This is a continuation of the story of the journey to meet our oldest daughter. I am breaking it down into smaller sections so that I can capture the details that I have never been able to capture with words.
Before scattering like dandelion seeds to our separate rooms, we all agreed to meet for breakfast the next day. THE day. One of the most important days of our lives. The reason I had managed to get out of bed early and without complaint prior to our flight. The reason we had packed so carefully and completely. We were going to meet the child that God had protected since conception, that God had prepared us to parent. But first, we needed food.
A couple of us showed up in the lobby. It was even more beautiful in daylight – marble, wood, glass and brass – all of it sparkling in the morning light streaming through the front windows. There was an exquisite flower arrangement on the circular table in the middle of the floor. A wood and brass sculpture hung on the back wall – intricate and bold. People were flowing around us as I gawked like the country girl that I am. We headed into the restaurant we had been shown the night before – The Blue Moon Coffee Shop – clutching our tickets that would show that breakfast was part of our room price. A hostess in a cheongsam took our tickets and showed us to a table where other members of our group waited. As we sat there visiting and getting know each other, more of our group wandered into the restaurant. It was amazing what a little rest, a shower, and for some of us, some make-up, can do! Some of us wore our emotions on our sleeve and teared up easily (yes, Ms Britain, I am talking about you!). Some of us were jittery and chattered (Ms Flowers, that would be you!) Mr and Mrs Adams were sitting down the table. He was friendly and talked about their sons waiting at home for their new sister. She was quietly smiling at the stories. Me, I was nervous around all these people I did not know, and was covering up by alternating between teasing people and keeping to myself. My parents calmly watched the dynamics of the group unfold.
Eventually we decided we had better fill out plates at the buffet so that we would have the strength to do the myriad items on our to-do list before we could meet the girls. The buffet was large and separated oddly – at least oddly in my mind. There was “American” which consisted of bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, etc. There was a “Muslim” table with other types of food, many of which I was familiar with and would have been on any American table. There was the Chinese table with things like congee, fried rice, stir fried veggies. Then there were just some things that I never quite thought of as breakfast food – spaghetti and meat sauce, bar-b-q meat, macaroni and cheese, fish. There was one table that became my absolute favorite, though. It was the cold table and was filled with fresh melon slices, orange wedges, bananas, grapes, and yogurt.
Our coordinator arrived as we were finishing up our meal to tell us the order of the day.
First we needed to exchange money so we could pay the fees that needed to be paid. Word arrived that the hotel was out of money for exchange. My heart rate increased a bit. How were we going to get the yuan we needed? Someone posed this question to our guide. She looked at us oddly and told us to go to the bank that was down the block. Mental note – nothing closes on Sunday in China. Heart rate went back down.
Second we need to get all of the gifts we had brought for the caregivers and the orphanage director wrapped and ready – American made items packed in red sacks. We also needed to pack the diaper bag – bottle, liner, formula, special toy from my aunt, diapers, diaper wipes. Rumors that orphanages sometimes wanted their clothes back so they could be used for children still in their care ran through our minds – a change of clothes.
Third and most important of all, the time we needed to be down in the lobby to catch the bus to where we were going to meet the girls. Heart rate back up – there is a definite time! It took me a minute to catch my breath. That moment, that singular moment I had been living for during all those years, was given an actual time on the clock. It was no longer a nebulous “when”, it was a specific hour and location. This time my heart rate did not go back down.
We all looked at each other, looked at our coordinator and then back at each. Then as if a starting gun had gone off, we all scurried to do as we were told. Hubby and I discussed it and he was going to go exchange the money and I was going to pack the gifts in their red bags and get the diaper bag organized. Quick kiss and we parted. Up the elevator I rode as ladybugs started fluttering around my stomach. I pulled out our diaper bag, a precious gift from one of my mom’s close friends. I dumped everything out and sorted it on the bed to ensure that I had everything I needed. Container of individual servings of formula powder – check. Bottle and several different kinds of nipples – check. Bottle liners – check. Change of clothes for the baby – check. Diapers, how many should I pack? I had failed to find out how long we were going to be gone. How often does a one year old need to be changed? The ladybugs were turning into small moths fluttering around the fire created by the surge of acid in my stomach as I started to forget everything I ever learned about babies in nursing school. HOW OFTEN DOES A ONE YEAR OLD WET A DIAPER!!!!!!! OK, surly she would not need to be changed more than twice an hour. How many hours were were going to be gone? Maybe I should pack 15 or so just to be on the safe side. Nothing was fitting. My mom walked in about that time. She took one look at me with things strewn all over the bed and calmly walked over to inspect the bag. While she did that I started concentrating on putting together the gift bags. Oh good, they had stayed nice and neat and uncreased in the bottom of the suitcase. I laid out all the gifts that we had planned for this part and started putting them in the bags. We had forgotten the tissue paper. We did not have any pretty tissue paper to put in the top of the bags! What were they going to think of me? How were they going to allow me to take one of their precious children to care for when I could not even remember to bring tissue paper to make the gift bags pretty? My hands started shaking. OK, maybe I could fold the tops over. I tried that, but they just popped open again. They looked awful. My deep breathing was turning into muttering which was beginning to crescendo into a full voice raving. One of my parents walked over, took out the lapel pin of our home state that we had brought as part of the gifts, neatly folded down the bag and fastened it closed with the pin. I turned around to find that mom had removed the vast majority of the diapers from the diaper bag, leaving me with plenty, and now everything fit nicely. My breathing once again calmed down, my heart resumed something resembling its normal rhythm, and I sat down on the bed and waited for Hubby to arrive. No one had witnessed this near panic attack except my parents who were used to my scatter brained approach at life.
Mom and dad sat around and told me stories and got me laughing like they usually do when I am so nervous. They sat on one of the beds and I sat on the other. Before long they had me giggling and relaxed. Hubby walked in the room. His eyes told me something was not right. Instantaneously the fire in the pit of my stomach roared to life, and the moths increased in size and number. The hotel remained out of money and the bank closed before he had reached the front of the line. We did not have the yuan we needed for the day. Any semblance of calm that I was portraying was gone in that instant. My heart rate shot through the roof, I bordered on hyperventilating, and my chin started quivering. I don’t cry in public. I cry, but not where people can see me. At that moment I teared up, ready to give in to the overwhelming emotions, the fear, the uncertainty. I started trembling worse than when I was walking down the aisle to get married. Moments after these incapacitating feelings started to drown me, in trooped Ms Flowers’ travel companion and Mr Adams. I don’t know what drew them to our room, but they appeared. Seconds later the rest of the travel group showed up. There were 2 families that had not been able to exchange money. Dollars and yuan started changing hands faster than I could comprehend. In five minutes it was over and everyone cleared out of our room. We had the exact amount of yuan that we needed, plus enough for a quick trip to the store if we needed something once we had the baby. I did not recognize what had just happened. I did not see God’s hand reaching down and scooping those people towards our room, or whispering in their hearts that someone needed their help. All I knew at that moment was that what had started out as individual strangers from all across the country were starting to support each other. Now I see that God was laying down the threads of the friendship that would become part of the fabric of our lives for years to come.
Mom and dad went back to their room to get their camera and gather prepare to leave. Hubby and I had a moment to ourselves. We clung to each other in the last embrace as a childless couple. Separating we nervously laughed as we picked up the diaper bag and the gift bags and rode the elevator down to the lobby to catch the bus that would deliver us to our future.