From that moment on—the Skype sessions, the tupperware-on-his-head games, the smiles—we didn’t look back, he was ours, here we go.
We drew a bath, Casey looked wide-eyed at the watery oblong tank. When we tried to put him into the tub, he tucked up his feet in aversion, trapeze-d into a pretzel. So I stripped down, got in the tub and waved ‘Come on in!’. Eyes still wide, he reluctantly dunked, then half grinned yet still concerned, emotions of pleasure and uncertainty.
The boy disliked his shoes, so we said screw the shoes, let him walk barefoot. And so we walked the great White Swan hotel’s marble foyers, his platypus feet flapping like little suction cups, thawp-thwap-thwap, echoing down the halls. People literally paused, lifted their heads to listen, turned and stepped aside to watch, marvelling at the big sound coming from such small feet. He walked between Susie and I, holding our hands, legs slightly bowed like a little chimpanzee, thwap-thwap-thwapping down the hall.
We got him a bathing suit and took him to the pool; again, he marveled at the sight, confused and overwhelmed; again lifted his feet, very reluctant to go in. I hugged & held him tight, walked gently into the water, and he held me tight right back.
Our second night we went out to dinner with a few couples from our loosely knit group of adoptive families, to a restaurant near the Pearl river. For the first time, Casey was unruly and petulant. I know it sounds odd to criticize for such a short relationship, but his attitude had been so good, and particularly good whenever food was involved. The hotel had massive banquets, huge offerings of food, platters of meats, vegetables, —unbelievable limitless offerings. Our little pint size Bonzo ate every bit as much as we did, maybe more. After two days he dropped the steamroll bun he’d kept clamped in his fist—replaced it with a teddy bear—and gorged on everything.
But this night at the restaurant, he was whining, demanding, implacable, and —if I could dare us such a descriptor for a 2-year old adopted less than 48 hours—rude. He was rude. I was tired. He got cranky. I got cranky. He got determined. I got more determined-er. He got noisy. I got up, lifted him firmly out of his high chair and walked out of the restaurant, away from the crowd. While walking, I began to lecture him in an unmistakable tone: I was not going to put up with this kind of behavior, so he better shape up or I—
—and he bit me!! He clomped down on my clavicle—the bone between my neck and shoulder—and bit me! HARD!!
“YAOOOWW!” —I tried pulled him away, but he was clamped like a bulldog
“YOWWWW!””-snap, release. Whoa!!
I bit him back!
(not as hard of course, I’m more mature than that)
“Dang you little—!!”
We had a showdown. Emotions were high and neither one of us was backing down. He was angry, crying hot tears, I was hurt and pissed. We were eye-to-eye, when out of nowhere, by my side appeared an elderly Chinese woman, a tiny little grandmotherly type, blackish-gray hair, short, thin & sinewy. She gave me an assuring maternal nod, held her arms out, hoisted him in, murmured some words in Chinese and instantly he calmed down. Within 30 seconds he was sedate. She handed him back to me with an odd sort of maternal grimace, and toddled away.
We went back to dinner and that was that (except my shoulder hurt like #$%^!!).
The next days flowed into a familial routine of meals, walks, swimming pool, and our favorite daily trip to our little home away from home of heavenly bliss: Starbucks. Ahh, Starbucks.
‘Wanna go?’—we didn’t even have to say where, just grinned in anticipation of a mini-mission for coffee grounds, a walk with a purpose towards home base. It was for us the only ‘truly US’ environment in Guanzhou.
The hotel was beautiful, but there were these odd, kind, gracious security guards sprinkled throughout the property. I’m not sure whom they were protecting. Every floor had a friendly guard by the elevator, standing at a podium with a clipboard, smiling and discretely making notations of everyone’s comings & goings. We were being watched.
One day we went shopping to buy Casey a shirt—
–and as the sign indicated, they were mostly crappy deals (they didn’t even spell ‘Juan’ right).
But trouble for us: the stores only had Girl’s clothes. Of course! The White Swan Hotel was the central lodging hub for adoptive parents, and only girls were adopted, so no boy clothes. Not to worry, said the store clerk, he could order some boys clothes and they would come in later today or tomorrow. So we paid and told him we would come back the next day to pick them up.
So what do you know: Later that same day, around 4:00pm, we were in the pool off in a corner at the back of the hotel property, when up walks the store clerk carrying our shirt! He walked right up to us and made the delivery! It was creepy—how did he know where we were? Perhaps those well-placed government security guards, there for our safety, comfort and convenience, were also monitoring our every move? Perhaps they suspected we were spies sending secret spy messages from that bastion of unfettered capitalism, Starbucks. Only spies drink that much coffee.
Each evening, in our hotel, looking out over the darkened harbor, amidst small boats and twinkling lights, came the oddest sight & sound: a Mississippi paddle boat lumbering down the Pearl river with loud polka music being broadcast off the bow. Each night the same song: “Roll Out the Barrel”, a German polka! The boat rolled down the river into the midst of the harbor, paused, did a slow 180-degree pirouette, and slogged back upstream. In big white letters, sign on the side of boat said AMWAY.
So here’s a Mississippi river boat sponsored by an American direct-sales company playing a German polka on a Chinese river. It was strange, surreal, an odd piece of Americana…we’d watch the boat, then refocus our eyes and see the reflection of ourselves in the hotel window: Susie, Casey, me. Proud parents for our fourth time—three daughters and now a son.