I guess I should mention, in my journey of humility this week, that my valiant efforts to dodge the shames and blatant opinions given by the elderly Chinese women regarding my clothing choices for my child, have met their demise. I laugh at it now, but in the moment, I felt an initial "Oh, Man!" run through my head and felt a tinge of failure. What was ironic about it was twofold. It was probably one of the lasts moments of our trip that it could have happened, and I was trying to communicate non verbally to them in the process. As we arrived in Shanghai, we had to visit the baggage claim before walking to the airport hotel. I had Salem bundled in her thick blue fleece jacket, stuffed in the blue sling, wearing a navy blue onesie underneath. As we were waiting for our bags, a group of four ladies came over to us and were watching us, smiling and talking amongst themselves. There were gesturing to one another, obviously making comments about her, and as her mother, I was trying to discern what what being said about my child. I had eliminated the chance that it was about her lack of clothing, because I knew she was well dressed and plenty warm, so I began to assume that they were commenting on the sling that had her bundled so tightly. We received concerned looks and suggestions to remove her from the device earlier in the week when her legs looked bound and too scrunched for a saleslady's liking. I should mention that she was also trying to sell us a front carrier that allowed legs to be free to dangle. We chalked it up to her wanting a sale, but it left me wondering what others thought of this foreigner's way of transporting her child. For this reason, I wondered the same in the midst of the baggage claim lady's snickering. Then, it occurred to me that Salem was wearing nothing but blue. Are they wondering if this is a boy? Feeling rather warm myself and wanting to show them the sweet little girl flowers on the front of blue onesie, I removed her coat. Before I could point to the floral design on the front, they started chiding and one lady grabbed the sleeve of her shirt between her thumb and forefinger and shook her head at me. At that moment, the joy of showing them my daughter subsided as I looked acknowledging their concern, then quietly turned around and put on her coat. Well, almost. We laughed it off, but I did feel a little pride that had been welling up inside me shrivel up into a little ball. Such blessings are good for our souls:)
The emotions of our homecoming were plenty, all jumbled up into a undecipherable ball of the unknown. We were waiting to be united with family and to introduce a young man to his new little sister. With this we felt excited. However, we were saying goodbye to this journey and a concentrated time with just Salem. The time we spent bonding was precious and I knew that the quantity of the time we had spent together would be different forever. Wondering how we would adjust, both in sleeping and waking hours left me nervous and weary at just the thought. On our last two flights from New York and Atlanta, Salem slept like a rock, sprawled out on her back across our two laps, much like my first sight of her in Nanchung. She slept soundly, completely unaware of her newfound citizenship and future here. Though for us, it was epic.
As we landed in Chattanooga, I said a prayer of thanks for God's protection of us and waited for the plane to empty. At the back of the cabin, we would be the last off and the last through the doors of the terminal to our waiting entourage. Sweetly, we were met with familiar faces of family and friends, snapping pictures and holding signs. Jonathan was waiting, watching intently, crouched down like a little tiger cub waiting to pounce on it's playmate. As we made our way closer to him, he broke free of arms to run toward us. He was yelling, in a sweet, happy giggle, "Mommy! Daddy! Salem!" As we embraced, our family was made complete. As I pulled away to look at him, he seemed enormous as if he'd grown four inches while we were gone. This completely took me by surprise. My baby was so big! The little boy we left two and a half weeks ago, was different and inwardly I grieved momentarily that we had missed that time with him. Slowly, we made our way around to hug the necks of such wonderful loved ones who would subject themselves and their children to less sleep for the sake of our welcome. To those who were there, thank you for making it special.
As the crowd dwindled we made our way to the car. We snapped both children into their carseats. Salem wasn't sure what to do, as she had been allowed to squirm and move about during our travel in China. I sat between them, glad to be in reach of both children at once. We comforted Salem as the restriction, darkness and street lights were strange to her. Then we pulled into our driveway. Home at last! At midnight, we tucked them into their beds and said goodnight.