Thursday, October 02, 2008

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine...

This evening I was having dinner with my family at a smallish chain restaurant that all four of us like.

Lana surprised me by reaching over to my plate and taking one of my shrimp. (And no, we were not at Red Lobster. Ever since the great Red Lobster Debacle of 1993, Husband has not set foot in a Red Lobster.)

Where was I?

Oh, Lana reached over and took a shrimp from my plate, put it in her mouth (uh...tail and all) and ate it.

"I like this," she announced.

Husband and I stared at her, a bit dumbfounded.

Lana loved shrimp when we were with her in Vietnam. And, for a short time afterward. LOVED them.

Then, inexplicably and without warning, she refused to eat them. For a long time she offered no explanation for this. And then, one day, months ago, she said, "I no eat that no more. I ate that when I spoke Vietnam. I no speak Vietnam, I no eat those things."

And while this made me sad, I didn't know what to do. It's not like shrimp is something I feed to my other child, well, ever. So, I stopped putting shrimp on her plate and replaced it with other things - chicken and pork and salmon. She didn't complain.

But today, she put that shrimp in her mouth and ate it happily. And I'm not sure what to make of it.

I watched her, sitting across the table from me, in the booth, leaning into Husband's arm. She said something very funny (although I cannot recall what it was exactly), we all laughed and she cuddled into him.

For a moment, I was awestruck, looking at this beautiful, beautiful child - this child who once loved shrimp, and then didn't anymore, because it reminded her of a place or a time before, that was too painful or confusing to think about.

To think that we had traveled to the other side of the planet, and arrived at an orphanage on a rainy afternoon, to meet a child we knew almost nothing about...and 20 months later, to find that she fits into our lives, into the crook of my husband's arm, into the spaces of my life that I didn't know were empty...

Truly, what are the odds?

What are the odds that people who are truly meant to be together will find their way to each other? It's almost a little like arranged marriage, isn't it? To be handed a packet of information and a picture and a list of instructions. You will get on a plane. You will meet this stranger. You will love them and live with them forever.

Is the human capacity for love so boundless that we can find love under such a pretense?

I think it might be. And maybe there is something greater going on. Maybe we are drawn to those we are meant to have in our lives by something bigger than ourselves.

For a long time, when I looked at Lana, I knew, somehow, that I loved her, that I was choosing to love her.

Love can be a choice that you make, and I was choosing to love this child.

But, I am not able to remember, at what point, I stopped choosing to love her, and found that I had no more choice in the matter. I love this little girl. It's no longer a choice I am making but simply the be all, end all - I love this little girl. Against all odds, against language and culture and blood ties that do not bind - I love this child.

I could not love her more than if it were my blood pumping in the heart in her chest.

And I am weirdly relieved, that, for whatever reason, she is ready to eat those things again, that remind her of Vietnam, and not feel bad about it.

LM

*Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Casablanca, 1942

15 Comments:

Blogger Jena said...

I think this may be one of the single most beautiful posts ever written. Thank you.

Thursday, October 02, 2008 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I completely agree with Jena. And I completely agree that the human capacity to love is that boundless.

Thursday, October 02, 2008 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

As someone who hopes to adopt someday, this post really touched my heart and gives me hope. Thanks!

Thursday, October 02, 2008 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Nicki said...

I agree with jena - this is one of the single most beautiful posts I've ever read. I"m sitting here with tears streaming. Thank you for so poetically stating how boundless love is and how miraculous the life that draws us together can be.

Thursday, October 02, 2008 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Terynn said...

all because two people fell in love...

and they lived happily ever after...

(happy sigh)

Friday, October 03, 2008 12:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Christina said...

Amazing isn't it, how something as simple as eating a shrimp can have so much meaning? :) It's been so great - and so encouraging for me personally - to see your love and bond with Lana grow. I know exactly what you mean about choosing to love versus having it just bursting out of your heart. And what a lesson to us all - not just adoptive parents - about making the choice to love even when the other person may not seem so very lovable.

Friday, October 03, 2008 9:30:00 AM  
Blogger Chel said...

What a beautiful, beautiful entry... I'm crying over here.

Friday, October 03, 2008 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

What an amazing and beautiful post…I needed a good sweet cry :) Thank you.

Friday, October 03, 2008 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I usually lurk but had to respond to this post. It is poetry. It made me smile and cry at the same time. My Vietnamese princess has been with me for 3 months and I adore her. I'm in love with her, but we're still "learnign each other" and I can't wait until I get to the point you describe.

Thanks.

Friday, October 03, 2008 2:36:00 PM  
Blogger S. said...

Just beautifully said and felt and I am just, overwhelmed with Lana and her bravery. And I love what Christina said.

Friday, October 03, 2008 5:02:00 PM  
Blogger thecurryseven said...

Beautiful!

Friday, October 03, 2008 5:22:00 PM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

I wish I could write like you! Beautiful post. As we've written each other several times, you know how I feel about this. I am so happy for you Gretchen, and deeply touched by the way you express it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous laura said...

Beautiful. And so very true.

Sunday, October 05, 2008 1:40:00 PM  
Blogger Monique said...

This post reminded me of a story my Mother told me repeatedly. My parents adopted me when I was little over two yrs old. My Mom was stationed in Thailand while my Dad and I were living in Vietnam. One day over the phone I told her "I no speak no more Vietnamese". My parents were mystified and stumped at the statement from a toddler. Up to this day they are convinced the Vietnamese maid who watched me during the day must have told me to speak English to my new family. Or I was afraid that if I didn't speak English that they wouldn't love me anymore. I don't remember doing it but I can now understand the reasoning behind it now that I have a daughter adopted from Vietnam as well.

Thursday, October 16, 2008 2:39:00 PM  
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Friday, October 17, 2008 10:43:00 PM  

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