Sisters

At a regular check-up visit to the pediatrician, the intern (I think – it was Kim who took the girls to this visit) weighed and measured Elena’s height. Elena is quite short. You have only to look at me or Kim to figure out that that’s to be expected. The intern looked at Elena’s chart and said “she’s in the fifth percentile height-wise – I don’t understand it.”

She furrowed her brow and compared Elena’s chart to Maggie’s chart. The girls’ regular pediatrician stood next to her and prompted her to explain. The intern said “well she’s so short and yet her sister is in the ninety-fifth percentile for height.” Kim and Dr. Robinson exchanged glances. The internist was practicing medicine without noticing her patients. Dr. Robinson pointed to Maggie and the internist finally noticed that they were not biologically related and so this comparison of the charts was not relevant.

They were tied in so many ways.

Maggie is adopted from China. When we were going through the adoption process we had people ask us if we were ever going to tell Maggie that she was adopted. That always cracked us up.

We told Maggie all along. It’s part of who she is.

There were so many people who have told us how lucky Maggie is that we adopted her. Kim always answered that we were the lucky ones that Maggie made us a family.

Most people assumed that we adopted because we couldn’t have children. Adoption for us was a first choice. We didn’t know whether or not we could have children. We were not going to try until after the adoption because it is harder to adopt from China when you already have a  child.

When we had Elena, people told us that this always happens. That people who were unable to conceive often had “their own” children after they adopted.

Again, adoption was a first choice for us. We were better able to conceive after we stopped using birth control.

Their own children.

Maggie is my own child. I had almost seven years of hard evidence that there is no difference in the love you feel for an adopted child or a birth child.

I am a dad because of Maggie.

When she was a year and a half I brought Maggie downstairs to help me prepare Kim’s first mother’s day breakfast. Kim wanted pear crepes. My sister Jill called as I was assembling ingredients because she knew it was our first mother’s day. You have to watch children closely and I had dropped my guard for a moment. When I turned back around, Maggie was proudly cracking the eggs one at a time on the glass storm door. As the yolks ran down the glass to the floor she beamed with pride on what she had done to help us make mom’s breakfast.

Maggie and Elena share a chinese character. Maggie’s chinese name is Qiu Xue (pronounced roughly as Chew Sheee-eh) which means autumn snow. Elena was born almost exactly two and a half years after Maggie on March 3. It snowed hard and we decided to give her the name Chun Xue (Choooon) which means spring snow.

Margaret Rose Qiu Xue Steinberg  what a mix of a name – Irish sounding Maggie Rose even though the Rose is for my great grandmother. The Margaret is for Kim’s grandmother. Qiu Xue to honor what may have been her birth name.
There’s a lot we don’t know about Maggie’s first year. There’s a lot we can’t know. Her birthday even changed when we went to get her. Until we traveled to China all of her paperwork said that her birthday was October 2, 1996. When we got there the new paperwork said September 2. We were initially sad because we had missed her first birthday. Maggie was first placed in my arms on September 15, 1997.

In the scheme of things, what difference did it make. Having a birthday so early meant that she would have options of when to start school – and she was ready early. I know all parents think that their children are beautiful and bright, but ours are.

Maggie was always proud of being chinese. It is important to her. When we were looking to move to a new school district before she was ready for kindergarten, Kim took care to make sure there was an asian population – she didn’t want Maggie to be the only chinese person in her class. We found a wonderful school with a significant international population.

Elena used to try to tease Maggie that she had been “born from mom’s stomach and you weren’t.” It was unusual for Elena to be that off the mark. No one could get under Maggie’s skin like her little sister, but this wasn’t something that ever bothered her.

The name Maggie had when we got her also included a last name “Shen”. We didn’t keep that name as part of her legal name because all nine of the girls that were adopted in her group had that same last name and it was not their birth name. We’re not certain if Qiu Xue was her given name but we kept that. Each year we get together with some of the other girls in that adoption group – the “Shen Sisters”.

These were the girls that Maggie had her first big adventure with. This group of nine families seems to have nothing in common and yet it is the most magical weekend each year to spend time with people who shared that special trip with us eight and a half years ago.

Maggie announced to us a year back that she might change her last name back to Shen when she’s older. That’s fine with us.

Elena thought for a day or two and announced that she’s going to change her name to Shen too when she’s older. That was more than Maggie could stand. Did Elena have to copy everything she did (no – she didn’t, but of couse that wasn’t the point at that moment). Shen was her name – not Elena’s. Ahhh, Elena had found a button she could push. The “you’re adopted” thing hadn’t worked. For days Elena would ask innocently “dad, how old do you think I should be to change my name to Shen?”

Published in: on February 25, 2006 at 7:14 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Daniel, Kim and Maggie
    How do I start? There are no words, but I can share how much Elena meant to the Shen Sisters in our House. We had the privilge to travel at the same time as Daniel and Kim to adpot our first daughter. A chance grouping neverless we are now family. We will not be the same. I remember once Daniel you telling the group that Elena was adopted… an adopted Shen sister. She was very much apart of the group.
    We have a children’s adoption book that shows the little girls in the cribs in China. We go through and name the girls from the travel groups. With 2 large groups the names gets mixed up at times and Elena would end up in one of the cribs. I would try to explain, but the answer was she is at the Shen Sister reunions at the Dells and in the pictures so she is a Shen Sister.

    Nancy, Keith , Laura, and Kelli

  2. I am so sorry for you and your family. I don’t know what else to say, but my thoughts are with you. You sound like a great family and Elena will always be part of that.

    Sharon

  3. I don’t have any children. I understood your grief but didn’t feel it. Not until this post. I can’t stop crying, and I don’t cry at what I read online.

    I know you don’t care about such things now, but your writing is such that Elena would be incredibly proud of you. So very proud of you.

    Take care.

  4. Hi Daniel, Kim,

    Not long ago, we walked on streets in Europe, together talking about our kids. Those were treasure moments, because it was a rare chance to relax and be friends, instead of work mates… I’m sure you’ll remember that we even ended up with a complete stranger at the table, what, for some weird reason, made the conversation even more relaxing and friendly. Elena and Maggie and Juliana showed up in the dinner stories, and although we never met each other’s kids, they were there, in our smiles, in the laugh, in the childish attack on the deserts… Being continents away, they were there, with us, in every happy moment of some happy fathers and mothers… You both were an important part of that magic trip, and we always talk about the happy days we had. Happiness is made of moments, and as long as those moments live and play in our minds and memories, those that shared them will always be there with us.

    We’re now too far away, and it hurts just to think about what you’re going through. There’s not much we can do but pray, and as important that is, it seems to not be enough…

    I’ll take the freedom to tell you of a story that very few people know, and that we were not really ready to tell the world yet. But you say that other parents with their kids bring you joy, so, I like to think that this may bring you a bit of joy, and if it does, maybe we were able to help even a tiny bit after all…

    You know that when the four of us met a few months ago, I had a single daughter, Juliana. When she arrived, she made us a family, like Maggie made you a family. Even more alike then I though: Juliana also came to us just after her first birthday. She was a sudden, unexpected and beautiful change in our life, that we welcome everyday as one of the special moments of our marriage.

    Adoption for us was also a choice. At the time, we didn’t need to. Now, it seems to be too late to choose another option, and we’re happy with our decision.

    But it seems that we like unexpected and sudden changes. Two weeks ago it happened again, and we now are proud parents of another beautiful girl: Lara. We are still going through the paperwork, and since the circumstances were too sudden, we still have a long road ahead of us, with many stops along the way on children/adoption court houses. Because of that, the situation is not really under control, and unfortunately, anything can happen. But we have decided to fight for Lara, and that we’ll do as true parents.

    Lara is almost 6, and she has brought a new wave of happiness to our lives. It may seem very simplistic to say that all is happiness, but the truth is not far. From the moment we drove to pick her up, I never expected that anyone could fit in and accept a new family as fast as she did, and maybe two weeks is just not enough to say that this is really true. I don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t care. In my hearth, she was my daughter from the moment I received a phone call, before we even had seen her, and in my hearth, she’ll be forever, even if the courts end up saying otherwise (it hurts to even consider).

    One funny situation aroused from the start. Lara’s real name is Karine… As you know, this is basically the same as my wife’s name, Karina. I know there are many families that name their kids as their parents names, but to all of us, Karine included, that sounded weird. So, she has been doing what Elena and Maggie wanted, and she’s changing names since she first got here. Maybe some will have many “don’ts” on this, but we’re all playing along and having fun with it. We’re letting her be comfortable with whatever she prefers. She used many names for a few hours, and others lived mere minutes. The long lived ones so far were “Ariel” (the little mermaid) and now “Lara”, what she says is her definitive name. Unlike most kids, Lara does have a saying in her name, since it is part of the adoption process that she’ll have new birth documents. In any case, we intend to keep Karine as her “second” name, and Lara Karine will always have the option to choose if she ever wishes to.

    Of course, as you know it is always the case with sisters, nothing one does is safe from the other copying it. Juliana couldn’t believe that her sister was getting a “Princess” name (Ariel). So, she wanted to change hers to “Belle”… It took some time, and a little help from Google, to convince her that Juliana was also the name of a Princess: Juliana of the Netherlands. Thanks Wikipedia!

    The pain you are feeling runs deep in me and Karina. We have two girls of Elena’s age, and it hurts to imagine what you’re going through. We didn’t break the news about Lara to most of our friends yet, because of all that is unsure about the situation. And we were even more uneasy to mention it now, because of the conflicting emotions brought by the simultaneous sadness for your loss of Elena, and our happiness for our gain of Lara.

    But as you can see, there are many tidbits from our story that reflect and are reflected in yours. This may just sound like another “kids are always kids” cliche, but maybe this story can bring a little joy to your broken hearth, although we can’t expect that it will. We’re writing this so you know we care, we are listening, and we really wish we could help you in some way, we just don’t know how…

    With all our love and prayers,
    Bruno and Karina Souza
    Juliana and Lara (Ariel/Karine…)

  5. Wikipedia is the key to most success online, when it comes to collabritive content adding. I have spent many hours writing articles for Jimmy Wales and am very happy with this project. I am based in Seminole FL close to the wikipedia offices in St Petersburg. I love contributing!

    Happy New Year Bloggers!

  6. Very Interesting.


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