The last time my daughter went to Xijiao park she was one day old . . . and she was abandoned.

“Abandoned” is a horrible, ugly word, tightly packed with presuppositions.  It’s one of those words that lights the fuse in my assumption cannon (corny metaphor alert – hang with me for a minute).  We might possibly know about 5% of Rachel’s adoption story so our brains instinctively and involuntarily make up the other 95.  All we have to go on are a few words and some stereotypes.  She was abandoned . . . in a park . . . in China.

Let the assumptions begin.

She was obviously abandoned because she was a girl.  Everyone knows that girls hold less value than boys in Asia and China is famous for that “one child policy”.  She was most likely born in the countryside to some poor farmers who took her to the park at night so no one would see them.  They found a spot in some dingy little park where they thought someone might find her the next day, wrapped her up tight so she would make it through the night and walked away.

Yep.  The sum of my assumptions comes out to about 5% (2.5 of which might be accurate) but there is so much I’ll never know and even if I knew I wouldn’t understand.

Let the questions begin.

Is it possible that she could she have been a city girl?  Maybe an “illegal” pregnancy?  A second or third child who would have constituted a “family planning” issue?  Would she have been a “mandatory termination” (forced abortion) had the local government discovered that her mother was pregnant?  Or maybe her mother wasn’t married which would have placed her on the same “mandatory” list?  Did her mother hide out for months to save her life only to have her baby whisked away?  Did she cry that night (or was it broad daylight)?  Was she afraid? Broken? Remorseful? Confused? Ashamed? Relieved? Was it the hardest moment of her life?  Did she feel immense pressure from the government?  Her family?  The other girls?

And even if all of my original assumptions are spot on, could I ever (as a freedom loving albeit incredibly dense American) grasp the deep cultural impact of Chinese countryside poverty and the imminent challenges of growing old without a son to maintain the farm?

What about that park?  Was it really dark?  Dingy?  Could it have been a place that was widely known as a safe place for parents who want their daughters to be found by orphanage workers or was it just a random spot and a shot in the dark?

We went there.

We took our daughter back to the park where she had been abandoned.  It didn’t take us long to realize that we’re still not going to grasp the full picture.  Every step we took we were constantly overwhelmed with the question, “I wonder if that’s the spot?”  We imagined the entire scene at least a thousand times.   It was weird and surreal and a tiny bit creepy but more than all of that . . .

It was redemptive.

For eight years this park has occupied little more than a symbolic greasy spot in my adoption story assumptions.  It’s the worst part of the story.  The abandonment part.  The part I can’t fathom because I can’t know because I can’t understand.

However . . .

Had I built the park with my own hands I couldn’t have designed it to more perfectly fit the 8 year old version of my daughter.  It was like the city planners had consulted her when they constructed it.  It was filled with games and rides which are undeniably her love language.  Three roller coasters (none of which she was too short to ride).  Bumper boats.  Go carts.  Spinny planes.  A real plane (to climb on).  A tank (not making this up).  A rocket (what?).  Giant climbing nets. A People sized hamster wheel and a horse.  A real one.


And in the middle of the park was Chinese my dad.  Seriously.  There was a man in the middle of the park who had to be born on the same day as Rachel’s Grandpa with a Chinese banjo . . . playing . . . wait for it . . . “Oh Susanna”.  That’s one of my dad’s go to songs when he pulls out his guitar or (get this) his banjo (the American kind) and Rachel has loved it since she met him.  It was like we were in some alternate Chinese universe?

Surreal stayed surreal but creepy turned awesome.

She finished the day by getting a necklace made with her two Chinese names on it.  The name that was given to her before we met and OUR family name.

We were a little scared of this trip going in but who wouldn’t be?  We’ve heard mixed stories of similar journeys.  Sometimes it’s inspirational but sometimes it’s too much to process and ends poorly.  And seriously, who goes back to the greasy spot in the story?

We went anyway and we got to see a little bit more of the full picture.  I’d say we’re at about 8% now but that extra 3 percent has transformed abandonment into redemption.  We’ll never know the rest of the story and we’re mostly okay with that.  However, now we can see Xijiao Park as the middle piece of the Precious Baby Girl story.  It’s part of the vehicle that carried Rachel from one chapter to the next.

Moses had a basket, American slaves had an underground railroad and Schindler had a list.  None of those represent the most exciting or happy parts of their respective plots.  In fact, if you dig a little deeper, you find words reminiscent of abandonment.  Horrible, ugly words like, infanticide, oppression and holocaust.  In the broader scope though, the basket, the tunnels and the list were all strategically and brilliantly designed to carry people from one side of the story to another.  Just like our park.

We’ve always rejected the rescuer mentality that sometimes comes all too naturally with adoption.  We’re not the heroes of this story who have liberated Rachel from being poor or hungry or Chinese.  On the contrary, she may have lived a healthy, happy, wonderful life on a farm in rural China or in the orphanage where she spent her first 9 months (see next post).  All of that falls into the remaining 92% that we are (and will most likely remain) completely clueless about.

However, in this story that we know very little about, we are thankful to be on this side of Redemption Park . . . with our Precious Baby Girl.


More pictures from my new favorite park in the world.

Four laps on a horse for 10 kuai (about $1.50).
Low Ropes Course
One of three (count em’ three) roller coasters.  No lines.
The hamster wheel.
Two story climbing net with Miss Janet
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