41: Home Sweet Home

41: Home Sweet Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

Home Sweet Home

The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there.

~Ellie Rodriguez

Sitting through Sunday morning church in a crowded hotel room wasn’t my two-year-old daughter’s idea of a good time. I scooped her onto my lap. She squirmed in protest and scolded me in Cantonese. Fortunately, Hannah wasn’t the only antsy little girl. Several other couples from our adoption group entertained their own fidgety daughters.

I grabbed the Christmas book I’d brought from home. Home. After twenty hours on a plane and two weeks of traveling on buses and boats to various areas of China, I was exhausted and so ready to go home. We just needed to get our visas and final paperwork, and then we could take our daughter home.

Hannah flipped open the book to a picture of baby Jesus. I knew she didn’t understand, but I wanted to at least introduce her to Christmas. It seemed strange. Christmas was only a few days away, yet nothing around us looked like it.

“Are there any prayer requests?” The pastor interrupted my thoughts.

My husband lifted his hand. “Hannah.”

Since the day we first met her, Hannah had been fighting a raspy cough and itchy rash. The orphanage gave us a tube of white cream. So far, it hadn’t helped.

She wiggled on my lap and scratched her tummy. Poor little girl, I thought. Not sick enough to go to a hospital, but sick enough to feel miserable. Doug and I planned to take her to our family doctor as soon as we returned home.

We ended the service with a few Christmas carols. My mind drifted back home. By now, family members would be almost finished with last-minute holiday details. Gifts would be wrapped. Cookies baked. I could almost smell the delicious aroma of my mom’s homemade potato soup. Every Christmas Eve my siblings and I gathered at Mom’s for soup and presents after church. I longed to share those simple family traditions with our new daughter.

I touched Hannah’s forehead. Still warm. Sadly, Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house would have to wait until next year.

Two nights later we arrived in Guangzhou. As we drove to the hotel I stared out the window, mesmerized. I couldn’t believe it. The entire city was decorated for Christmas. Garland and ribbon covered festive trees. Streets sparkled with colorful lights. The beauty took my breath away. Now more than ever, I longed to celebrate Hannah’s first Christmas with our families.

Then we heard wonderful news: our visas came early! My mind started spinning. Maybe we could change our flights. Hannah could see the doctor sooner and get started on the proper medicine. She might even feel better by Christmas. Leaving early could make a huge difference.

All morning I called the airline. Each time I spoke with a different person, yet always heard the same disappointing news. “Sorry Ma’am, we can’t change your ticket. It’s too close to Christmas.”

My hope of spending a traditional Christmas at home was crushed right along with my spirits. I decided to get some fresh air. I’d spotted a gift shop within walking distance of the hotel. Maybe I could find something to keep Hannah occupied in the hotel room.

I stood in the gift shop and gazed at a shelf full of toys. Sweet, little baby dolls. Brightly-colored stacking blocks. I picked up a package of rattles and shook them in my hand.

Suddenly, my eyes filled with tears. For years my husband and I had prayed for a child of our own. Now here we were with our own precious little girl. What more did we need? It really didn’t matter if we were home, in China or sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. We could celebrate our first Christmas as a family anywhere!

Now that I was reconciled to spending Christmas in China, what did I hear on the way back to my room but that two other couples from our group had been allowed to change their airline tickets? Doug and I looked at one another. What did we have to lose? I called the airline one more time.

“Listen,” I said, taking a deep breath. “I have a sick little girl that needs to get to the States and see a doctor. Now I know you can do this. You did it for my friends, and you can do it for us.”

I plopped onto a chair as annoying music blared into my ear while I waited on hold. Doug gave me a questioning look.

Within a minute, the lady returned to the line. “I think I can help you.”

I jumped to my feet. “Yes!” I’d reached the right person. We were finally going home.

That Christmas Eve we attended church with our family. I gazed down at my beautiful little girl in her red velvet dress and black, shiny shoes. After two days of antibiotics, Hannah felt much better even though she still didn’t sit quietly.

Later, at Mom’s house, I changed Hannah into comfortable clothes, including a brand-new sweatshirt from my grandmother displaying a little house and the words “Home Sweet Home.” The words on the front seemed so appropriate, and Hannah, now twenty three, still treasures it.

I slipped the sweatshirt over Hannah’s head. “Home Sweet Home,” my mom said, reading it aloud. She patted Hannah’s head. “Are you glad to be home, Hannah?” Hannah didn’t respond. She just smiled, grabbed her spoon and shoveled in some more of Grandma’s delicious potato soup.

~Stacie Chambers

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