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A little more love comes to America

It will be her very first parade, her very first Fourth of July. Our granddaughter will be both the newest citizen at the picnic and the newest member of our family.

Cloe, this little girl with shiny black hair and a quiet, curious stare, has come to America and to us. We have embraced her with a loyalty that is all the more tenacious for having not been preordained by biology. We have the sort of attachment that the word "adoption" cannot begin to describe.

Just six weeks ago, Cloe was halfway around the world in an orphanage in China. Six weeks before that, my stepdaughter and her husband got her photograph in the mail. It put a face _ her face _ on what had been a stack of papers, a mound of red tape, and hope.

Psychologists, neurologists, "ologists" of every variety may say it's impossible to bond to a photograph. But we connected to Cloe before she was named Cloe. We connected to her before she had any idea we existed or that there was a world outside the orphanage, outside the province, the country, the continent.

Before the travel papers arrived, we waited anxiously, tracking the reports of SARS, worrying that Beijing would close down the border before our children became parents, before this child of China could become a child of America. But when the moment came to gather Cloe, it seemed as sudden as the wait had seemed interminable.

After all that time, she was just a plane trip away. In a single moment, a year-old child was transferred from one set of hands to another, and from one fate to another. The entire arc of her short life was transformed from being abandoned to being treasured.

Now we will take her to watch the parade of homemade floats come down the road and cheer the scramble up the greased pole. We will bring a newcomer to the American birthday party, but she has brought us to the wider world. We have made her an American and she has made us a part of the global village.

Our Cloe is one of about 20,000 international adoptions within the last year, one of 5,000 girls from China. Over many months, we learned to spot them in the grocery store or the street. We learned to wonder what this wave of girls will make of their experience, of the great economic and political winds that changed the course of their lives.

In China, an ancient culture that still sets a higher value on the head of a boy has collided with a government policy that pressures families to have only one child. As a result, hundreds of thousands of girls are growing up in orphanages. As a very different result, thousands of girls are growing up in America, more privileged than brothers left behind.

As for Cloe, we know the joy her story brings to our family. But we can only guess at the loss to the woman who left her day-old daughter on fortune's doorstep.

My stepdaughter tells me about the final medical exam Cloe was given on the way out of China. The pediatrician carefully examined the little patient. Then looking evenly at the new parents, she said directly, "You have a very beautiful, healthy daughter. You are very lucky."

What, we still wonder, did this accomplished, modern Chinese woman make of her own country that gives away so many of its daughters? What did she feel about a culture in which this "beautiful healthy daughter" faced the options of either an orphanage or America? For that matter, what did she think of Americans? Does she think we regard the world's children as a product _ made in China _ to import because we can afford to?

These days, I watch our 14-month old granddaughter race through months of development like a tape on fast forward. She has learned to roll, to sit, to test her legs. She wraps herself in the arms of her parents where she has discovered a safe harbor. Together, we have all learned about the globalization of love.

America is continually made and remade by newcomers. But this daughter of China has reminded us how small our world is and how vast: a village you can traverse in a day and a place of stunning disconnects and differences, haves and have nots.

Ours was already a global family, brought together with luck of the draw and the pluck of ancestors who came from places as far away as Italy and England, Russia and Germany. On this Fourth of July, we add another continent to our heritage and another child to our list of supreme good fortune. Welcome, Cloe, to America.

Ellen Goodman is a Boston Globe columnist.

Washington Post Writers Group

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