It's New Year's Eve, and I'm sitting here in our cozy house, with its windows glowing warm under a dusky sky full of crystalline stars. My daughter is playing quietly in her crib, winding down toward slumber. M is at work, finishing the evening news. We will have a quiet New Year's this year. I have no desire for parties...last year, we had a wonderful one with our family amid glittering lights and champagne toasts - and it was lovely. But life is different this year, and joy comes from a different place. When I think of the New Year, I see it as bright in the light of our daughter's beautiful smile, her husky laugh, impulsive acts of affection, and delighted gaze. A bright new year in her bright, new life. In spite of her unknown and certainly traumatic beginnings, in spite of the serious and prolonged pain of her first surgery, there is no darkness in her. She may discover voids, dark spots, difficult memories, as time goes on. But for now, she is a being of light and laughter. She greets each day with a smile and a small, delighted giggle at the sight of our faces. She roars with laughter when we count her fingers and toes. She stops frequently in her constant perambulations to hug our knees and turn her bright face up to us with a passing smile.
There are bumps and bruises, of course. She is new to this walking thing, and though she has learned with ferocious speed, she has no fear and no natural caution, so when she goes down, she goes down hard. Even then, startled by a moment of pain, an unexpected bruise, her wails last only seconds, and before the tears have even fallen from her lashes, her smile is shining through again. She greets every new experience with an eager face, and even when her routine is disturbed, even when her days have been too long and her head droops with exhaustion, she never grows cranky or fussy. The rare times that I have ever seen her melt down always have to do with restraint. She does not like to be held down, and if she is strapped into a car seat or stroller for long stretches, she sometimes can be driven to a crying jag.
But she does not brood, she does not linger over pain or injustice, she does not hold grudges. I have never seen her in a dark or glum mood.
What some have seen as "temper" in her photos (the scrunched face, the fierce brows) is usually just exuberance. She has what I think of as her Billy Idol Rebel Yell face, but it's playfulness, not temper - a flash of spirit in between grins. I have not, in fact, known her to have a temper, though this does not mean she is a shrinking violet. Quite the opposite. She is very much her own person, and makes her wants and needs known. She is a force of nature, without being in the least temperamental. She has, above all, a pure, laser-bright confidence, and that confidence makes it unnecessary for her to whine or sob or rail against the world.
I think that a great deal of her happiness lies in that steady, healthy, unflagging confidence of hers. She trusts us, and she expects joy from the world around her. She does not expect to be denied or harmed. She is open, eager and expressive, and she knows the power of her own charm. She is fortunate in this - not all of us are so gifted.
She is not at all like me, and yet she is such a perfect fit for us both...I'm not sure why that is. I think that our personalities, while so very different, compliment one another. Where I am an internal person, she is an external person. Where I am a loner, she is social and makes friends with ease. I think that if she were like me, we would run the risk of turning in on ourselves and remaining in our little cocoon. She brings me out of my shell and enhances my better qualities. Her natural sunny nature meshes perfectly with my innate and eternal optimism.
It will be interesting to see how our relationship evolves, as she becomes more independent, as she learns to talk and express herself in words. I know I am lucky. I am lucky that we meshed so quickly and so firmly. I am lucky for the joy she brings to our household every day. I am lucky that we found our path to adoption at just the right moment to find one another. I could so easily have decided to remain childless. And I am lucky that those few initial moments of panic when we returned from China, when I wondered what I had done, and whether my life would ever be "the same", are just a distant memory now. I remember that I had those feelings, but I cannot recall them viscerally. My life now is so much richer, I walk so much more lightly on the earth, the sun shines so much more steadily on my world with her in it...though I loved my life before, and thought it was a good life, I would never go back now. A new door has been opened for me, a new world exposed, and as the year turns over into 2009, I walk with happy anticipation into that new world, thrilled to find what more unexpected delights it holds.
Happy New Year to one and all, and in these complicated times, may it bring joys of a less material, more meaningful kind.