Yesterday Luke officially became a Straka. We signed the forms, added our thumbprints to our signatures, paid our fees and promised multiple times to never abandon or abuse Luke. We told numerous officials that, yes, we did, in fact, “like the boy”. We told them that we loved him. We told them we would offer him the best medical care and educational opportunities. We told them we would love him just as much as our other five children. A few handshakes, a few smiles, a few more photos, and a last stop at the local police station for a photo of Luke (new Chinese requirement), and Luke’s adoption became legal under Chinese law.
But really, Luke has been ours from the moment God opened our hearts to starting the adoption journey. Or I guess it is really more true to say that he is God’s child, given to us to love and raise, and the privilege from here on is ours.
Let me tell you more about our Luke:
He loves to eat. He specially loves noodles, dumplings and banana bread. (So, Sarah and Straka ladies, count him in for our afternoon tea time with fresh banana bread!) Oh, and he loves chocolate. He is a true Straka.
He has the world’s best smile. It lights up his entire little face. It is an all-encompassing manifestation of the happiness of the moment, often accompanied by a little chortle of glee. We are seeing more and more of these smiles as Luke becomes more and more comfortablewith us. His little eyes crinkle into half moons and he tilts his head back a bit, squinting up at us to see if we are willing to smile along with him…do we get how very good the particular moment is? Is our funny bone tickled along with his? Are we with him in the midst of his mirth? One thing about Luke…he likes for us to join him in his emotions and activities.
Which brings me to the next Luke thing that I love: his little English expressions such as “Come on! Come on!” said typically with great enthusiasm as we are getting ready to head out our hotel room door. He looks around for both Andy and me and makes sure to grab both of our hands (he waited this long for us to get to China, he’s not going to let us go!) and then with a huge grin on his face urges us forward to the next adventure. It’s pretty amazing, really….he has no idea what is going to come next when we walk out that door, but he’s ready and pretty excited about whatever it might be. He is capable of great enthusiasm and I like that. I love his adventurous spirit and I marvel at his resiliency and ability to trust, even in the face of such huge changes. He inspires me. I want to be brave, adventurous and resilient like Luke.
I love the way he hurries from one location to another. We call it the Luke-skip-shuffle. It is his own way of ambulating, kind of a combination of a skip and a gallop and a shuffle with a little hop thrown in for good measure here and there. It is merry and suggests that good things will be waiting at the end of the journey.
Luke loves his dark blue GAP baseball cap that I brought from home. He puts it on first thing in the morning and wears it all day. He sometimes takes it off to look at it, or maybe try it on my head or Andy’s head so that we can giggle together about how it doesn’t fit! But then it’s right back on Luke’s head, a few sizes too large so that it is impossible to see his eyebrows and sometimes even hard to see his eyes! When he has it on and wants to see us or talk to us he has to tilt his head way back just to see…it is so incredibly cute. One of the memories of our first days with Luke I will always treasure is of a little boy, tiny in stature, with his too-large cap on his head, tilting his neck back to look up at us, or anyone else, for that matter.
Luke is not going to be a pants-sagging American boy. He is used to the Chinese way of hoisting his pants way up on the waist (with many layers underneath, of course). And so even when I pull the waist tabs way in on his American-made pants, they fall down lower on his waist than he likes, so he goes around all day with one hand on his pants, tugging them up, and up, and up….today he is dressed in overalls and seems relieved not to have to be working so hard to hoist up those other pants!
Luke loves to wash his hands and brush his teeth. Thank you nannies at New Day for teaching him so well! He has taken the task of hand washing and elevated it to an art form. He is so tiny that he can’t reach the sink in our room, so we turn the baby bathtub upside down and he stands on that, perched at the edge of the sink for the hand washing experience. I learned very quickly that this is not a rapid event but more of a marathon type of thing that is to be enjoyed, experienced and exulted in. Here’s the technique: after wetting his hands, Luke gleefully grabs the soap. Next ensues a good minute or more of squishing the soap, dropping it in the sink and exclaiming each time “uh oh” with a huge smile on his face, grabbing it up again, and soon.
Eventually Luke allows himself to part with the soap, and then in true surgeon fashion rubs, scrubs and rings his hands over and over again, grinning the whole time. He loves this process! Finally he will joyfully rub his soapy hands over and over again under the running water, escalating, if allowed, into seeing how far he can squirt the tap water across the sink and counter…at that point I typically turn off the water and announce “All done!” and it’s time to dry the hands and move on to the next exciting endeavor. Never have I seen a child enjoy hand washing as much as Luke.
Luke is a very relational child. He seems to be drawn much more to adults than children. He rarely passes by an adult without searching out eye contact and typically waving. He rebounds quickly from the ones who don’t respond, and then moves on to the next person who might be a potential friend. When his efforts are rewarded, and someone smiles back or talks to him, he is very pleased. What pleases me, however, is that he seems to know that Andy and I are the ones he needs to stick with, and even though he likes relating to others, he doesn’t run over and climb into the laps of strangers. When others hold out their arms to him he typically shies away, preferring to stay in the safe grasp of Andy or myself. That is good. Even though deep attachment and bonding will take time, I love the fact that Luke already seems to know that we are the ones he needs to stick close to; we are his “Mama and Baba.”
I marvel that this little boy can accept our love so readily and that he can turn around and trust us when we are still relative strangers to him. Even during the brief time he wept after his nanny left him with us, he never once pushed me away in his grief. As I held him and rocked him, he leaned into me, as if asking me to help take his pain away. He allowed me to love him at a time when he could have just as easily run to the other end of the room or railed against me for the confusion of the moment. Maybe this is part of Luke’s gift to us: to trust us when he doesn’t really know if we are trustworthy. And to allow us to love him, even in the face of grief and loss.