Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Birthday Girl

We don't know, and probably never will, whether this really was the day four years ago when a woman - whom we will also probably never know - went into labor, probably in a private home, probably somewhere near the city of Dongguan in Guangdong Province in the People's Republic of China.We don't know and probably never will know whether it was an easy labor or a difficult one, whether the woman was young, middle-aged, whether she was a sunny, cheerful sort of person, whether she went through the effort to see her child into the world with her friends and family about her or alone, prey to the fears that suffering unaided through such a great labor might be expected to summon from the lonely darkness.We do know that the baby girl she lifted in her arms had what in the bad old days would have been called the "cat's mouth"; a cleft lip and upper jaw.

We don't know if that was why this woman left the baby outside a filling station one morning several weeks later. We don't know if she was pressured to give the baby up by her family, boyfriend, or husband. We don't know if it was because the baby had difficulty nursing and was failing to thrive, and the worried mother had decided that those more powerful and wealthy than she could help the tiny girl in a way that she couldn't.We will never really know what the little girl's first year-and-a-half was like, in the "Social Welfare Institute" in Dongguan. We know that it couldn't have been much good for when we first met her that Friday evening two and a half years ago in the immense hotel on Shamian Dao she was a tiny, underweight, crewcut little thing; nonverbal, barely ambulatory and full of giardia.We'll probably never be able to know what she thought and felt that first long winter as we struggled to understand each other. We'll never know what she needed, or wanted, or the whys that started each tear that fell.

There's so much that we'll never know.But we know that it has been a very long way for such a small girl to run in four short years of life.

You've grown so big, and stretched so far. Those slender little legs you barely used now carry you so quickly that your mother and I can barely keep up with you. Climbing high, singing, dancing, telling stories to the accompanyment of your own giggles...you've become a very, very Big Girl.So in that time you've done what we all have to do at some time; you've taken hold of the day that someone else gave to you and made it your own. You're becoming the child, who will be the adolescent and, eventually, the woman you choose to be; smart girl, sweet girl, happy girl, stubborn girl, silly girl, loved and loving girl, funny girl, serious girl, growing girl, daddy's girl...
Birthday Girl.


Millicent said...

Happy birthday sweet Maxine!

Kelli said...

Wow! 4? How can it be? Happy Birthday! what a beautiful little girl she is!

FDChief said...

Thank you, both, for your kind words. She is a delight and, as she would bethe first to tell you, NOT a tiny toddler but a Big Girl who is ready to drive the car!