime ritual as a Shuchat-Marx: songs (I See the Moon and Hush Little Baby), two books, plus the usual suspects: Bears in the Night, Goodnight Moon, (later we'll insert Michelle Shapiro Abraham's Laila Tov, as we did for Harry) and the bedtime Sh'ma. By the end she was fast asleep in my arms.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe and Source of all creation - for delivering these parents safely into the arms of our child, and for delivering our child safely into the arms of her parents. Amen Selah!

Sunday morning Mark and I gazed at our still-sleeping pipsqueak. Today would involve lots of travel, but first a moment of peaceful thanksgiving. We were rewarded by the morning's kiss of our daughter unfolding herself gently from slumber. Gracefully, stunningly, simply exquisite, she stirred, opened her gorgeous eyes, rubbed them slightly and gave her BaBa a slow, sweet, sassy smile. We were undone.

After a lovely Scandinavian breakfast (punctuated by our daughter's tonic recipe from the Joy of Disgusting Cuisine), we checked out and met Sabrina downstairs for the ride to the airport. The flight to Haikou took about three hours. I think Mark and I were the only non-Asians on the plane. We boarded last and people couldn't help staring. To one inquisitive but friendly countenance I boasted, "Wuo de bao-BEY (My daughter!)" and earned a satisfied "OHH! xie-xie (thanks)."

[N.B . - I love the way "thank you" sounds in Chinese. As a child who was raised on please and thank you, and as a cat-lover, my ear picks up the word as similar to the chuckle of joy my Siamese cat Pyewacket makes when you scratch his back. By the way, for you cat-lovers out there, the Chinese word for cat is Mao and the sound it makes is...Mao-Mao.]

Hainan is subtropical and we were wearing winter coats because even if we could have checked them into lockers at Beijing's airport, we're not flying back into Beijing from Hainan and we'll need the coats in Guangzhou. Yuck. But it's lushly gorgeous with palm trees everywhere, and I mean it makes Florida look like a desert in that regard. By the time we got our luggage, met our driver and got to the hotel, it was about 7pm and time for a meltdown from the peanut gallery. She was tired of course, and did not want to be separated from her ayeh Sabrina, who had a room just across the hall. So off to dinner we went. I could watch her eat all day. How can anyone with such delicate dining maneuvers eat like such a longshoreman? And where in the hell does she put it all? This dichotomy is part of the never-ending surprise package that is our brand-new daughter.

Bedtime, though it started out stormy, ended up sweet. Again I was told to report to my station in the rollaway bed. Again we massaged each other's hands with moisturizer. I pretended to conk out with my face down on the blanket; she stroked my hair, lifted up my head, pushed my hair out of my face, opened my left eye and grinned at me.

It's almost time to wake up, but it's been worth it to get all this down. Incidentally, "No" is not her only English word. She says two other things: "Butterfly" and "I love you."


susmom said...

I am sitting here reading about your journey with tears in my eyes. I am so thrilled for all of you....and can't wait to meet your Mai-mai and Harry's sister! I love and miss talking with you!!!

kris self said...

Thank you so much for keeping us informed. I can still remember Jacquie singing Getting to know you in high school.

I look forward to reading about your adventures every day. I am so happy for all of you.

Kris Self

ArtieRuthK said...

Mazel Tov! She's adorable! Where do you get the time and strength to write your blog? We're so glad that you're able to keep all of us posted on the latest wonderful events. Can't wait to welcome the three of you back home. Now you have the typical American family, a boy and a girl (the cats are extra!)