Xin nian kuai le! Happy Chinese New Year!
A week ago today, we rang in the Year of the Snake with our kiddos. I hung up our paper lanterns, decorated the table with Lunar New Year plates and cups, pulled out our fanciest chopsticks purchased in Guangzhou, and gobbled up delicious authentic fair from a local Chinese restaurant. Well, most of the food was authentic. Mainly Caroline’s portions.
We read a few children’s books about the holiday and its history and presented each child with a red envelope containing money. (Caroline made sure we knew about this custom.) I had also found some Chinese character blocks and a beautiful Chinese doll for the younger ones.
I knew that our efforts to celebrate this holiday had touched Caroline when she began taking pictures of everything and asked if she could wear one of my traditional Chinese dresses. (She has outgrown the ones we bought for her in China.) That evening, she asked to call her foster parents whom she had not wanted to contact for many months. When her foster mom answered the call, Caroline exclaimed, “Mommy!”
My heart skipped a beat, for several reasons. First, I immediately realized that her greeting came out in English, and she stammered for a second before she could pull the Mandarin equivalent from her memory. Secondly, I almost felt envious that she called her foster mom “mommy.” She has called me “mommy” since Gotcha Day, and I have selfishly believed that I, and I alone, hold that role. However, my daughter’s foster mom was her first consistent caretaker and was a mother to her for seven years.
Ultimately, I am thrilled that Caroline has fond memories of her life in China and has finally felt ready to talk with her family again.
I loved hearing the excitement in the voices of her foster parents and brother. I smiled when I heard them calling her “LiYun.” (I still like to call her LiYun around the house but she prefers her American name.) And we laughed when Caroline translated that they noticed she had picked up an accent! There are many Chinese families in our community with whom Caroline speaks in Mandarin, so she has kept up with her language. But apparently she has taken on their dialect!
It was such a wonderful way to welcome a new year, and I hope my Chinese daughters will never become so “Americanized” that they lose interest in celebrating their birth country’s traditions.
If you have pictures or suggestions of your own to share on celebrating this holiday, please post them for all of us to read. I’m always looking for new ideas!
Kelly, love this! I “get” the feelings about the “mommy” too. Our youngest was fostered for his first two years. His foster mom sewed a “patch” inside his PJ’s (the first layer of clothes he was wearing on his “gotcha day”), and under that patch we found their contact information in both Chinese and english. We’ve been in contact with them since. Yeah – because he was younger when we adopted him he’s lost a lot of that “closeness” – but on the other side – we have a family in China that refers to my bride and I as their “sister and brother” – their son insists on communicating with us as Aunt and Uncle. And even 3 years later I still get a tear in my eye when I think about that! Great joy for you – and hope you know the Peace that comes with having extended family like that!
hugs – aus and co.