Friday, February 19, 2010
I am trying not to be jealous, but still.
On the other side of the globe, my husband has had the honor of introducing his two daughters. In the middle of the Nepali night, just outside the airport at Kathmandu, Bee and Jo met.
Mr. Blandings had dreamed of the day from the moment that he first laid eyes on Bee. Falling in love with an older child is something different than meeting a newborn, you must understand. Rather than slowly peeling back the layers of need and uncovering a personality not yet able to firmly assert itself, you are presented with a person from day one. Bee likes ice cream, the color black, and peanut M&Ms. She has a slow laugh, a shy personality, but a bubbling undercurrent of spunk that Mr. Blandings longs to see set free. Put her in the same room with Jo, he prayed, and let them fall in love with one another.
But again, it is not so easy as all that. Just as Bee is not a malleable tot, Jo is not a blank slate. They each have their own passions and dislikes. They have their own way of communicating, of feeling, and of spending their time. They have histories that do not include one another, and cultures that come nowhere close to mirroring the same values or traditions. One is 13, dark-skinned, and carrying in her heart the rejection of a lifetime as an unwanted castoff. The other is 12, fair, and curious as to what it will mean to share the title "daughter" with someone for the very first time.
The first night, there was barely enough time for introductions before the exhausted travelers escaped to their beds. The next morning, I can only imagine my careful, conscientious Jo treading lightly around her new sister, wondering just who this person was. Mr. Blandings said that they seemed to like one another, even though there was no immediate ease, no instant kinship that bubbled between them.
Then, of course, as these things will happen, opportunity presented itself. After a day spent traversing the consulate, taking in some sights and generally being together, the children at the orphanage all gathered together for a game of UNO. The rules, it seems, are somewhat different in Nepal. Jo didn't mind, because even here in the States, we've encountered other styles of play. In Nepal, it's not the first person to lay down all their cards that wins. Rather, it's the last person to go out ... or at least, that's the way the children convinced them to play. At any rate, a whole passel of children ages 8 and up slowly made their way through the game. Finally, it was down to just two players. The final round, as it were.
Jo versus Bee, of course.
And this is when Mr. Blandings finally saw his daughters. Because even though both girls held Draw 4 cards that could have squashed their competitor ... they chose not to.
The children around them danced and shouted, "It's sister against sister!"
And they were right. In that moment, it was clear. Twenty-four hours before, they had been strangers in an airport, wondering how one felt about the other. But now, neither was willing to stomp on the other's heart--not that delicate place where a seed was blooming. Because in time, most likely, there will be love. First acceptance, then respect, and at long last, love. Not immediately. Not without growing pains. But it will happen. Mr. Blandings is sure of it now.
Sisters. What a beautiful word.