Four years ago, I brought my then 8-year-old daughter, Greer, to New York City during the week she was off school for Mardi Gras holidays.
Four years later, I find myself back in the city of all cities – this time with Piper, my younger daughter who is now eight. Greer, now 12, was happy to offer words of advice about how to get the most out of her time in the Big Apple. Her primary advice to her sister was, “Just hold Mom’s hand. Don’t let go.”
In the passing of four years, so much has changed. Both my husband and I have different jobs. Our family’s lifestyle has gone from two parents who worked far too much to two parents who have a much better balance between working and the rest of life.
The other thing that’s different about this trip to New York and the one four years ago is the number of people we know in the city. Piper and I have been able to visit with friends who now live in the city. Seeing a city with people who live there adds dimension to a visit. In that sense, Piper will have a different understanding of New York than her sister.
While Piper and I have done our share of tourist activities like Broadway shows and romps through Central Park, we have done some not-so-typical tourist activities, as well. For one thing, Piper wanted to spend as much time as possible exploring Chinatown. When we adopted Piper from China seven years ago, I knew that I wanted to do what I could to encourage her understanding of Chinese culture. What I couldn’t know at the time was that Piper has her own internal cultural orienting.
On Wednesday, Piper and I were able to spend time with Lingjing Bian, a UL graduate and Chinese native who we met in Lafayette in 2004. Lingjing now works as a reporter for a Chinese-American television news network. She went to Herculean efforts to meet us, take us to a great restaurant and give us a tour of Chinatown. Though Piper hasn’t seen Lingjing in five years, the two connected almost immediately.
Walking through New York streets with Chinese signage decorated for Chinese New Year, Piper took it in. During dinner, she was full of questions for Lingjing and me about the hows and whys of the course of life in general – and her own life in particular. Piper goes through phases of trying to make her personal details and path of international adoption make sense.
Fortunately, she is innately happy – the happiest person I know. But there are aspects of her life that leave her with questions. I don’t have all the answers for Piper, but I do believe that love can conquer a whole lot and lead to some level of understanding. In that spirit, in terms of advice to my young daughter, I echo the sage words of our resident 12-year-old, “Just hold mom’s hand. Don’t let go.”