As soon as mom walks in the door, the phone rings. “Yes, I see, how wonderful!” Mom holds the phone with her shoulder so she can put Kaylee into her booster seat and pour Ken a glass of milk. “We are very happy. Congratulations!” She sounds distracted and then hands the phone to me.
“Great news!” Ms. Sylvester’s voice is loud. “We’ve finally been approved!”
“Finally” is right. Last February, Ms. Sylvester and her husband came to our house to talk about adopting a baby from China. Everyone was so excited, and Mom said that maybe she and I could go with them to help. The Sylvesters even offered to pay for my ticket. But the process took forever.
Ms. Sylvester is talking fast. “The baby’s name is Jing and we are hoping that you and your mom can go to China with us to pick her up over winter break.”
“I hope so,” I tell her. Silently, I think that Jing Sylvester sounds funny, but then I realize that it’s no different from Anna with Wang.
“How do you like middle school so far?” Ms. Sylvester asks.
I’m not sure what to say. The cafeteria is really crowded, and now that Laura is going to Our Lady of Angels, Camille is my only friend. But I can’t explain all that on the phone. “Fine,” I mumble.
“Okay, Anna, I’m sure I’ll see you soon.”
I hang up the phone. February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September. I’ve been waiting to hear this news for eight months, but now that it’s real, my stomach feels tight. What will it be like to visit a place where almost everyone is Chinese? And what if I hate the food? Mom says Chinese food in America is completely different from Chinese food in China.
Ken takes his glass to the sink and runs out the door. Kaylee is eating Cheerios by the handful. “Can we go with the Sylvesters to get their baby?” I ask.
“The tickets are very expensive now,” Mom says. She pours milk into a sippy cup for Kaylee. “I know that the Sylvesters said they will pay for you, but we still have to buy my ticket.”
“Maybe I can earn some money by babysitting,” I say.
Mom looks out the window above the kitchen sink. “First we can go to Beijing to help the Sylvesters and see Kaylee’s orphanage, and from there we can go to Shanghai to visit my family.” Mom’s eyes have a faraway look. “But that would take much longer than two weeks. Even one month would be too short.”
I really want my mother to come with me to China. That’s been our plan all along. “How about three weeks?” I suggest.
Mom wipes Kaylee’s face with a washcloth. “Just today two of the nurses on my floor asked for time off before the holidays. I am new. I cannot ask for so much vacation.” Mom closes her eyes. “Maybe in a couple of years, we can plan a longer trip.”
“So we can’t go?”
Mom takes a deep breath. “This is not a good time for me, Anna.”
I can’t believe that the Sylvesters finally got approved and now Mom says we can’t go! Who knows what could happen in a couple of years? By then I’ll be in high school. “Can I go to China without you?”
As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I feel unsure. How would it feel to go so far away without anyone in my family? I know Ms. Sylvester because she was my teacher for two years, but she’s not like an aunt or someone I’ve known forever. And I’ve only met her husband once.
Mom fingers the buttons on her sweater. “You never stayed away from home before.”
Mom is right. I only spent the night at Camille’s once, and in the middle of the night I missed home so much that Camille’s mother called Dad to come and pick me up. “This is different from a sleepover,” I say. Mom bends down to clean up the Cheerios that landed on the floor. “I don’t know, Anna. You are only eleven years old. And two weeks is a long time.” She takes Kaylee out of her seat and sets her on the floor.
“But the decision is for you.”
Kaylee runs over and hugs me around my legs. “Play with me,” she says.
Two weeks would be a long time without Kaylee and Mom and Dad and Ken and our cat Maow Maow. But a couple of years is too long to wait.
“I want to go,” I whisper.