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.
*Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Casablanca, 1942