In Guangzhou

There is something about southern China that comforts me. Perhaps it’s the nasal softness of Cantonese. Or the delicious food. Or the sweet, incense-filled breezes. Or the fact that I know many of the trees and plants by name here. Whatever it is, I feel welcome here, and the aching tension that had filled me in Wuhan has drained away. (More comfortable beds here could have something to do with that, too).

I suppose there was a time when I did not know a kapok tree from a bauhinia, but the knowing seems ingrained in my very bones now. I was delighted last night to go out to fetch dinner, and to walk under banyans, past palms, to step carefully around the purple petals of bauhinia blown onto the pavement at my feet. The familiarity of it had me grinning foolishly at everyone and everything.

We’re here to finalize my son’s adoption at the American consulate on Tuesday. This is the final destination for American adoptive families before returning home, so our hotel is filled with families and their new children. I’ve seen a lot of nervous first-time adoptive parents, and I sympathize. Emotions run so high.

In fact, I’ve been impressed at how much easier this adoption has been than the first one. My son is brash and bold and every bit a toddler, but he’s accepted us so easily. I’m sure my daughter has a lot to do with that. He even lets me play with him, and today came to me for comfort for the first time, though he only allowed it briefly and went to his Baba directly afterward, seeking his anchoring presence.

Adoption is a strange thing. It begins in so much pain and loss and ugliness. And it can go wrong. It has not ended well for some children, it’s true. But for others, it’s a dream they never dared to have come true, a tiny flame held up against the dark of this world.

When we left Hong Kong for Wuhan, I remarked on the beauty of the kapok trees, holding the orange candles of their blossoms aloft. And my friend said, “Kapoks aren’t beautiful. They just know how to hold themselves up with grace and strength.”

Adoption is the same. It may be born in loss and sorrow, stark as the limbs of the kapok, but sometimes it allows life and love to blossom. Sometimes it brings a grace that flowers in the dark.

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