When the nanny handed our daughter to us on a summer day in China, I thought the journey was finally finished. Here she was—happy and whole. I smiled until my husband gave me the orphanage report: “Baby found forsaking on steps of leather factory.”
Suddenly I realized she would always live with a missing piece.
She would carry unreachable memories locked forever in her mind, her bones, her heart. How does a child manage such an unknown? She needed a way to think about the first year of her life, so I began imagining a journey for her—something beyond that basket balanced on a step and the rows of cribs in a plain room. I wondered about our own journey to find her and how the two were linked. Then one night in our yard she looked up at the sky and said her first English word, “Moon!” with a 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 an impression that still lingered in her memory? I looked around her room at the things she loved best. Who’s to say a turtle, a peacock, a monkey, a panda, and a fish weren’t part of her early life? I saw how a rice basket, like the one that held her toys, could carry a baby down a river from claw to paw to wing. I wrote it down.
My first picture book, Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2010. With that, I became an author, a dream from my own childhood. What began as an answer for her ended up being an answer for me, too.
Journeys lead to journeys in unimagined ways.
After I read the book during a school visit, an adopted Chinese kindergarten girl announced: “I’m the real Sweet Moon Baby.” I understood it was an answer for her mysterious journey, too.
And it all started with one baby found on a summer night in China.