It was 5:01am when I woke up. The alarm had gone off, but for nopurpose rather than to fill the empty air with its clambering; I was already up. I got ready in a hurry with the bathroom all to myself for the first—yet also the last—time. I looked to my left where my brother usually stood. He was in a house only fifteen minutes away but it felt like the world. I wouldn’t see him again for two weeks—when our whole lives would be changed. He had his reasons for staying. He had to be here, in Salt Lake City, for soccer tryouts and it was just too hard to miss 2 weeks of high school. For me it was a different story. Only in the 7th grade and at a smaller school, I could manage. I am grateful; the trip was one of the most impactful endeavors of my life.
It had all started fifteen months prior. For a long time, God had laid on our hearts the thought—that our family of four wasn’t complete. So we prayed, listened and obeyed. Soon we were doing more paperwork than you could image. After many long, anxiety-filled months, the call came that we had been matched. A little girl half-way across the world had been chosen for us. So scared and loney, her black eyes seem to yearn for a love that could stay. More paper work, more expenses, more waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. But there we were, on March 14th, standing at the gate for a plane ready to cross the ocean and enter into a different world
Those were to be the last 5 days of my life when I was the youngest child of the family. I had never traveled outside of the country before, and the newness of it all was almost too much to take in all at once. The people, the language, the scenery, the cities, the food were all so different from my own and different from any of the preconceived notions I had. Bejing was first. It was large, densely populated, and dirty, but magnificent. The Great Wall with all its steps of different sizes and turning paths astonished me. I ran ahead, wanting to grasp every view. How amazing it was to be standing on something so world-renowned! Before leaving, a small part of the wall had found its way into my pocket. So to understand the culture, we toured factories of jade and silk and got a real taste of fried rice and dumplings.
March 18: we fly to Taiyuan on the longest day of my life. My mother, father and I all paced the room. One more day! What would tomorrow bring? Would she cry? Would I? The uncertainty drove me into a fitful sleep. The next morning we prepared gifts to give the caretakers, arranged a bag of toys and treats to bring for my sister and simply waited. At one o’clock sharp we left the hotel and drove to a public affairs building.
I followed my mother and father out of the car, across the parking lot, and up the steps. I stopped and looked back as a van pulled up. Out climbed a woman and the side door opened. I see one child lifted out. He wore a purple coat and at least 3 pairs of pants, as is the custom. The next child lifted out wears a pink and black plaid coat. I can only see the side of the face, but it looks strangely familiar; like the picture of a child yearning for love that could last. I went inside.
The elevator is crowded and slow for only having to go up one floor. We were led down a dark hallway to a locked room, where we waited once again until it could be opened and we can finally greet the girl from the picture. Tension built inside of me as my heart rate began to rise. This would be it—the most defining moment of our family’s life.
We heard the footsteps and saw two women holding two children begin their way down the hall. They couldn’t have walked slower. Did they know that they carried the most precious thing in the world that we could call ours? Closer and closer they drew until they stopped. I searched the face of the child on the right. This was the boy in the purple coat. I looked to the one on the left. “Guo Lian”, the woman holding her said, “Gou Lian.” The next words are from my mother: “Can I hold her?” The girl in pink and black plaid coat is handed to her. The girl’s back is straight, arms pressed against my mother’s shoulders, unwilling, unable to relax. My mother lets out all her emotions in words spoken through tears. She is beautiful. I touch her foot and say the only thing that remained in my mind “Hi, Torah.”
The beautiful girl, not even two, simply stares. She looks at the strange woman she would soon call mom and won’t let her eyes leave that mouth. They weren’t words that she could recognize, not a voice she knew, not even the color of skin that everyone else on her world had. She was so scared. She didn’t know that this had been coming. All she knew was that she had been taken from the only place she knew, had been forced to sit through a long car ride, and was then in the arms of a stranger. Her little chin began to quiver, then her whole body. The poor child let out a small cry that grew louder and louder as she expressed this wave of emotions in the only way she knew how. It didn’t stop after 30 minutes, it didn’t stop after an hour, and it didn’t even stop after 2. But could you expect any less from someone torn from her world and put somewhere she didn’t know would be the place she had always yearned for?