I had just confused a boccie ball with a melon ball. Or maybe it was a Scarlett O’Hara and a Red Headed Slut. Either way, I was pacing back and forth behind a bar, hands on hips, muttering something not printable in a family blog.
This was back in January when I was practicing for a portion of my final exam for bartending school — a speed drill in which I would have to make 12 drinks in seven minutes from among any of the 160-some-odd drinks we had covered during class. I had the drinks down cold if you gave me a name and asked me to spit back what went into the glass. But I needed work on the actual practice of grabbing the proper glass, bottles, mixers — in the proper proportions — along with the garnishes, and move onto the next drinks. I would eventually get it, but I just wasn’t there yet.
The instructor, who was kind enough to tutor me when she likely had better things to do like arrange future class schedules or play Farmville, sensed I needed a break. We started chatting about my future plans, and why I decided to learn a new skill. I told her I had always wanted to bartend, and that I’d realized lately the importance of truly enjoying your work. Important for me and for my family. I hope to teach Penelope the importance of making a career by doing what you love.
When I mentioned that I had a four-year-old adopted daughter from China, the instructor leaned over the bar, her voice getting slightly hushed and gentler. “Can I ask you something?”
I wasn’t sure where she was going, but I have always been pretty open about my experiences adopting a child. “Of course,” I said.
“Is it the same? When you adopt a child, do you have the same feeling . . . the same bond, I guess, that you do if you have the child naturally?”
It’s a good question. I can’t compare the two experiences because we’ve never conceived a child. But I can tell you of the immeasurable and immediate joy that swept through me the moment I held my daughter. And, the exhilaration. And the sheer terror.
And the feeling that somehow a miracle had just occurred. Maybe not the miracle of witnessing birth, but one of traveling halfway around the world to meet and hold a little girl (she was two at the time) who will be a huge part of our lives forever. The feeling that this is exactly what was supposed to happen and how it was supposed to be. Yes, it took reams of paperwork, miles of legwork and a wad of cash, but all the headaches and small heartaches melted away the moment we looked into her beautiful black eyes.
Dozens of books exist that detail the attachment process, so perhaps a story will suffice here. I remember the second or third day in Xiamen City, and we were at the pool. I thought it’d be fun to take Penelope into the adult pool. (This was before a rat the size of a chihuahua dove into the pool and sent Japanese businessmen scurrying like rice on a hot wok. I wrote about it here.) I hoisted Penelope above my head and started walking down the pool steps when I discovered something interesting about swimming pools in China. (Well, at least at this hotel.) The tile used in this particular pool was slippery bathroom tile. On the second step, my feet went flying out from under me. And although my toes were level with my chin, somehow instinct kicked in and I kept Penelope above my head, while I floundered backward into the water. I suspect she had no idea what happened, but my back sure did.
Later, I lay in bed thinking how quickly it all happens. One minute you’re cruising along without a care in the world, and the next you’re totally responsible for this tiny soul. Doesn’t matter whether it takes nine months or two years, or whether the child enters your life — screaming like a banshee — in a hospital room or a hotel suite. The bonds are instantaneous and unbreakable. And yes, miraculous.