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Gotcha Day, Part 2

25 September 2018

[Part 1 is here.]

We got down to the lobby and our guide was waiting. She asked about our passports. Yes. And “all” of our paperwork. Yes. I hope.

“Okay. Then we go.”

We followed her to the SUV parked on the sidewalk outside the hotel and I wondered at the two totally different experiences we were having. To her, we were this week’s family; next week there would be another. Business as usual. To us, the entire world was about to change. We piled into the vehicle and I crawled into the back bench seat to sit with my man cub.

.

.

You don’t drive anywhere quickly in Guiyang.

“This neighborhood, by this intersection, about 40,000 people.”

And they were all out driving.

We tried to play it cool. We chatted about the moment, and then about the woman selling noodles from a cart, and then about a sculpture or building we were forced to stare at. I honestly don’t remember if the drive took two minutes or 20, but at one point, during a pause in the nervous chatter, Niah stared out the window and quietly said, “I’m glad it’s Gotcha Day.” And I held my breath so I wouldn’t burst into tears.

We pulled up beside a sunken plaza outside a huge office building. Down the steps, up the elevator, down the hall. I braced myself for the madness.

We stood outside the Children’s Welfare office doors as our guide knocked on the glass and motioned at a man standing inside. In the dark.

He tapped out his cigarette, hurried over to unlock the door, and flipped on a light. The automatic door slid open and we stepped inside.

It was silent.

We were alone.

Our guide directed us to dusty, black leather couches in the waiting area just inside the door. We sat down and just stared at each other.

The four or five workstations behind the front counter were empty. The hallway that seemed to snake around to the left was dark. The only sound came from traffic and construction far below the window that had been left open.

“Is it just us?”

“Ah … yes. No other family today.”

Curve ball.

I was prepared, at least I had tried to be prepared, for noise and chaos and distractions. It never occured to me that we might be alone. Just our family, the foster family, and an official or two whom I guessed would have to turn up at some point. I was prepared for madness. I was not prepared for awkward.

We were 15 minutes early. The foster family was on their way.

How do you pass that time? Do you try to prepare yourself? Try to distract yourself? My stomach was in knots and had I been alone I probably would have been writhing on the couch. We watched high-rise construction out the window and tried not to think about the fact that our son, whom we have never met, could walk through the door at any moment.

And every time the elevator down the hall rang, or the sliding doors opened to admit an employee, or our guide got a text message, we jumped. We grabbed for phone cameras and toy cars. We sat up. We smiled awkwardly. We looked for each other.

The man who runs the foster program arrived and, after a few minutes, told our guide that the family was stuck in traffic. They would be about 10 minutes late.

The man cub was bored and energetic. Husband was tired and tense. There was a little more life in the office as employees prepared paperwork, but it was all done in low voices and soft movements as though someone in the next room were dying.

Fifteen minutes came and went and there was another text message. They missed a turn, and were turning around. Turning around in that traffic is no simple task.

Our guide ushered us back into a conference room, “We do some paperwork while we wait.”

Yes please. Please give me a task to do right now.

The room was bigger and set up for business meetings. Couches and chairs lined three walls and a projector screen was pulled down over the fourth. Eight long tables formed a rectangle in the middle, surrounded by black, plastic chairs. There was another door opposite the one we came through.

The man cub explored the room. Husband kept the phone camera ready and positioned himself with a view of both doors. We didn’t know where they would come in. Our guide set a stack of paperwork and a fingerprint ink pad on a table and said we could do one parent at a time. I was first.

We sat and went over paperwork. She translated. I checked passport numbers and addresses and name spellings. Everything had to be signed and then stamped with a red fingerprint.

Doors occasionally popped open, causing us all to spring to life, but it was always just an employee bringing in paperwork or asking our guide a question.

Then, as we signed and stamped there was movement outside that other door. It was frosted glass and stopped a few inches short of the floor. One set of feet walked by, then another, then a third very small set. There was shuffling in the hallway outside, the first set of feet reappeared, and the door pushed open.

And there they were. Faces I knew well from WeChat and from pictures I’d gotten from our Ohio fam were suddenly smiling in front of me, and there he was. Holding grandma’s hand, looking about how I was feeling—a little solemn, only slightly scared, mostly nervous.

I remember feeling a little relieved at seeing him, because it really was him. He looked exactly the same as the pictures and video. I hadn’t been worried that it wouldn’t be him, necessarily, but it was, in a weird way, a relief to feel like I knew him—at least a little bit, or in a small way.

We talked and exchanged gifts. Man cub gave his new brother the race car picked out for the occasion and the two quickly fell into driving it off tables and crashing it into a bobble head doll they found in a corner. The giggles were heavenly.

The foster family had a long drive home, so after they’d answered all our questions about nap times and potty training and favorite foods—and official pictures had been taken—they asked if they could quietly sneak out while the boys played. It seemed cruel, in a way, to expect them to just slip away after four years, and I almost insisted on goodbyes …

.

.

But then I realized they had probably done their goodbyes, and they would be the last people who would want to create a scene, and the boys were having a fine time. So they left quietly. And then it was just us—our family of four—and our guide finishing paperwork.

When it was time to go, we got our things together and Husband turned to Jude. He held his hands out, but close to his body, smiled, and said, “You wanna come with me?” Jude looked at each of us, let me help him put on his little backpack, and raised his arms up to his new daddy.

Husband picked him up, and we left. Together. No screaming. No crying. No clinging. We went down the elevator, out to the van, and back to the hotel. (Where the crying came later, but that’s another story.)

.

.

We left that morning with one son (and one in our hearts) and we came back with two. This little boy whose picture caught our attention in an email so many months ago, whom we ran through downtown Chicago for, whom we worked and fought and trained and fundraised for, whom we prayed and prayed and prayed for … was here in our arms.

We knew it was only the beginning, and that “the adoption” was still far from “over” (if it ever really ends), but … what a beginning.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Annemarie permalink
    25 September 2018 4:34 PM

    So beautiful! God is beyond amazing in every way and His hand is writing this story. So happy for all of you.

    • Lex permalink*
      25 September 2018 5:15 PM

      I have not been allowed to forget it! Thank you. ❤

  2. 26 September 2018 3:41 PM

    So surreal to even try to imagine what this journey has been or all that this day was for each of you. It’s a treasure to get to read your inner workings, ponderings, waitings and then meeting. Simply, wow.

    • Lex permalink*
      28 September 2018 4:23 PM

      It still feels surreal to me too. ❤

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