She came to us in a photograph first. In the conference room of our adoption agency, our social worker slid her photo across the table. This was our introduction to our daughter, Jin Heng Ling. In one moment we were connected to this beautiful baby and immediately signed the papers promising to travel to China in six weeks to pick her up. I held the photo of my new daughter and determined that I would not be afraid. Only four weeks earlier terrorists had flown planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Everyone was on high alert, fearful, and certain that the next attack was around the corner. But Jin Heng Ling was in China and we were here, and once that photo was handed to us I felt as if we were missing someone in our family.
Jin Heng Ling was living in the Guiping Social Welfare Agency in Guiping, China. The province is in southern part of the country, near Vietnam. Guangxi province is an autonomous region, and it was our agency’s first time to receive referrals from this orphanage. Six weeks after we were handed her photo, we traveled with eight other families who were also receiving their daughters. We went through security checks at the airport like we had never seen. Suddenly the world was in a panic and everyone looked suspicious. People were still nervous and jittery, but it didn’t matter. The little girl with the rosebud lips was waiting for us, although at the time she didn’t know it. We flew across the ocean on a Chinese airline, landed in Beijing, did tourist sightseeing for three days, flew to the capital of Guangxi province, and received our daughter. She came to us in another conference room, handed gently into my arms by a teary-eyed orphanage worker. Over a week and a half, we bonded with Jin Heng Ling as we finished the adoption process in the capital city of Nanning, and the port city of Guangzhou. We left China on a Wednesday afternoon and as we lifted into the air, I looked at the city below and wondered when our daughter would return to see the land of her birth. Would she ever want to return? Would she care about the place where she was born and the culture that will always be part of her?
It has been almost ten years, and now it is time to return so that Alison can see China. And yes, she wants to see the place where she was born and lived for the first year of her life. We will leave next Tuesday for the trip of a lifetime – the second time around.