After a year of recuperation from surgery, it was time for Anjing to leave
our medical care home, Chunhui China Care Home, (CCCH) and go back to the institution where she had lived since arriving there as a newborn.
The day before she left, Anjing seemed to realize that she was about to experience another painful goodbye—uncharacteristically, she would start sobbing for no apparent reason.
Still, as her CCCH Nanny Liu Xiali packed, Anjing gamely played along with their favorite word game. “Do you love me, Anjing?” Nanny Liu asked over and over and Anjing replied over and over with a smile, “Love you!” while into the suitcase went Anjing’s clothes, her favorite books, and her orthopedic shoes. The last not-so-favorite items are crucial for straightening Anjing’s feet, which like her hands, are malformed because of a severe birth defect.
The next morning at 4 AM, Nanny Liu woke Anjing up and helped her get dressed for her long journey. Thanks to the generosity of the Angel Jet Network, Anjing, her preschool teacher, Zhao Xiaoju, and another little girl and her nanny would be making the trip back to the institution by airplane.
After they all piled into the airport van, Teacher Zhao held Anjing in her arms and talked to her about the world outside the window. “Look, Anjing, big truck!” “What color is it?” “Red. Repeat after me, red.” “We’re going to take an airplane.” “Are you excited?” Anjing’s eyes took in everything and her excitement showed as she happily repeated words that were new to her.
When they arrived at the airport, Anjing’s fear bested her curiosity.
In fact, both children, intimidated by the airport crowds, burst into tears. Teacher Zhao was able to quickly distract Anjing by pointing to the planes. “Anjing, that’s the airplane we’re going to take! So cool, isn’t it? Soon we will be in the sky.” Anjing stopped crying and said “airplane.”
Teacher Zhao kept talking so Anjing would remain calm. “Wow, there’s a magazine. Let’s see what’s inside.” Then she asked Anjing to turn the pages so she could exercise her fingers. Anjing found turning the pages challenging, but also fun. Every time she flipped a page, her teacher gave her a thumbs up and asked another question: “Anjing, tell me how many cars are on this page?”
When they experienced some turbulence, Teacher Zhao came up with something new to distract Anjing. She placed her hand near the window and said, “Look, Anjing, there’s sunlight on my hand, do you want to try?
“Seize the light like me, Anjing. It feels so warm.” Feeling the warmth on her own hand, Anjing laughed out loud.
After the four-hour flight, followed by a 90 minute van ride, the travelers finally arrived at the institution where Anjing’s first nanny, Guo Yushao, was anxiously waiting.
When Nanny Guo saw Anjing, she marveled at the baby she had cared for who had grown into a such a tall, pretty, three-year-old girl.
Guo wanted to take Anjing into her arms immediately, but Anjing had other ideas—she immediately fled back to Zhao’s arms. Guo tried not to show how devastated she was that Anjing didn’t remember her. Instead, she gently tried to hold Anjing’s hands.
“Anjing, do you know me? You used to call me Mama,” Guo whispered in the local dialect. Leaning on Zhao’s shoulder, Anjing kept blinking her eyes and carefully checking everything around her.
Nanny Guo carried Anjing to the infant activity room where they used to spend long hours together.
She offered Anjing her once favorite toy, a toy ball. Guo gently wiped away her tears and talked to her, “Anjing, do you remember me? I am your Nanny Guo. I used to cut your fingernails here and hold you in my arms. This book is your favorite. I read it with you many times.”
Finally, Anjing seemed to remember her once beloved first nanny. She stopped crying, nodded slightly, and smiled a small smile. Both teacher and nanny sighed with relief.