After meeting Luke in the hallway we moved into the nearby playroom where several nannies were holding babies and playing with toddlers. Luke and his buddies trailed along with us, into the playroom, with looks of expectation on their faces. The older children knew we were Luke’s mommy and daddy and that this was a big event.
I sat down in a corner of the room and pulled out a little photo album I had put together before leaving home. There were photos of Luke in the beginning, and then photos of our home and family. Luke’s initial shyness wore off quickly as he gleefully thumbed through the album and then settled on the fun activity of pulling individual photos out of their clear plastic holders and then re-inserting them, over and over again. Soon all the older children had crowded around to see the photos and to be part of the action.
I marveled at the fact that Luke, our new son, was settled so happily in my lap. That he was so light and tiny. That he looked so incredibly cute in his carefully selected khakis and oxford button-down shirt. That he was meticulous and neat in the way he returned the photos to the album just so, in the right place, right-side up. What was he thinking? How long would it take before he would know, really KNOW, that I would be his mommy forever. That I would never leave him. That we could look at photos over and over and over again, time after time, year after year.
How long would it take before I would know, really KNOW, him? Before I knew who he was, in his entirety, what he liked and didn’t like, what made him happy or sad, how his mind worked, what made him laugh, how he was best comforted when sad or scared.
While these thoughts raced through my head, I looked around at the other children who were crowded around us, the children I had read about and whose photos I had looked at over and over again. They were adorable, beautiful, soulful; some were immediately engaged, asking to be held or cuddled; others hung back a bit, watching, waiting to see what would happen. It struck me so forcefully how much each child needed to be sitting on the lap of his or her own mommy or daddy, looking at their own family photos. I can never get the faces of the children left behind out of my mind.
Soon it was time for preschool. The older children ran happily down the corridor into the classroom, a brightly lit and colorful place with tables, chairs, toys, and a wonderful 2 story custom-built playhouse. There are 2 teachers: Lauren is from Alabama and is taking a year off between high school and college to live at New Day and teach the children. Sarah is Chinese. The 2 women alternate teaching the lesson; Lauren was in charge on the day we were there.
The children learned colors, numbers, songs and phrases in English. They sat around the table listening carefully as Lauren taught, waiting with their little hands folded for their M&M reward. When it was snack time, and a plate of cut up pears was passed around, Luke made sure that his new Mama and Baba each had a piece before he selected one for himself. So sweet.
The children had lessons and songs interspersed with play time. It was so much fun to watch Leah, Julia, Adah and Brett make a beeline for the playhouse where Brett hung out the window and grinned and the girls dressed and undressed their baby dolls. Abigail, Luke and Olivia pulled out puzzles and toys and played at one of the tables with them while I roamed around taking photos. When Luke noticed that Andy and I were not by his side he would find us, grab our hands, and gently lead us back to his side. He had been waiting for us and did not want us to wander off!
The highlight of the preschool morning was when Andy carried in his laptop for Luke and his friends to see and talk with Kelci at the other end of Skype back home in Virginia. There was great excitement among the entire group as they crowded around the computer with the talking blond girl on the screen! We told Luke that this was his Jie jie, the oldest of 4, and that he would see her soon. I'm not sure what he understood, but I loved looking at his little face, earnest, serious, deep in concentration, as he sat on Andy's lap.