“She was right there.” The venerable old woman pointed a crooked finger toward the flowerbed in front of her. All four of us stared into the little bed that was brimming with golden chrysanthemums. The scene looked so mild and innocent, but in my mind I watched a young woman weave through the busy late-night traffic of Changsha, China and place her tiny baby girl into the flowers, looking upon her with love for the last time. My own mother’s eyes welled with tears, as she walked over and placed her hand where her new baby had lay just months before. The connection between the two mothers was strong, and although they’d never met there was an understanding there: my mother would give to this baby what her first mother could not, and treat her as her own. I wanted that woman to know how much we loved her baby, whom we hadn’t even met yet.
â–º honorable mention 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The gravity of the moment was palpable. All of a sudden everything seemed so real to me, and what we were about to do the next day felt so big, like we already had a responsibility to the little baby girl who had lay in that flower bed.
The next morning as the elevator in the Changsha Social Welfare Office climbed higher and higher, my four family members stood in a little huddle, unable to say anything, quite aware that when we stepped back into this elevator we would be five.
When the elevator door finally opened, I felt like I was like stepping into an alternate universe. A tumultuous roar greeted us. Families were forming everywhere we looked. I stood in shock. Within minutes, I saw her – coming toward us in the arms of an orphanage worker – a tiny face, perfect little hands and feet, wearing a little chrysanthemum-yellow dress that had the words ‘It’s a Good Day Today’ embroidered into it. My new sister. Her dark eyes were wide and brimming with tears as she was placed into my mother’s arms. Instantaneously the situation metamorphosed from our family of four facing a new experience, to our family of five welcoming a new adventure.
We all have defining moments in our lives, and this for me, stepping into that room was one of those moments. So many different realities collided that day, but all differences were tossed aside as total strangers hugged, cried and congratulated each other. We all shared a common, beautiful, irreplaceable gift: that of a brand new family
“You were right there.” I pointed a finger to the picture of a small flowerbed filled with dainty yellow chrysanthemums. Both of us stared at the little bed. “You know,” she said quietly, “I’m glad my mommy in China couldn’t keep me.” Holding back tears, I asked her why, and she replied, “Because there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here in our family.” I looked back at the stunning young lady of five. This is the incredible thing about travel. Travel doesn’t just create memories, it creates life experiences that change who we are. Jing was always part of our family, we just hadn’t met her yet. Travel connected us. It has the power to turn strangers into family and lets us glimpse a profound reality: No matter what country we come from, or how different we look, we are all part of the human family and our similarities far outweigh our differences.
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