Friday, March 26, 2010

Zen Girl

My daughter Lily grew up in China, in an orphanage. She joined our family when she was a teenager. The first thing that anyone notices about Lily is her smile. She smiles a lot. It was the first thing I noticed about her when I met her in China. I fell in love with that smile.

When I went through the process to adopt Lily, there was a lot of red tape. Her adoption was more complicated than most. From the beginning I was told it was a longshot. But I proceeded, holding onto the tiny hope of possibility. So many things had to fall into place. The successful completion of each step was a miracle. During that time Lily and I wrote letters to each other. She smiled even through the Chinese characters I had to have translated. And then finally, there I was with her in China. So close to getting her home.

I couldn’t imagine what it must be like for her. When I adopted Mia from China she was only three. Mia grew up in the U.S. But Lily grew up in China. She had a life, she went to school, she had friends. She was leaving everything that she knew to go off with this stranger from America to who-knows-what-kind of life. She smiled.

We spent ten days in China together while we went through the remaining steps of the adoption and getting Lily’s visa to come to the U.S. We needed a few more miracles before we could get on the plane and come home. Lily didn’t know much English. I didn't know much Chinese. We pointed to words in our Chinese-English dictionary. We pantomimed. We played games like Uno that don’t require speech. We watched a lot of Chinese TV in the hotel. But Lily communicated just fine. She smiled. And when she could see that I was worried, she used one of the few English phrases she knew. “Everything will be all right.”

The miracles happened. I did get Lily home. And then prepared myself for a difficult adjustment period. She had a new family. She started going to a new school. She ate new food. She lived in a new home. With a dog.

I kept waiting for the inevitable the-honeymoon-is-over meltdown. It never came. When things were challenging, she just smiled and said, “Everything will be all right.” Oh dear, I thought, she is putting on a brave face because she is so scared. Maybe she is afraid I will be mean, or send her back. Maybe she believes that it is not safe to share her feelings. Maybe she is just overwhelmed. Or in denial. I was sure her true feelings would emerge. However, I gradually came to believe that those were her true feelings.

That was several years ago. Lily speaks English very well now. (I’m still working on my Chinese.) She goes to college. She has friends. Life is good.

But here’s the thing. Her life is always good. It always has been. Not because of her circumstances, but because of her attitude about her circumstances. “Everything will be all right” is her life mantra.

I’m trying to make it mine. When I get frazzled, I remind myself to trust that everything will be all right. And I smile.


  1. what a delightful way to face what happens each day. I embrace this philosophy. I love the little tidbits you share on this blog ~ thank you.

  2. I love this one sooo much.. well, thank you god for give a great, love family.. I love you, mom.-lily


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