First Party, First Memory
Today was a first for Elie. Her first birthday party. Our sweet friend turned 5 and invited our crew to come celebrate. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how Elie would respond to this type of environment. Just a month ago, I would never have even entertained the thought of attending a birthday party with her. My thoughts were all on her. I didn't give one thought to what the event would do in my own heart. But I guess that's usually when things make the most impact.... when we are not expecting them.
She knows how to sing "Happy Birthday". The tune is the same in China and the lyrics to "Happy Birthday" were some of the first English words she shared with us in China. I now know the whole story. Well, atleast parts of the story, because.... and this is huge.... she told me. Yes, this week was not only her first birthday party, it also marked the first time she shared a memory with me.
I was tucking the girls into bed. For reasons unknown, Faith's mind was on her birthday and she wanted me to know that this year I invited way to many people to her party. Note taken, next year - small birthday party. Honesty seemed to be flowing heavy in the room and soon Elie began to talk about her birthday. She remembers the card we sent to her . She told me that she listened to it again and again until it broke and then someone threw it away in the trash. And then she said, "Mommy, book, i love you very much." I kept asking questions, wanting to hear her tell the story over and over. And she was glad to say what she could over and over. Bedtime went on for way too long that night, but I felt like a key had turned and a door unlocked into the secret world of her past. A past that I long to know and understand.
After they went to sleep, I kept thinking about what she had shared. I didn't remember writing I love you very much in the birthday card. So I pulled out the picture album that we sent her in that same care package. In the front is a letter that I wrote to her. The pages are worn and the pictures are falling out. I knew that she had looked at the photos many times, but I did not know if anyone ever read her the letter. I reread my words and the last sentence read in her voice , "I love you very much." Now I know. It is a precious gift ... a memory to help knit us together.
God is stretching and healing both of us. Our first few months together have not been easy. But this week was sprinkled with beauty, with moments filled with love and pure joy. AsI watched her sing "Happy Birthday"at the party today, smiling from ear to ear, joining in with all the other children, my heart gushed and I felt like her mama. I knew the story behind the story. I will never hear that song the same again.