Adoption Day – tradition and updates
In our home, it takes place on September 21st and November 1st. Our family calls these particular celebrations “adoption day”. For the past nine years, we have acknowledged and honored these life changing days with the tradition of eating Asian food for dinner and then settling in front of our television to watch the videos created to memorialize our early days together. These videos are full of movie, photographs and emotional music chronicling our first two weeks together. They begin in Raleigh, follow us half way around the world to China and end back in our home. Mom always cries and sometimes other watchers join in the tear shedding.
As mom, the way I have watched these adoption chronicles has changed with time. Over the years, it has become increasingly emotional and painful to see our baby girls during those early weeks of grief, loss and shock. When we were actually living those days, my own happiness and exhaustion sometimes clouded over the reality of what was happening for our daughters. Though I certainly knew they were struggling and grieving, to now see their toddler faces filled with pain and grief on the family room tv somehow magnifies the complexity of what happened during those days.
I was recently talking of our adoption day traditions with a trusted adviser. Her words to me really struck a chord – “now that your girls have been back to China, maybe it is time for a tradition update.” We don’t typically mix the words tradition and update. Yet as we discussed further and talked specifics, this made a lot of sense to me. Going back to China this past summer enriched and expanded the meaning of homeland, family and adoption for each of us. How could we now incorporate this to update our adoption day traditions?
So during a recent family dinner, we talked together about adding a new thing to our family celebration. Before viewing their video, each girl would have the chance to share how going back to China has changed the way they think of themselves, their early days or their adoption. They had several days to consider this. And with permission, I share their thoughts:
“It gave me a better picture of my orphanage. I didn’t know what it would look like.”
“It [my orphanage] didn’t have air conditioning! I thought it would.”
“The orphanage was nicer than I imagined. It wasn’t a big room with lots of shabby kids – like in movies and books.”
Tradition often grounds us, plants us firmly in family and offers comfort, but sometimes a twist or update can enrich the experience and increase meaning. For future adoption days, we hope to have a new video experience to go along with, ie update, our journey together as family. Photos, video and emotional music chronicling our recent return trip will be watched alongside our earliest days together. The traditions will stand, but with a twist. Each of our lives as individual and family is a moving story that doesn’t stand still. Simply going back to those earliest two weeks together doesn’t tell the whole story. Many other chapters have been written and need to be honored and celebrated. In years ahead, I look forward to many more updates to this story and tradition.