Do babies come from China or a mother's belly?
Four-year-old Josephine Gross wants to know. Her parents worry what she'll ask in the future.
As an infant, Josie was found outside a dirty gray cinder block hospital in an eastern China farming community where bison pull plows and buildings slowly crumble.
There is no trace of who left Josie in the garbage-strewn hospital yard. No last names to Google. No cousins to someday find on Facebook.
This makes her mother cry.
"The more we can give her," Lisa Gross said. "The less she'll have a loss of."
On July 13, 2005, Lisa and her husband, Howard, stood with seven other American couples in a Chinese office building, waiting.
After three unsuccessful in vitro fertilization attempts, a failed domestic adoption and 13 months on a waiting list, it was finally time to meet their daughter.
"You've loved the child from the minute you conceived the idea," recalled Lisa, 43, an instructor at Keiser Career College in St. Petersburg. "Once somebody places that child in your arms, it's really not important how she got there."
Now an American prekindergartener who likes french fries, superheroes and SpongeBob, Josie is inquisitive and friendly. She has a play area full of toys and can sweet talk her dad into letting her eat corn dogs in front of the TV.
"I'm a riot," she tells a stranger.
The Gross family joined the local chapter of the Families with Children from China support group when they lived in Mastic Beach, N.Y. For a long time, they had a wide network of friends.
FCC families greeted them at the airport when they arrived home from China with Josie. The Grosses and other group members went to Chinese lantern and dragon festivals around Manhattan and Brooklyn.
"You see people walking down the street with little girls from China every day on the Upper East Side," said Sabra Larkin, communications director for the Manhattan agency the Grosses used to find Josie.
Last year, the family left New York, its cold winters and their circle of friends behind. They relocated to Hudson, where they know only one couple with a Chinese daughter.
"It's starting over," said Howard, 43, a substitute teacher.
Chinese New Year 2009 was spent with the local FCC chapter at a Chinese buffet in Clearwater. It was much smaller than Chinese New Year celebrations in New York. And much warmer.
The Grosses hope the few people they talked to will replace the friends left behind in New York.
Josie needs other children to share her heritage with, her parents said. She needs friends who can relate when those hard questions about her past come up in the future. Questions harder to answer than ''where do babies come from?''
"Every child who is adopted had to deal with the fact that … for whatever reason, they had to be given up," Lisa said as she fought back tears.
The Grosses want their daughter to know she is not alone.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 435-7312.