The bulletin board in my office is almost as large as a mural and very much my masterpiece - a photographic potpourri of so many children in my life, yet none of them mine. Each time I glance up, I understand how family can be extended and precious without being biological.
Several pictures are of my handsome nephews, Ben and Sam, now grown. There's Daniel and Michael, also adult children who still call me Auntie. Two photos are of David and Emily. Their parents, both sets of their grandparents, and I traveled with them to Israel to celebrate their coming of religious age in a moving ceremony.
Then there's Katie, defiantly bald after braving chemotherapy to conquer her cancer. And Molly and Lia, sisters celebrating their special friendship. Impish Lily is swathed in a silk scarf I found in Jerusalem's Old city.
The latest is Tong Yan, hugging a soft toy rabbit. Friends Peg and Bill traveled halfway around the world to adopt this beaugiful toddler, found abandoned in a railroad station in China. In her photo she is staring at me shyly, her dark eyes glistening with the same anticipation we all felt during the days before her new parents were to meet her for the first time.
Peg and Bill had waited months for a child, as their plans became entangled in endless legal papers. After they headed off to China, I waited, too, for a message about this newest family member. Finally, the recognizable "You've Got Mail" tone sounded from the computer, and bill's email announcement of their frenzied journey appeared: "Arrival in Hong Kon after 24 hours, 3 bad movies, 2.5 mediocre meals 1 book each and numerous naps," Bill wrote. "Slept. Whirlwind tour of city. four-hour bus ride to Guanzhou Airport. One hour, 15-mintue fligt to Hefei. Thirty-minute bus ride to hotel. Meeting (15 families). Dinner. Slept. Elaborate breakfast buffet."
Then, finally, Peg and Bill met Tong Yan face-to-face. bill summed up their feelings in three words: "Gift from God."
Tong Yan is now part of my bulletin board family, too, a precious member to be cherished like the rest. Another "gift from God."
By Ellen Mazo