Going “Home” to China, Again
After a birth country visit that was too much, too soon for my seven-year-old daughter, she and a friend returned as teens on their own terms.
Spending time with girls who grew up there helped them envisage what
their lives might have been, and explore the intersections of their Chinese
and American identities.
BY MELISSA LUDTKE, JENNIE YUCHANG LYTEL-STERNBERG, AND MAYA XIA LUDTKE
A few weeks after my daughter’s six- teenth birthday, I proposed a trip to her: Would she like to go back to the town in China where she was found
and get to know girls her age who grew up
there? She’d been abandoned in Xiaxi Town,
a farming community of some 40,000 residents, when she was three days old. I adopted
her as a single mother at nine months old. I
sensed that meeting “hometown” girls might
help her to find some valuable missing pieces
of her Chinese identity.
For some adoptees, the desire to connect
with their birth family exerts a powerful tug.
Maya had expressed no interest in searching
for her biological roots, but it turned out that
returning to Xiaxi in this way interested her,
and this thrilled me. For nearly a decade, I’d
believed I owed my daughter this kind of an
opportunity as a way of making up for what
I felt was my worst day of being her mother.
On that day in June of 2004, I’d taken Maya
to Xiaxi. She was seven years old. She and I
were at the tail end of an exhausting three-
Melissa and her seven-
year-old daughter, Maya, on
their uncomfortable visit to
the Xiaxi market in 2004.