Several years ago I visited an elderly great uncle in California. Uncle Frank was one of my Grandpa Kelley’s 4 brothers. I’m sure I’d met Uncle Frank when I was a young girl, but it had been many, many years. When he opened the door to the adult woman who’d come to visit, he stood silent on the doorstep for just a moment, and then gathered me up in a hug saying, “Oh, sweetheart. I’d have picked you out of a line-up as a Kelley.” He knew me instantly.
When we were in the waiting phase of our adoption I probably saw hundreds of referral pictures. Each time I’d think, Could I look at that baby and say, Yep, she’s mine? When we finally got Cholita’s referral, Lyle and I first read through all of the written information that had been e-mailed to us. We knew that her pictures would be at the bottom and I wanted to kind of sneak up on them, casually take her in starting with the tip of her head and then I could work my way down, stopping to process each bit of information. Somehow I scrolled too fast and suddenly there she was–a round-faced, healthy-looking 6 month old, sitting in a walker, jauntily kicking up one little bare foot into the air.
She literally took our breath away. I knew her. It was like looking at the face of a long-lost friend. I would have picked her out of a line-up, I know it. I noticed her beautiful Chinese features, but I also thought she looked like her siblings. I put our 4 kids’ baby pictures together and made friends and family tell me they saw the resemblance too. Don’t you see it? She so belongs with this group.
Cholita has been with us for three years now and has noticed that not everyone sees the resemblance. When she was two, she was told by a little girl in Kinko’s that I was NOT her Mommy. The girl’s father was obviously mortified and told her, “No, honey. That is that little girl’s Mommy,” but his daughter would not be swayed. “No, I KNOW that’s not her Mommy.” Cholita’s chin quivered and she pointed to me and said, “Dat my Mommy right dare.” For a good week afterward, Cholita would tell complete strangers, even before they had a chance to say hello, “Dis is MY Mommy. MY Mommy.” She wanted to make sure they knew from the get-go, just in case they didn’t happen to notice.
As Cholita grows older, my hope is that she’ll feel like she belongs exactly where she is and that she can always find something of herself in the faces around her. Right after she came home, I had my two youngest girls in a double cart at Costco. A man in line asked five year-old Rose if she liked shopping with her friend. Rose told him that Cholita was her sister. “Sister?” said the man. “She doesn’t look like your sister.” Rose crinkled her eyes in a confused expression, shrugged her shoulders, and answered, “Well, we’re not twins.”
I snapped their picture just moments after the exchange. Nope, obviously not twins, but we would have picked her out of a line-up just the same. She’s one of us. She belongs.