Stromberg's Adoption Dream

The journey to our little girl in China

American Girl

We have been home for two weeks and I marvel at the fact that Lydia is an American. Just like that she became an American and now she has the diet and experiences to prove it. She loves mac n cheese, she enjoyed shopping at Target, she even ate a hot dog at Costco (well part of one). 🙂 She has seen some part of Star Wars Episode One, thank you Quinn and Albin for exposing her to America’s film culture so young. She is all-in. She’s even cheering on the American Olympians with us as we are enjoying the Winter Olympics. And she’s loving it. The food, the sights the sounds of suburban American life. And one day, much to her mother’s delight, she will have her very own American Girl doll. I’m already much too excited about that shopping trip, and even purchased an American Girl doll, Chinese silk dress while in China. Yep, that happened.

And while I am thrilled for her new identity as an American, I can’t stop thinking about China and feeling some loss for dear Lydia.

On the day we flew out of Henan province, leaving for Guangzhou, Lydia and I both had tears. Lydia sobbed for the first 20 minutes of the flight. Maybe it was her ears, maybe the loud sound of take-off, maybe she was over-done with the stimuli of the airport. Who knows. She finally settled as I held her in her blanket and then suddenly I was overcome.

I began to cry, silent heaving sobs the kind that took me by suprise. Lars leaned over asking if I was okay. I wasn’t but couldn’t figure out why. I continued to cry, and then it occurred to me, I was feeling a sort of grief. We were leaving. We were leaving Lydia’s province, her city, her very birthplace behind. All the things that were so tied to her identity, the things that made her distinctly Chinese, we were leaving. And the truth is no matter how we try, we won’t be able to recover her identity as a Chinese person. As someone from Xinyang. Because that is no longer who she is. And as much as I wanted to get to Guangzhou, have that consulate appointment and get home, I was so aware that something needed to be grieved. There needed to be a leaving before there would be a cleaving to a new identity as an American. So I cried. I cried on Lydia’s behalf as she slept in my lap.

Once we landed in Guangzhou, I had had my tears and felt a new sense of purpose – let’s get home. I didn’t revisit the emotions of that plane-ride after that, but in the last few days as I have watched the Chinese olympians compete with Lydia by my side, I have begun to wonder at how she will engage with her Chinese heritage and identity. I wonder at the complexity of her teenage and young adult years as she tries to understand her identity as an adopted Chinese American. Is that even the right terminology?

And as I have pondered these things, something occurred to me, that felt rather revelatory. Lydia and I are not so different. We are both Americans, who have to work to learn about and celebrate our cultural heritage. And just as my parents worked to keep our heritage alive, bringing us to visit both Sweden and England, Lars and I will one day do the same for Lydia. We will return to China. She will experience Chinese culture, visit Xinyang, possibly even see her orphanage.

And as much as my childhood was filled with markers of my heritage by way of a Swedish smorgesbord every Christmas Eve, dala horse decor and goofy British humor, Lydia’s childhood will be marked with Chinese Artwork in our home, celebration of Chinese festivals and New Years traditions and trips to ChinaTown.

And then there are our names. I am Katie Lyn, named after my two grandmothers, Carolyn and Gwendolyn, one Swedish, one English. Lydia’s middle name DanQing, was her given name in China, kept as a way to honor her heritage. Our very names call us to recognize where we came from, the heritage that marks us. And every time she fills out a form she will be reminded of her Chinese roots. Of the Chinese nannies and orphanage officials that cared for her and named her after the color combination of reds and blue-greens used in traditional Chinese paintings. How beautiful. We hope she sees her name as a gift, a way to honor the land of her birth. Or at very least a piece to her identity puzzle.

So as I reflect on my tears as we left Henan Province, I feel glad to have grieved on Lydia’s behalf, committed to keep her heritage alive for her as she grows and thankful for her new identity as an American. She is indeed our little American girl. An American girl who looks like some beautiful combination of her Chinese birth parents. And who will undoubtedly eat both Swedish meatballs and fried rice. A girl who will dance around a maypole at family Midsummer gatherings, and receive red envelopes on Chinese New Year.

And we are certain Lydia will do her own grieving and celebrating as she grows, but for now she is just a happy toddler with darling black pigtails running around in pink Osh-Gosh overalls. And life is good and simple for this little American girl.

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7 thoughts on “American Girl

  1. Katie Zey on said:

    Beautifully said, Katie. With much love, Kate

  2. Vernadene on said:

    Seems like she’s fitting in very well and very soon. That is great!

  3. Hey there, I’ve been following your blog after a friend linked it on Facebook. We have a 5-year-old daughter, adopted domestically. What you are describing, the grief, is very similar to what I’ve experienced and I felt led to comment even though I’m usually a lurker and rarely comment on any blog! 🙂

    I think that in any adoption where you do not meet the child before committing to the process, such as international and newborn adoption, the parents are mostly focused on their own experience. It is only upon meeting and bonding with the child that you are able to see things from his or her point of view, and that brings overwhelming feelings. Adoption seems like such a wonderful concept until you see it as something that is affecting your own beloved daughter! I don’t know if I’m making much sense, but although we cherish our daughter and know 100% that God created our family and that our daughter’s birth parents were completely unable to parent her, I am so, so sad when I think about what my child and her birth parents are all missing out on because of the destruction of their family unit.

    Anyhow, Lydia is adorable! Blessings to you all.

  4. Carolyn Peterson on said:

    Thanks for the “mail” So glad it is all good news–I know you 4 are enjoying that dear little girl. I was out for lunch with our group from church, first time to get together since dear Grampa died–so sad to be there without him. But good to be with friends. Yesterday I was with my Circle girls for afternoon coffee. It was good to have your Mother here on Sun. and Mon. Two months yesterday that Grampa went to Heaven. My worst time is from 6 to 10 at night. That’s when we did puzzles or games and I just wait to go to bed and not feel the lose. Just so glad I am feeling better. I do have friends that call and Corky and Cindy call every day. Keep the Mail coming. Love you all, Gramma

    ________________________________

  5. Alyce Hawkinson on said:

    A lovely and thoughtful piece, Katie – and beautiful pictures!  Thanks so much!

  6. We are going with CCAI because of you. Thank you for all your posts and love. Nikki Phillips shared your blog with me in November and my husband and i love reading.

    Praise God for his faithfulness and your obedience.

    Jamie Price

  7. Jean and Bill Bristow on said:

    beatifully written KATIE. IT BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES. LOVE, JEAN

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