Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Reunion

We had a pretty cool day yesterday. Literally: it was cloudy and rainy, and dipped to a balmy 80-something. But also, we boarded The Big Blue Bus with Paul, Mary and Joy, and the six of us drove to Irvine Regional Park for the CCAI West Coast Reunion 2006.

We weren't really sure what to expect, other than burgers and a bounce house, but were pleased to see a cozy--rather than teeming--crowd upon our arrival at Party Pavillion A. No sooner had we alighted from the car (our recalcitrant non-nappers having grabbed only a few winks apiece) but we spotted the famous Josh and Lily, the couple who founded CCAI and something akin to celebrities in my eyes, since I'd only previously encountered them in the promotional DVD and our embarkation "conference call" a week before our trip. It was strangely thrilling to see them in person; I got quite tongue-tied.

Right away, a nice little girl asked our name and returned with a goodie bag for Jarrah, including a magic wand (every little girl needs one!) and a bendy-armed pig. It also had a commemorative t-shirt, which you can see Jarrah and Joy wearing in the photos. Their previous ensembles were orange with Big Stick, anyway. (Jarrah did not understand popsicles exactly; she liked eating hers, but seemed confounded by the stick, preferring to grip the ice bit in her fist. She kept turning it upside-down to examine the stick, with an expression that said, "What's the connection between this cold yummy and a piece of wood? Couldn't they just have made the tasty part longer?")

Jarrah quickly departed for the jump-jump, but early forays left her weepy and limp when the leaping of other kids flung her from wall to wall like a lost sock. Later, she was a jump-jump champ, refusing to exit even though the terrain remained hazardous. I had a moment of profound emotion as I watched the beautiful little girls of varying heights through the rip-stop window, their hair flying. Jarrah was the smallest right then, and whenever she'd tumble head over teakettle, an older girl would reach out her hands and pull Jarrah to her feet in a way I found surprisingly gentle and sweet. I couldn't help thinking about how Jarrah would look like them some day, with long braids and skinny legs, and sound like them, too.

It's been nearly six months since we met Jarrah and she just turned 19 months old. Not enough time has passed for me to think of her outside the context of how I met her. We had our first post-placement visit this week (an educational aside: these social worker visits are required at six and twelve months post-placement for all China adoptions) and Jarrah spent her time alternately clinging to us like a life raft (suspicious that Loren might be a babysitter) and screaming because David put the kibbosh on her calling Australia with his cell phone.

A lot of "waiting families" attended the picnic, and I was reminded of how comforting it had been to interact with people who had already met their children, and were in fact living ordinary lives together, attending picnics with jump-jumps. These events were a way to ground ourselves during the mysterious and abstract process of paperwork and waiting, and now we were a part of that comfort for others. I probably babbled more than I should have to several nice couples about what they should bring, what to expect in China, and what their first few weeks with their child might involve. Like I'm some sort of expert now or something. ;)

We also had the good fortune of running into a family we had met at the Speaker's Bureau meeting where we first learned about CCAI in August 2004. Back then, they were sharing their journey to their completely adorable baby, Lea, who spent the meeting quietly toddling about the room, holding a beach ball bigger than her. Now Lea is three, tall and pretty, and resplendent in her pink sundress and jelly shoes. Mary and I both told this couple how much seeing Lea and her overwhelming cuteness had helped us make the decision to submit our applications.

Although we got back from China with enough time (about two weeks) to make it to this year's Chinese New Year celebration in San Diego, we were all too jet-lagged to contemplate it, so this picnic was our first official coming-out party as parents rather than "waiting family." It felt good, but more important, it felt completely natural; in fact, I didn't even think about our new status until we were already there. On the way up, I was much too involved retrieving dropped sippy-cups and locating lost Elmo phones to contemplate that I was now one of the people who had inspired me two years ago.

I was too busy being a regular ol' parent to think much about anything else.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yep, that is definitely "what cute looks like," downturned lower-lip and all! ;)
Best, Gail

Amy said...

Hey SAm,
I just love the picture sof Joy and Jarrah kickin' it in the beach chairs! Too cute!
:)
Amy

Mary and Paul said...

We had such a great time with you all!

OX,

Mary

Cheri said...

Wow! Look at Jarrah working a cup! Brilliant!

Every girl needs a wand. We just saw Wicked, so we know this for sure.

Anonymous said...

So many cute pictures! Thanks for posting them all. lix

Anonymous said...

I'm so bummed we moved before the CCAI reunion! Of course I remember beautiful Lea...I was fascinated by her and seeing her got me so excited to think I could have a beautiful daughter one day.

Thanks for posting the pics. The Joy and Jarrah are growing so fast.

Lynette