We are in love. Xi Xi is not so sure.
We walked into the Civil Affairs Office at 9 AM and were directed to sit down and start paperwork. I’d just pulled out my chair when a group of women walked in, one holding a baby. I recognized her as the daughter of our travel companions and quickly grabbed my camera to take a picture for them. Through my camera lens, I noticed a very scared, sad-looking little boy trying to back out of the room. He was older, much bigger than I’d envisioned, and so tan, but I knew it was Xi Xi. As further proof, he was clinging to the photo book we’d sent to the orphanage.
A woman, who I later learned was the assistant director of the orphanage, pushed him toward us and he erupted into hysterical sobs. The woman picked him up and handed him to me. He’s extremely heavy and with the kicking and flailing, was nearly impossible to hold. He was screaming in Mandarin, “No! I don’t want it!” and many other things that required no translation to understand that he was not pleased with the situation.
I’d been holding him all of thirty seconds when our guide asked me to come back to the table to do paperwork. There would be no 24 hour harmonious period like we’d had with Cholita, they wanted the final adoption papers done immediately. I handed Xi Xi to Lyle and the screaming and kicking continued as I signed my name saying we’d love and care for him forever. Based on the present state of things, I wasn’t feeling especially confident. Every time I’d glance over at the chaos, our guide pointed to the paperwork and asked me to hurry.
Xi Xi was yelling something to “his auntie”, as we learned that he called her, and then she told Lyle that he wanted to be put down. He sat on the couch next to Lyle and the kids opened his backpack and showed him that there was another copy of his photo book. I wasn’t sure if he’d get the one I’d sent to China, so I’d made another just in case. He stopped crying and quickly grabbed the book, added it to the other book and held them close to his chest. He then hopped down from his seat and walked out the door, causing us to panic. His auntie motioned for us to stay where we were. From my seat at the table, I could see him in the hall outside, breathing deeply, slowly looking at each page in his photo book. I wanted to cry for him.
The auntie called him back in and after having that moment to collect himself, seemed much more content. He looked at the toys we’d included in his backpack, but it was all done only one-handed because he would not let go of his books. The ice breaker came in the form of a ball–such a boy. I’m not sure who threw it first, but he was all over it. His tear-stained face broke into a huge grin and he laughed.
When this boy smiles, I challenge anyone to not smile with him.
At this point, there was a break in the paperwork and I showed Lianne’s letter to Auntie. She seemed so happy to see it and knelt down next to Xi Xi and put the picture into his available hand. He did a whole face smile and immediately yelled, “Jie Jie!”
There was no doubt whatsoever that he remembered her and that she was a very special person in his young life. I will always love this girl who sent our boy such a precious gift on this most difficult day
Now it was Lyle that needed to add his signature to the many papers and Xi Xi once again looked through his picture book, this time pointing and asking questions. I’d included the two pictures we have of him as an infant and he looked at them for a long time. Then very clearly he said, “Shur boo shur wo?” (Is that me?) My mandarin stinks, but I was so happy that I understood exactly what he was asking and could answer him “shur”, yes, it is you. I told him he was a very cute baby and he nodded his head and smiled. He saw a picture of Bruder and pointed to him and said, “Gu Gu” (big brother).
The next big hit was Lucy’s camera.
Xi Xi loved taking pictures of everyone and then would laugh as he shared their picture with them. Funny picture faces were very appreciated.
Even though it’s not the clearest photo, this one completely cracks us up.
Xi Xi showed his result to Cholita and they both thought it was just hysterically funny, which it was.
While the officials did whatever else they needed to do, we all sat in a circle on the floor and threw the ball to each other. Each time we threw it, we’d say the person’s name. After just a few rounds of this, he threw the ball to Rose and very clearly said her name. We all clapped and he seemed quite pleased with himself. The next time he got the ball, he said “MaMa” and threw it my way. He had my heart right then and there.
A couple of times Cholita over-threw the ball and I’m pretty sure he scolded her in Mandarin. Cholita is taller, but Xi Xi is much, much heavier. I wouldn’t be surprised if he weighs more than Rose. Later in the day when I asked his auntie if he had any favorite toys, she said no, but that his favorite thing to do is eat. I believe it. The boy is a tank. While we waited for the officials to finish their part of the paperwork, we played Ring Around the Rosie, and he quickly learned to sing the “Ashes, Ashes” part. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes was also a big hit, with him attempting to sing along.
He looked very concerned as we left the office, but was happy to get a shoulder ride from Baba.
He sat quietly on the bus, calmly looking out the window at the commotion of the city. It’s not just the U.S. that will give him culture shock. His orphanage was in the city, but he never really went anywhere. The foster village, where they said he’d been for the past six months, was a couple of hours away in the countryside, so this bustling city was all new to him. When the bus stopped and the auntie got out to run an errand, he cried, calling her name. When she got back on the bus, Xi Xi told her that he wanted to sit on her lap, but she told him in no uncertain terms that he could not. He tightened his grip on his photo books and laid his head on my shoulder, resigned that he was staying with us.
Our next stop was at another office for his passport photo. Only Lyle and I needed to get off the bus with him, so as we were leaving, Lucy waved and said, “Bye, Xi Xi” He waved back and said in English, “bye”. In the office, he listened very attentively to the adults that spoke to him and responded in a quiet, clear voice. Someone at the office asked him if he liked his new dad and he shook his head and said no. Lyle wasn’t at all offended. We were told that in his foster family he had several siblings and was very much loved by the parents. Auntie said that they took him back to the orphanage a week ago and that it was very sad and his foster mother cried when he left.
It was clear that he’d had his photo book for quite a while, which was an answer to prayer. At one point, his auntie jokingly asked if she could take one of his books and he hugged them closer and shook his head no. As we were going back to the bus, he tripped and fell and his precious books went flying. He frantically gathered them up and let Lyle give him hugs. Besides the clothes on his back (which we would later discover were many), the photo book was the only thing he was taking with him and he wasn’t about to hand that over to anyone.
On the bus, he let me snuggle him and he promptly fell asleep. Mercifully, it was while he was asleep that Auntie got off the bus.
He didn’t ask about her when he woke up. Back at the hotel, we discovered that he wasn’t as chubby as we’d initially thought. He was wearing: a t-shirt, a long-sleeved collared shirt, a heavy sweater, a coat, jeans, pink polka dotted long johns and some funky undies. He kept repeating something that seemed to end in “shway” (water), so we gave him more and more water. We have now learned that that particular phrase means he has to go to the bathroom. Filling him with water every time he said he needed to use the toilet was not really a good move. Despite our mistakes, he hasn’t had any accidents and has been fine with the western toilet.
There is so much more I want to say about our day, but I’m exhausted and the rest of the family is asleep, so I’ll end with a few observances we’ve made in our first day together:
*Xi Xi is all boy and loves cars and trucks.
*He’s a great mimic and has said several English words.
*He is a total and complete ham.
*He’s got dance moves that you would not believe.
*He likes dogs (at least in theory, we’ll see what he thinks when he meets Olaf)
*He’s awesome with chopsticks, but a fork will do in a pinch.
*He has great dexterity.
*We think he’s double-jointed.
*He’s got a great throwing arm.
*He has a sweet, quiet voice, but speaks very clearly.
*He laughs with every part of his being.
*And he’s so very, very brave.
We love him and feel privileged to be his parents. Tomorrow we’ll continue our adventure as a family of seven.
To follow Xi Xi and his new forever family in China, visit their blog here.