Most of us had friends as kids that we promised, with mixed results, to love foreverâ€”but what must a friend from your orphanage, from your foster home, from your past mean to a kid? We adopted Rory at nearly four, and from the first, she’s been asking for “Bethany.” As often as she cried for her foster mother and father, and maybe even more often, she cries over Bethany. She wants to see her. She lingers over the pictures we have of them together, talks about they way they played, tells us stories about the birthdays they spent together. As recently as last week, Rory told me (after being scolded for a fight with Wyatt) that she wanted to go “back China.” I asked her why (it’s still not an unusual thing to say, and I try not to put a whole ton of weight on it) and she said, sadly, that Mama Deena (her foster mother) “never send me my room if I hit.” I was a little surprised by that–Mama Deena being a known, and excellent, keeper of order who I imagine was even more vigilant than I am about hitting, and said “Mama Deena didn’t get mad if you hit someone?”
“No,” she said indignantly, “I not hit! I not hit in China! I not need hit Bethany!”
I was relieved that it wasn’t that Mama Deena was vastly preferable mommy than me (although that’s often true), but that Rory herself felt herself to have been a nicer person in China (who wouldn’t have been, before her whole world got yanked out from under her) and that Bethany, of course, was much nicer than Wyatt.
We’re in touch with Rory’s foster family, an American couple who runs a foster home in China, and soâ€”very occasionallyâ€”we’ve seen Bethany on Skype, or had some news of her. Up until last night, I thought Bethany was going to stay in China, and it worried me. Any American’s position in China is always precarious, and I feared that Bethany might get caught up, somehow, in crazy bureaucracy. I feared for a lot of things, and I wanted this kid that Rory loves so much to have the kind of future Rory will have, here in the U.S., instead of fighting her way into some adult life in China.
Last night, I found out that Bethany will be adopted by a family in Ohio.
I haven’t told Rory yet, but I’m overjoyedâ€”and a tiny bit worried. I don’t know a thing about what her new family knows about Bethany (and I won’t use her Chinese name here, or offer any identifying details or use a picture). I don’t know if they know her foster family yet, or that she will speak English. I don’t know if they have other kids, if they’ve adopted before, or where they’re coming fromâ€”and most importantly, I don’t know if they’ll want to help Bethany keep a place for Rory in her life.
It would mean so much to Rory to see Bethany again. I’m already imagining this wonderful future for them together, of visits and letters and cards (the number of cards and pictures Rory’s drawn for Bethany over the past year, and that I’ve saved, would fill a USPS priority mail box) and Skype without a 12 hour time difference. I imagine, for me, too, another parent of an older adopted girl with my own girl’s slightly weird past, her almost-English, her half-family, half-foster status, and the connection we feel with the adoptive family and the home in China, still staffed by Americans, where we hope to visit, help and work someday.
But what if they don’t want any of that? What if China, as it always wants to, manages to keep Bethany’s foster family information from her adoptive family? Or what if they don’t want her to keep her links with her past? Or what if they just don’t like usâ€”if I’m too outspoken, if our faiths and convictions, which lack the organized affiliations of so many of our fellow adoptive parents, aren’t enough for them? I see this as a future for Bethany, but at the same time, I’m afraid that she’ll somehow disappear entirely from Rory’s life. And as much as Rory has lost, I have a sense that to lose Bethanyâ€”who has never abandoned her, or given her to another family, or turned her attention away, or, even to hear Rory tell it, snatched away a toy or hit her or called her “poopyhead,” would be huge.
I guess the silver lining would be that Bethany, if she’s never again a physical part of Rory’s life, might hold onto her iconic status even better than the real Bethany will. Maybe my dream of somehow giving Rory back this little piece of her past is would actually mess with Rory’s dream. Maybe the real Bethany, a year older, a year changed, won’t be Rory’s Bethany at all.
It’s out of my hands, of course. But if anyone knows a couple in Ohio about to adopt a 5-year-old girl from Fuzhou, Fujian, please: send them our way.
Cross-posted at No Hands But Ours.