With Emily Prager, 11/16/2001
Emily: "We make a lot of assumptions with children that really aren`t true. I mean you say to your daughter from China, you`re from China, you could be saying you`re from the planet Saturn...you have a huge history in your head. She has nothing."Lulu was four at the time of the trip. And, from the first moment, she clicked with her birth place, what the Chinese call "lao jiah." A sense of personal history can unfold, even for a four-year-old.
Emily: "Once we landed in Shanghi and she realized that everyone was Chinese, that was very comforting. She liked that alot...it`s kind of like having a really handsome boyfriend friend. The first ten days you notice it alot and then you don`t notice it at all until somebody comes up and flirts with him, that`s kinda what it`s like."The trip was simple on the surface. Relate to people who look just like you. But, for both mother and daughter, connecting with the Chinese culture brought them to some complex questions.
Emily: "The question of what it meant to be adopted, what it meant to have two sets of parents...the street, by a bridge, between the first and third day of her life."Emily had been afraid of the painful truth of Lulu's abandonment for years. But sometimes a child had handle the truth better than her mother. And, over the span of their two-month stay in China, many questions were answered gradually. And what was so comforting and evocative about the trip was that Emily and Lulu weren't at all tourists in Wuhu. They just lived a day-to-day life.
Emily: "It wasn`t like a trip with adults, I called it the 'playground and garden trip'...a huge dovecote. We`d go up and see the doves and feed them and we`d go to the department store for ice cream, they also had..."We should all take such a trip in our lives. This was total immersion. They were living the genuine Wuhu life.
But while Emily and were just living in Wuhu, U.S. planes bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade - not a good time to be an American in the Middle Kingdom. There was a lot of tension just after the bombing, but Emily and her daughter were okay. The people of Wuhu understood why she and Lulu were there, and were very supportive.
In the end though, it was the bombing that led Emily to be caught in her lie - the one about Lulu's parents wanting her to be taken care of, not abandoning her. Because of the bombing, the orphanage where Emily found Lulu was closed to foreigners. If Emily had known Lulu's parents names, they'd have been able to visit.
It was another lesson for Emily: it's hard to put a lie past an almost five-year-old. Lulu figured it out.
Emily: "And it was pretty overwhelming but on the other hand it had the most calming effect on her as a person. It just brought her such inner peace to understand her story...I went there thinking I knew how important it was to know where you`re from, but I had no idea. The one mystery that remains is who were the parents...who were they."Emily's pretty sure they'll never solve that mystery. It's just one of the unknowns that Lulu will have to learn to live with. But the importance - and the joy - of the trip, chronicled in Emily's book Wuhu Diary, far outweighed that one snag of not discovering who Lulu's parents were. Emily's a mother and she's got her anxieties, but in the end, Emily knew she had done the right thing with this trip to Wuhu.
Emily: "As for me I`m still standing on the outskirts, hoping...And no one, as long as she lives, no matter where she goes or what she becomes, can ever take that away from her again."
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