Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I am sure it can be argued that memories from our first 4 years of life are sparse if they exist at all. I have a handful from when I was 2 and 3 that were confirmed as "real" by my mom (who was floored I remembered the details that I had), but for the most part, the first 4 years of my life are a bit blurry at best.

I remember Joyce at New Hope telling me how bright and intelligent E was, and how that would surely make her transition difficult."She is a very smart girl", she told me. And yes, those first weeks together were incredibly challenging.

As you all know by now, thumbing through her China pictures nightly is common place. She asks for them daily. Sometimes I sit with her as she turns the pages, sometimes she prefers this time alone. Tonight, I snuggled up next to her and we perused the whole album together (not every photo is in this album as we have somewhere around 200 from her 3.5 years at New Hope).

She usually is fairly quiet during this time. She might say, "See?" and show me a picture, or ask me to kiss one. Not tonight. She was very animated. And without any provocation from me, we talked at length about the next four.

When we came upon this one, she looked at me and asked, "Where we going?". I looked at the photo, and then at her, replying, "I'm not sure sweet pea. Maybe outside?". She looked at the photo again and said, "No. I think we go eat something". And sure enough, that triggered the memory of 3 other photos I have of her in this chair. All of them in the dining hall. All of them with food. She hasn't seen those as I've not printed them from the computer yet.

Astounding. How at this age could she remember so well?

Ellis' crib at Hope
Then we came to the photo of her crib. A crib she slept in for over 3 years. She was in "The Beige Room". She looked at the crib and said, "I no like sleep in this one". I asked her how come. Her reply? "It too noisy and I cry". Now, whether that's from the crib itself or her 3 roommates, who's to say. What I do know is noise really bothers my girl! She went on to point out that she got dressed here, and that they laid her on the counter to do this "in the morning" and that her clothes were kept in the drawers beneath (seen behind the crib).

When we got to this photo, I said, "Wow E, it looks like they washed your hair!" (this is something she loathes!). She looks at me and in the most exasperated tone tells me: "They wash my hair EVERYday".

Then we arrived at this last photo. This is a nanny that we speak of rarely and so her name always escapes me (and doesn't "match" her American name in the book Hope gave us). So, I ask: "Who is this one E?". She looks me in the eye:

"Ya Ya".

Me: "Oh right. Ya Ya".

E: "No. Ya Ya" (her Y in this case being different than our Y).

Me: "Oh. Ya Ya".

E: "mm-hmm. When Jie Jie go, Ya Ya come".

At this point, I scooped her into my arms to hug her so I could hide my tears. Because this was her night ayi, and Jie Jie was her morning ayi. This was the woman who tucked her to sleep, Jie Jie was there to begin the day with her. They were the nannies closest to her heart. Somehow, in bringing E closer to me, I think I believed I could bring these 2 important people in her life closer to us. Bridge the gap of time and space.

Maybe I shed those tears because I'd missed out on these years with her, I'm not sure. I think mostly I cried because she amazes me and I feel so privileged to share these moments with her. I cried because I never want her to lose those precious memories of those who loved her so completely before we came. I wept because were it not for these special people- her nannies- people I don't know but have come to love fiercely myself- were it not for them, my girl would not be who she is today: affectionate, loving, kind, funny, spirited... happy. Happy deep down in her soul.

And maybe I cried because I wanted to wrap my arms around those who gave me this gift. And because her first parents have no way of knowing that their child not only survived when she shouldn't have, but has lived to tell the stories of her life -

and has thrived living it.


  1. BEAUTIFUL post...
    BEAUTIFUL pictures..
    I am sitting here with tears in my eyes..
    Hugz my friend..
    Cherish every momente..

  2. Beautiful. Lovely layers of memories.

  3. Reminds me recently - M said- remember that time in China that they were turning the lights out in the store and you kept saying that it was a hint for daddy to quit shopping? I had completely forgotten this - but remembered when she reminded me - almost 5 years ago, at age 16 mos. on Shamian Island (not speaking english as far as we knew) I confirmed it was the night we went out of the WS at around 6:00 and it was getting dark and all the shops were starting to close. She said yes, that was the night and she was in her stroller. Wow.

  4. Oh K. These experiences are deeply powerful. My youngest tells me stories about China and I have the great gift of her sister to ask if those memories are accurate. My youngest was only 2 ½ when she was adopted. Sometimes she will remind her big sister of things that happened during their life in China. It is amazing to witness. Of course my oldest has intense memories having been adopted at almost 8 years old.

    Shortly after my youngest was adopted I made the biggest Mommy mistake I have ever made. I never told anybody about it and I distinctly remember telling myself at the time – It will be ok...she is only two...she will never even remember this happened.

    Last year, as we were walking through the grocery store, my little one (then 6) exclaimed- Hey Mommy, do you remember when I was little and you did ‘such and such’?


    It was on that day that I became a firm believer in karma ;)

  5. Oh I love your posts! So honest and so raw and so real. Our girls are amazing for all they have gone through and for the ways they thrive. It is so wonderful that E has those memories and felt so loved. Just sorry that it causes pain to remember on some of those nights.

  6. It is truly a gift that you can share these memories together just now. And I think there are many reasons why we cry for our children and all of them are because we love.

  7. These posts that you write always make me cry. I fully believe that there are some uniquely special people in this world and I also believe that E is one of them. And angel on Earth. She is amazing beyond description and she is goign to do some very special things in her life. You are truly blessed.

  8. Your words and her spirit, two of the reasons we come here.

  9. What a beautiful post.

    I am always amazed at how much Briana remembers from a year ago and more. I have just bits and pieces of memories from when I was 3 and 4 years old. I guess as we get older, things do start to fade. I think that is why I have overcompensated when it comes to blogging everything Briana does so she can see and remember all the things that she did from one year old on. I only have 5 or 6 pictures from her first year of life and can't tell her much about that - and that makes me so sad.

    K is such a smart little girl. A true, true gift.

  10. I too believe that E is one of those special people on Earth.
    I also know that when I see the pictures of her in China- I KNOW that she was loved, you can see it. That is amazing to me because the range of experience for children there can range so dramatically. I think that E just draws love to her!
    I think this thing you two do of reviewing her past and the ones that loved her there will only help her in the here and now and in the future. It is so important t remind ourselves of the times we felt loved and cherished. Our daughters and sons from China need this most of all. We have to find ways to reconcile our pasts with our nows and our tomorrows....the precious way you do that for E just makes my heart melt. I learn lessons from you every day....

  11. This is so amazing...I am so glad you documented this for E...she will cherish these memories as they are part of her history...how blessed that she remembers these things...how wonderful that there are photos to go along with her memories...this is so important for her!!

    Kiara remembers a lot from when she was much younger, but sadly, nothing from China - although every now & then she makes stuff up about her foster family...like the time she told me they cooked a dragon for her (!!!).

  12. This post, my friend, is precious, precious and even more precious. And so it your E. And so is her Mama...and Baba too.

    God is good.


  13. Lovely, remarkable - the memories for sure, but most of all E.

  14. I am sitting here in awe...complete awe of E. So precious!


  15. This is wonderful! You are so lucky to have all those pictures! We have exactly 10 pics of the Petunia's time in the orphanage and her nannies don't show up in any of them. I just remember that the first time I saw her she and one of the nanny's were giggling together and I was just too overwhelmed at the time to get a shot of them together. I am so happy that Ellis has these pictures and these memories. She will always treasure them.

  16. What a sweet ritual. I am happy that E has these memories & can now articulate them to you.
    Like Patricia's daughter, Jami pretends to have memories (only 1 of them is very specific & consistent, & I'm willing to believe a real memory).....of the dragon / princess variety.....of her life in China.

  17. I hope i didn't misinterpret anything, but it seems to me that E was treated very well by her nannies when she was in China. This is such an amazing relief, since the treatment you give a child during those times- while perhaps inaccesible as an adult- the ramifications stay for a lifetime. And now with all the TLC she gets from you, this is one happy little girl!

    It's amazing how fast time flies. She's already been with you long enough where you can both reflect on the past together. The only part that seems to me incomplete- and this sound weird coming from a stranger- is that I REALLY, REALLY wish she could have met your mom. Take care.


  18. E ended up in the perfect family for her. The way you all compliment one another is truly amazing.

    In speaking of memories our kids have of their time in China.... Vivi was adopted at 12 months. She does not yet know about being abandoned and the details surrounding how she got to the orphanage. She does not know she was very sick when found and spent two weeks in the hospital. Yet she tells a story with very vivid details that essentially matches where she was abandoned (talks about the street) and about being so sick. The only way she could know this? From memory..... It always blows my mind!

  19. And our prayers that these memories will fade gradually but be with her for a long long time, and the love you have for each other will grow and grow.

    Regarding my parasailing pic, yes there are two people. The guy on top is actually the guide, who makes sure the customer he is squatting on does not end up anywhere else but the beach when his time is up.

  20. Beautiful post K!
    Lily too has memories from early early on! It is incredible! I have trouble remembering what I had for lunch yesterday and she can tell me about toys she played with as a baby!
    E is very special, very amazing little girl! (with an amazing mom)

  21. Beautiful post and one that is very familiar. Lizzie and I have had similar conversations and they always end the same - me holding her a little bit tighter, hiding my tears. E is a very special little girl! You are just so blessed:)

  22. Beautiful.

    You embrace the whole of her with such grace; she is so clearly integrating her past and her present to make such a wonderful whole person.

    My LF appears to have no memories from her time in foster care, despite not moving to me until she was 22 months, adespite ongoing contact with her foster carers. She's just shut off that early time.

  23. Amazing memories and so wonderful to be shared with you.

  24. So glad this beautiful soul has a permanent place to flourish. :)

    She had such a nice room and crib. This probably really did help her transition - the differences not so desperately stark. She was probably not so afraid of stuffed animals if they have them around and in the crib.

    M was not either - her foster mama took a picture of her when she was little (approx 5 mos) just after she was placed in care, smiling and surrounded by miniature poohs (and we were worried she'd be scared when we chose a pooh theme for her room - God can be into the details)

  25. P.S. M has memories of that time, may have had a lot more in the past, now that almost 5 years have gone by. She sang an odd song, "Jiang Shiang Li is my favorite town". We are still trying to find that road in Guilin.

    Recently, she surprised me by saying - remember that time in China when they were turning all the lights out in the shop and you were telling daddy to stop shopping because they were closing? It took me a second or two, but then the memory, the details of the shop, the lights, the night, how the air felt, and the fact it was 6:00 pm when we went out from the WS came back. I verified that was when she was referring to. I am shocked that as a supposed non-english speaker, she not only understood that whole scene at 16 mos, but remembered it at age 6. We have always had a feeling that getting to eat in all those breakfast buffets had a HUGE impact on her, but forget that it may be a vivid memory.

    It is also important and poignant that they want to tell us about the crying. We as a society seem to feel that everything before age 3 fades fast. I don't think so now. When M was home just 2 months, I put her in daycare to go back to work. The home daycare provider had written a note. In the rush of getting M and everything into the house at the end of the day, the note, that I had not noticed, fell under the Kitchen table. When I finally sat down, she crawled under, brought it to me and pointed to the word "CRY" in the long, handwritten note and said cry cry - her english speaking ability not being too good yet. I was shocked that she could pick the word out, but more importantly that this was a very important part of her day and her existance and she really wanted me to know what happened and how she felt.

  26. Tears for our daughters. Such real moments. Tears for the treasures we hold in our arms and tears for every second of their lives that we missed. WHat a gift you have in those 200+ pictures and in the memories your daughter is blessed to have. A smart cookie for sure!! How wonderful that your pictures include those who loved and cared for your daughter! I was blessed this week to receive updated information from Hannah's SWI and a discussion held between her nanny and a friend last week but sadly the SWI has a 'no picture' policy of the nannies so that picture escapes me....but the tears she shed as she spoke of my daughter I will bottle in my heart and know that she was loved!