I can remember our China trip to adopt Sunshine like it was yesterday. If I close my eyes, I can remember stepping off the plane, smelling “China,” and hearing people speak Mandarin everywhere. The food, oh the delicious food. Making a fool out of myself trying to eat with chopsticks. The hustle and bustle of everyday China going on around me. The young children following after their mamas in split pants. The food carts and street vendors. The sweet little stores. Chinese flute music. The stunning architecture. The lanterns hanging everywhere. People willing to help in any way they could. A country so beautifully alive and rich in culture. A country I fell in love with. The country where my precious daughter was born.
Before our adoption trip, I didn’t realize how naive I was about my understanding of China. I knew I was born in the year of the monkey on the zodiac calendar, but didn’t know anything about celebrating Spring Festival. I knew the basic things you learn in school about China, knowledge that is so limited and without a true appreciation of the country. I didn’t know much else about China except for how to say “nĭ hăo” and “zài jiàn” in an obvious American accent. I didn’t truly know the culture. The holidays. The traditions. The language. I didn’t know why I needed to know. I didn’t realize how important it was for me to embrace my daughter’s birth heritage. But being in China was the beginning of a transformation for me.
I fell in love with China. It has a beautiful culture to be celebrated. As Sunshine’s mama, I tried to learn everything I could about China while we were in country. I took thousands of pictures to help me remember. And through the years of being her mama, I have yearned to learn even more. To joyfully embrace the culture that my daughter was born in and came to us from. To find out about her beginnings as much as I can.
Because she needs to know who she is, where she came from. Her Chinese heritage is a vital part of who she is and should be honored. She is Chinese and American. Both cultures make up the person she is growing into. Neglecting to teach her about either one is a disservice, to her and to our family. In order for her to know herself, she needs to know China. Our family needs to know China. To joyfully embrace it. The holidays. The traditions. The language. The beautifully rich culture.
Her Chinese heritage has become a part of our family, and I’m so thankful for that. Although our household is American, China is very much alive also. Sunshine has blessed us by being our daughter and sister, and also by sharing a culture we didn’t know we’d adore so much. We have more reason to celebrate holidays and be with family because of her birth heritage. More reason to share traditional Chinese stories, learn the Mandarin tones, and sing “Liăng Zhī Láo Hŭ.” More reason to learn how to cook new foods, steam dumplings, and decorate for Spring Festival. More reason to be forever connected to the country that is my daughter’s birth heritage, to honor where she came from.
I am thrilled that tomorrow is a dumpling-making day. All day long. And all the kids will join in on the fun, and we’re bringing a couple friends along for the ride too. It’s a family and friend affair, one that is sure to be enjoyed by everyone. We will be celebrating Spring Festival for the next 15 days in American Chinese fashion, with food, hóngbāo, music, crafts, and a very large FCC New Year party to round off the festivities. Xīn nián kuài lè! Mǎ nián dàjí, my friends! Let the celebration begin!