Our eldest daughter, Caitlin, courageously left China 3.5 years ago with little understanding of where she was going. She left behind her friends, her nanny, her country and the only home she had ever known. Today ........... today she came back!
As the bus rumbled down the street it splashed through the fresh puddles and we could see the excitement on Caity's face growing. Her smile grew wider as her feet bounced up and down in anticipation. She looked to her parents and back out the window. She stood up, sat down and then slapped my shoulder multiple times. "Daddy, daddy, we getting close now." We rounded one more corner and passed through the gates. Caity was home.........
We exited the bus just as dirty little faces peaked around the corner. One by one they appeared, timidly approaching the newcomers. Then the nannies appeared and Caitlin was reunited with the kind hearts that taught her grace in the midst of the poverty and hunger of her childhood.
In a country where touch and hugging is rare, the warmth of the embraces were remarkable to witness. The nannies proudly led us to the new common eating area. Previously the children all ate in their tiny rooms but now they had a special place for food. It was a minor improvement but an improvement nonetheless.
Much to our delight we watched the smile on Caity's face as she shared all of the snacks we brought with us. She left years ago with nothing and now she comes back to share her blessings with all those left behind.
We watched our two youngest children transition from shock at the living conditions to comfort as they interacted with the many smiling faces, following the lead of their eldest brother.
The tour continued and Caitlin showed her siblings her former room. Very small by western standards for one person - here it was shared by eight individuals - 2 children per single bed.
To be present at this meal was an honor and a joy. There was no shortage of conversation and laughter was the main dish served. We exchanged stories of the past and present, America and China and delighted in every tale.
Before the two hour journey back to our hotel one thing remained. Just as Luke and Rachel got to view their files in Korea, so, too, will Caity see her file in China. She will not learn anything of her biological parents since she was abandoned but she will learn one unique piece of her history. She will learn her "finding place". The place where her mother left her on the steps 16 years ago.
We travelled there together as a family. One would think that a place of such great significance would be ordained with some type of memorial or a plaque but the sad reality is that it is only significant to us. Caitlin was found very unceremoniously on the steps of a bus station and all we could do to celebrate her "finding place" was to take a few photos as the rain fell around us. It was strange to think that her "biological mother" could have been in one of the surrounding apartments; perhaps even walking past us as the station bustled with activity. We will all need time to process the sad reality of this experience in the coming days but one thing is for certain; through the actions of this "biological mother" our family has been deeply blessed.
As we travel back on the bus together I listen to the chatter around me. SongAe and the translator - the children are laughing - but mostly I listen to Caitlin. Caitlin and her good friend from the orphanage who is accompanying us back to the hotel for the night. There hasn't been a moment of silence between them since our departure. I hope they talk all night long..............