GreatWall's Nanchang guide Jenny brought Luke to our hotel room at 4:30 Sunday afternoon, accompanied by the assistant orphanage director and a nanny from New Day who had traveled with Luke all the way to Nanchang from Beijing by train. Luke had already gotten to know us a little at New Day, of course, but this was the official hand-off, the moment we would take custody of Luke.
All went well with the introduction to the assistant director and the paperwork (much more to come at Civil Affairs tomorrow) and with our reunion with Luke. Soon, the inevitable moment arrived for the nanny to say goodbye, and the others all began leaving the room. Who knows what thoughts, what terrors, must have hit Luke then? His smiling little face disintegrated into a wall of tears, he tried to run after his nanny, crying “Mama!, Mama!”
Everyone beat a hasty retreat from the room, leaving us behind with the wailing, grieving Luke.
“Mama!” he kept repeating over and over, in a hoarse little voice.
Who could blame him? Even though he knew we were to be his new parents, his three-year-old little heart had just been ripped away from the one remaining contact with the last two years of his life. He had been left alone with us in a strange hotel room a thousand miles away from his time at New Day.
Old pro adoption parents that we are, (right, who ever really has a clue what to do in this kind of situation?) we resorted to holding Luke and rocking him, first Bonnie for several minutes, then I. We tried giving him food—a banana, cookies. We tried distracting him with toys. We tried a Chinese cartoon on TV (Dad’s brilliant idea). Nothing seemed to work.
Luke wailed on for another twenty or thirty minutes or so. And we, at our wit’s end, about to join him.
“Hey,” Bonnie suggested. “How about we try giving him a bath?”
So into the bathroom we flew to begin drawing hot water and big soapy suds, Luke still wailing away, his whimpers and cries now echoing off the tile and stone bathroom walls like some piteous torture chamber. (Lord knows what our hotel neighbors must have been thinking.) We stripped off his multiple layers of clothing (typically Chinese) and plunked his little scrawny self into the bath. This failed to end his cries, but at least they seemed to ratchet down a notch.
That was the moment it started to happen.
Bonnie had brought along a package of foam bath capsules like the ones our two little girls, Aimee and Noelee, love back at home. With a surgeon’s skilled hands, she adroitly removed one from the wrapper and quickly handed it over to Luke to plunk in the hot water. He stopped crying for a moment and looked at it, fascinated. Bonnie showed him how to put into the water and begin swishing it around. Very soon, a little green foam turkey began to emerge from the capsule, much to Luke’s delight.
“It’s working,” I said.
Bonnie smiled. “I think so.”
The little green turkey progressed from plastic embryo to full-blown foam bath creature in short order. Luke poked and prodded his new bathtub buddy around his miniature lake and soon began to discover that he really like this big tub and all these soapy suds floating around.
At last, he looked up at Bonnie and me with his soul-searching eyes. Okay, he seemed to say, I’m with you guys now. For better, or for worse. Love you, forever and forever.