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Modern Parenthood

China adoption diary: Through the looking glass into the US, and having a blast

Returning from their two-week China adoption, the Belsie family hits the road with new  daughter Madeleine Bao Yi, heading for a family reunion. Bao Yi has gone through the looking glass and is having a blast learning new traditions and more about who she is.

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The terrain in rural Quebec was so unlike anything Bao Yi had ever seen; she seemed busy looking out the window at cows and large rolls of hay in the fields. The tiny town of Gracefield – the last point of “urban civilization” before heading into the woods – offers such services as a taxidermy shop, an improbable travel agency boasting trips to exotic locales, and a dollar store. As we crossed the antiquated one-lane trestle bridge over the river, the level of excitement in the back seat picked up.

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Family members swarmed to see the newest Belsie, and then served up a welcome dinner of stick-to-your-ribs fare. Bao Yi hovered near Laurent but was not shy about digging in to spare ribs and scalloped potatoes.

Dragon melon – the Chinese staple similar to watermelon but with fuchsia rind and Dalmation dog-inspired fruit pulp – was,   quite literally, now a world away.

The transition from vacation in China to vacation in Canada was one squiggly line of continuous fun. If there was adventure to be had, Bao Yi was right in the thick of it, chattering away in Chinese without a care in the world. She was in the lake as often as possible, floating around on her beloved neon-pink ring, or learning to swim. She even took up kayaking, determined to figure things out on her own. Turning around, a necessary skill? Not really. Bao Yi just kept on going until someone hauled her back.

Another tradition – the family Fourth of July parade past the boathouse – Bao Yi accepted at face value. Didn’t most people don berets and sunglasses and pretend to play dented instruments collected over the years from antique shops and general junk stores?

Grace’s role in this year’s parade was to be a junior miss beauty pageant winner, waving primly from the wheelbarrow pushed by Uncle John. I had fashioned a tiara out of aluminum foil for her, and she had the wave down pretty well. Once Bao Yi saw that shiny crown, she would not rest until she had her own. Hers lasted far beyond the three-minute parade. She wore that thing day in and day out like Jughead from the old Archie comic strip, pleased as punch with the look.

Underneath the frivolity and carefree fun, significant changes were happening. Bao Yi was setting down roots in our family. She began to bond with me, showing more open signs of trust and affection. Laurent was still leagues ahead of me on that score, but it felt good to be appreciated as a mama and to be thanked for the little things that mamas do.

We also saw indications of who Bao Yi is: an adventure seeker, an I’ll-try-anything-once kind of girl. That’s quite a contrast to Grace’s more cautious and neat approach to life’s opportunities. Together they helped each other share new perspectives. In the process, we all grew much closer as a family unit, and we’d only been at it for a month.

I only have one lurking apprehension: What will happen when we get home and she figures out that Laurent goes to work every day?

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