Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lottery Winners

Last night I was in one of the Guangzhou Marriott's restaurants, winding down over a martini and dinner from a long day deadheading from Hong Kong after two days in the Sheraton there.

At an adjacent table was a middle-aged American couple that I pegged, based on a couple overheard sentences, as from the mid west, and probably at least well off enough, although there were no ostentatious reasons to support what was really a hunch.

With them was a little girl, Chinese. About four, I thought; just adopted, no doubt. And, ummm, spirited. Her parents -- interesting term; when does one become a parent? -- were appropriately apologetic about the disturbance.

So, add otherwise childless to the small bag of assumptions.

I smiled indulgently, and assured them I wasn't the least bothered. After all, children are what they are, and so long as that doesn't involve prolonged screaming, throwing things, or having one's seat kicked, being disturbed, or not, is really a matter of choice. I chose not to be disturbed; after all, occasionally watching a child be a child can be just as engaging as reading a book to oneself.

Their daughter's -- interesting term; when does one become a daughter? -- continued energy proved a catalyst for conversation, then an invitation to sit with them. Having just gone through what amounted to three days of solitary confinement, I was only too happy to oblige.

Some of my guesses weren't too far off. They were from western Pennsylvania. Not midwest, but just down the interstate. She was a maxillofacial surgeon, he was the chief resident of a trauma surgery.

They had in fact just adopted the little girl, and were to be heading back to the US the next day, after nearly two weeks in Guangzhou.

The little girl, still rambunctious was, as turned out, a six and a half year orphanage veteran and just minutes from being sound asleep on one of the couch-like seats.

The couple, far from childless, already had four of their own. I learned there were something like twenty other similarly new moms in the hotel, all of whom had new daughters.

Several things struck me. First, the depth of the maternal instinct is simply beyond male ken. Second, China appears to have a lot less use for girls than China needs.

Most strikingly, though, was thinking about the ride this girl was getting ready to go on. On one side of the divide, six and a half year in an orphanage that left her, to my eyes anyway, a good year from being as tall as she should be.

On the other, parents who don't speak a word of Chinese, a 12-hour plane ride (for which I hoped these two doctors came equipped with ADD meds), surrounded by strange looking people en route to a giant American house surrounded by brothers and sisters -- interesting term; when does one become a brother or a sister?

Alice's looking glass was a doddle by comparison.


Blogger erp said...

Formidable adjustments all round. It would be fascinating to know what led them to adopt and then follow them for a couple of years to see how it all shakes out.

May 20, 2010 4:43 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

I have a cousin (first cousin, once removed) -- interesting term; when does one become a cousin? -- who was adopted from China when she was about a year old.

The child was pretty sick and would've likely died if she hadn't been adopted so she went from a sure death to being brought up in a fairly well-off household in San Francisco. Really an incredible turn of luck.

I remember thinking my Chinese cousin won the biggest lottery possible and she didn't even have to buy a ticket.

I think your title is apt.

By the way, she's turned out to be a wonderful child (now 14-ish years old) and a joy to everyone around her. So the parents and everyone else won the lottery too.

May 20, 2010 5:01 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You got that right about maternal instinct.

A friend adopted a Russian girl back in the '90s, which involved traveling alone across Siberia with $5,000 in cash, the price demanded by the orphanage, and no, they don't take Visa.

She was plenty scared.

May 20, 2010 6:19 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Bret, I'm glad to hear that. Lately, I've been hearing a lot about adoptions that have gone bad and wondered if the big guy in the sky doesn't know what he's going when a couple can't have a baby.

May 20, 2010 6:37 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

It would be fascinating to know what led them to adopt ...

I was told. Dr. Mom briefly took the girl to their room, so I was able to talk to Dr. Dad.

Despite already having four kids, her maternal instinct was nowhere close to satiated.

I saw a lot of the new parents (mostly just the moms) at breakfast the next morning. (All the adoptees I saw were girls)

The place was nearly vibrating with unrequited maternal drive. There is simply no other way of explaining the cost, time, and effort required just to get to the point of taking a child home, never mind all the cost, time, and effort to follow.

... interesting term; when does one become a cousin?

Okay, I worked that device to death. But I had no other way to see the world through the child's eyes. Clearly, Dr. Mom, this little girl was instantly her daughter.

When you are six and a half, having lived in an orphanage all your life, does it work the same in reverse?

This was a 4-star hotel, so of course it had all the mod cons, including a pool and jacuzzi.

Drs. Mom & Dad (extremely nice people, BTW) told of taking their new daughter to the jacuzzi.

She screamed her lungs out.

That airplane ride was likely very interesting.

May 20, 2010 6:51 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

My friend who adopted the Russian girl made a point of taking her to Orthodox services and speaking Russian, to maintain the cultural identity.

The girl was no fool. She refused. She figured anybody talking Russian was in a position to move her back to Siberia, and she was having none of that.

May 23, 2010 8:37 PM  

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