A July to Remember: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Posted on: July 3rd, 2013 by

July 4 is a time for celebration here in the United States. One of my most memorable Fourth of July celebrations happened during the bicentennial in New York City, where many, many New Yorkers painted fire hydrants our red, white, and blue flag colors.

And, yes, I took part.

So that would make me a patriotic vandal.

That was the most memorable, fun Fourth of July ever for me – until I became a mother.

As my readers know, in July 2009, I adopted a baby girl from China. While celebrations were taking place all over the country and fireworks were exploding in the night sky, I was feverishly packing my suitcase with light clothes for the unbearable heat of Nanchang in the Jiangxi province. Among my suitcase’s contents were many American-themed gifts to give to the people in China. I felt immense gratitude that China was entrusting one of its citizens to my care and willing to allow her to become an American citizen.

Fu Wen Pei (Arielle’s then-name that would become part of her middle name) was first placed in my arms on July 19, known in adoption circles as “Gotcha Day.”

The United States is a country of many immigrants. Many people risk their lives seeking better lives in this country. I can’t imagine how hard immigrants must struggle to get here. The trek from China to the US, even with the approval of both governments, was difficult.

Our adoption group flew to Hong Kong from Chicago. We had plans to take a plane to Nanchang the next morning, but there was a typhoon, so we had to quickly scramble onto a train to Nanchang and then a bus to our hotel, where the waiting babies were hot, tired, and hungry.

After a few days (and a trip to the largest, most interesting Wal-Mart I’d ever seen) we took a plane to Guangzhou so the babies could get their visas, and we could do intense – and I mean intense – paperwork. We were so hot in the airport waiting for our delayed plane, that Ari and I stuck to each other. Our paperwork was, thankfully, read over with the eagle eyes of our American translator and our agency’s American Director of the China Program.

Much of our time was spent waiting around in the hotel for paperwork to be approved. And when it was, we had to go – and fast – to get interviewed by government officials, to take a cab to the American Embassy, to ensure that we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s. After a harrowing few days alternating between waiting and running around, we got the babies’ visas and the approval to head back to the United States.

We took a train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. At the train station, Ari and I were stopped, but our translator got us out of whatever trouble we were in….thankfully. Luckily the nervous sweat that poured out of my body could have been mistaken for that from the intense heat.

Then, from magnificent Hong Kong, we flew back home on a grueling 13-hour flight with almost no legroom.

While the Chinese people are among the friendliest people I’ve met, the sense of urgency to leave the country without a hitch persisted throughout the trip. We had seemingly endless steps to our final destination: to return to America with our children. I loved China, but this was no pleasure trip. It was a lot of work to leave the country and go home with all our proper paperwork intact and to avoid being detained for any reason.

Fast forward to July 4, 2010. Two-year-old Ari, some friends, and I sat and watched the fireworks. I was afraid that my normally timid baby would be scared of the fireworks, but she sat on a miniature beach chair and watched in awe and contentment.

And I watched her in awe, knowing she was an American citizen. And she seemed to know it as well.

Happy Fourth of July to those who celebrate!


Please feel free to share any Fourth of July memories or plans you might have if you are celebrating this holiday.

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4 Responses to A July to Remember: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

  1. Facing Cancer Together had this to say about that:

    Beth, this is such a beautiful story and I thank you for sharing it with us. Happy 4th of July to you and Ari. I’m so glad you have one another. :) ~Catherine

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m thrilled that Ari and I have each other, too. Our Fourth of July was a lot of fun.

  2. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    I loved reading this. I can only imagine how many things were going through your mind when you took that trip to China and back as you faced so many unknowns. One thing you were sure of though – you wanted to me a mom to your precious girl. I’m so happy you and Ari have each other. Thanks for sharing this amazing story.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Nancy, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Motherhood is really wonderful, isn’t it? I’m savoring every minute of it. I hope your July 4 was awesome.

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