This passport photo was taken maybe thirty minutes after that traumatic first meeting. I sat him on the stool in front of the white curtain, my arm on his back to make sure he didn't fall. "Smile!" I said in a cheery sing-song voice. Although an appropriate thing to say at a photo session, it was quite ridiculous under the circumstances, spoken to a child who didn't understand English and had just left everything he'd ever known. "Smile!" The poor boy.
Even now, things sometimes trigger memories for XiXi and I'm reminded of how traumatic that day was. I put on a certain pair of shoes last week and XiXi looked at them and said with a very serious look on his face, "Those are your China shoes, Mama." I wasn't sure what he meant until I realized that those were the shoes I was wearing when I met him. There are no photos from that day of my shoes, so it's not that he's had visual reminders, it's just that the details from that moment are etched in his mind.
His favorite story right now is the picture book, "Are You My Mother?" wherein a baby bird tries to find his mother who left the nest right before he hatched. One night after we finished the book he said, "I so glad that bird find his mother......In China I no have a mother." Then he squeezed my arm, smiled at me, and whispered, like it was a secret between us, "But I found you, didn't I, Mom?"
What a blessing indeed that we found each other. He's sweet and funny and considerate and helpful. He lights up our home with his whole-face grin. It's humbling to think how easy it would have been to miss out on XiXi, to have let that gift pass us by without ever knowing what we'd missed. Over a year ago, when we saw his photo on a website, we were in no way ready for an adoption. At least that's what we thought. Heavenly Father obviously knew better.