Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ai = Love

A few weeks ago I watched a film called Mao's Last Dancer. It is about a Chinese ballerina who leaves his parents at 11 years old to train as a ballet dancer, and then travels to the US from China and defects. Only to realize afterwards that he will not likely see his parents for quite a while, if ever. Several years later, he is performing at a premier ballet in the States and his parents have (unbeknownst to him) arrived from China to see him. Cue sappy music: The cameras show two primitive looking elderly people sitting in the audience in shock while gawking at their son's dancing (something they had never witnessed in their poverty-stricken village); they are crying while watching their uber-talented son, and wondering why he is not wearing pants. When they go on stage after the production to greet him for the first time in several years, the son crumples to the ground.

While I was watching this scene, I was sobbing in that shaky way that happens when your body wants to bawl, but you don't want it to, and then I was surprised when my youngest son came to watch it with me. He was curious what ballet was all about and wondering what could make mommy as crazy as he sometimes does. At one point, the hubs had to ask me if I was okay, and this little 5-year old said, "It's okay Daddy, they're happy tears." I wonder how he knew.

Yes, happy. But. Also curious tears. Curious about what my child's birth mom and dad would think of him if they could see him now. I long to show him off to them, and I wonder at his response--I confess I am partly terrified that he might like to return to them instead of me. Because he does accuse me of being "mean" sometimes often. And no doubt he has fantasies of a better life he could have had anywhere other than here.

You see, about five years ago the hubs and I went to China to pick up our son Thys. Every year on his birthday, I write a little cyber-note to his rents, even though I know that the likelihood of them ever reading these notes or actually meeting him is the same as me suddenly becoming a 22 year-old again.

To the birth-parents of a baby boy with a cleft lip born in late September, in or around Chongquing, People's Republic of China:

Your son is healthy, thriving and well.
He reads. He plays hockey. He is Canadian now. He is in Grade One.
He laughs as loudly as he cries. He is passionate. Fiery. He is a Dog, you know this. He loves action figures, especially knights and swords. And lions and pandas. And puzzles and ipods. He's freakishly good at Temple Run and Plants and Zombies.

He turns six today. You know this too, I know you do. You are thinking of him today and wishing him well. I know it in my bones. And I know you must sometimes ache in your core while wondering and questioning and missing and loving. You must feel the reminder pangs of could a mother forget? When a human comes out of your body, you can never pretend one did not. It is as if you deliver a part of your soul. And it lives on with or without you.
I long to reassure you. To show you: Your curious souls inhabit his little body, birth mom and dad, and is one I sometimes do not recognize. It is not mine or my husband's. It is yours. It exists. You exist in him.
And he reminds me often that we as parents are only a temporary gig. We will expire with the sun. Our job is calculable. Then he returns to the universe. To God knows where. To look for you? To find his soul?
Right now, we do our best around here. The most anyone can do as a parent on duty. He keeps us laughing... and crying... and cleaning... and he keeps us honest.
His memory is impeccable.
We talk of you often. He even prays for you sometimes.
I'm sorry you do not get the pleasure and pain and expense of raising him. But I'm glad that we do.
He is our son too.
Nothing but Ai, Ai, Ai.

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