Today’s guest post, brought to you by author Karen Henry Clark, is their story of adopting a little girl, finding out that she had been abandoned on the steps of a leather factory, and then recreating that child’s lost first year. Enjoy.
When the nanny handed our daughter to us on a summer day in China, I remained calm. The journey was finally finished. Little did I know.
I smiled brightly until my husband gave me the orphanage report: “Baby found forsaken on steps of leather factory.” I realized this tiny girl would always live with a mystery. She would carry unreachable memories locked forever in her mind, her bones, her heart. I began to imagine a history for her—something beyond the confines of that basket balanced on a step. She needed a way to think about the first year of her life.
She was eleven months old and spoke Chinese baby talk, refusing to repeat the words we recited to her once we returned to America. Then one night in our yard a cloud drifted away from a full moon hung in a navy blue sky. Leaning out of my arms, she pointed up and said, “Moon!” with a sense of certainty and joy that made me believe they had been dear friends from the very first day of her life.
What else in China could have made such an impression on her? What could she have seen there that still lingered in her memory? I looked around her room. She loved books about a turtle named Franklin. She was fascinated with a peacock feather. She played faithfully with a sock monkey. Each night she slept with a stuffed panda in her arms. And like an Asian Huckleberry Finn, she happily carried a miniature pole over her shoulder with a plastic fish affixed.
Who’s to say a turtle, a peacock, a monkey, a panda, and fish weren’t somehow part of her early life? That rice basket on a step in China, just like the one in our living room, could carry a baby down a river from claw to paw to wing.
These became the snippets of tales I told her, trying to fill those first days of her life. Then I wrote it down. Once upon a time, I had imagined myself as a published author, but decades of rejection had eroded my resolve. I had given up. Until now. I had to show her the importance of trying one more time to collect the pieces of a shattered dream.
This one was the charm. My first picture book, Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, was published by Alfred A. Knopf. What began as an answer for her ended up being an answer for me.
After I read the book at a school, an adopted Chinese kindergarten girl announced: “I’m the real Sweet Moon Baby.” I understood it was an answer for her, too. In the past few years, other families have written to me to say the story offers a powerful metaphor for their adopted children.
And to think it all started with one baby found on the steps in China.
Karen Henry Clark wanted to be a published author for as long as she can remember. But her life took many turns. She has been a teacher, college administrator, bookstore shelver, costume shop clerk, advertising copywriter, and newspaper and radio book reviewer. No matter how she earned her way, she was always thinking about possible story lines and jotting down character names. She dreamed of having her own ISBN number. SWEET MOON BABY: AN ADOPTION TALE, about adopting her daughter from China, is her first published picture book with ISBN 978-0-375-95709-3. You can also find Sweet Moon Baby on Facebook.
If you’d like to submit a post telling the story of a poignant moment that occurred during adoption or foster care, please email your 500-word submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Prior adoption and foster care posts include:
Do You Tell Them There Are Millions of Orphans in China? – Adoption Stories with Kelly Raudenbush
Open Adoption and Who Gets to be the Mom on Mother’s Day – Adoption Stories with birthmom Ashley Glick
The Problem With Permanent Marker – A Foster Care Story With Jeffrey Lane
Fear and an Open Adoption – Adoption Stories With Rebecca Wenrich
I Saw Our New Son and the Voice Said, “Run Away” – Adoption Stories With Kim Van Brunt
Checking ‘Yes’ to Everything: Adoption Stories With Sonya Judkins
Because Someone Has To: Adoption Stories With Shar Halvorsen
Momma For a Moment: A Foster Care Story, With Tamara Out Loud