I first wrote this in 2005 for the Huffington Post, it was featured on the front page and eventually sold to MORE magazine. I now know I wrote more than 4,000 posts for HP but this is my favorite. As Phoebe is part of the journey and she is from the part of the world where I am heading, somewhat ironically I suppose, I wanted to repost it here.
Courage comes in many sizes. But today, on her 4th birthday, I wanted to introduce you to a small but pure example of Arianna’s definition of fearlessness – my daughter Phoebe.
To my daughter:
It’s been two and a half years since we brought you into our family, and brought you half way around the world, and from the very moment we met you, you have amazed and blessed me.
On this page, you’re surrounded by fearless women, which is why for your birthday, I wanted you here. Because many of these women here have conquered their fear when adults – I think you’re the first one to be showcased here because when you conquered unimaginable fear, when you were barely eighteen months old, and not yet three feet tall.
I remember reading and re-reading your paperwork before we flew to China to meet you. “Found in a park,” the translation of the police documents, stated, “one day old.” One day old in America, you would be wrapped tight and warm and in a nice nursery in a hospital with round-the-clock care and doting parents, grandparents, friends and family, your every cry analyzed and noted.
But at just one day, you were already on your own. Someone smarter than me would know if a baby that young can feel fear, but lying in that park alone, you must have known something was wrong. You lived for eighteen months in orphanage and then, one day your life changed.
They told us you had never been in a car. In what must have been a complete blur to your little heart and eyes, you rode for four hours over Chinese country roads, saw your first hotel, rode your first elevator, and then what was going through your mind when they knocked on our door, and handed you to us.
I can still, and always will be able to close me eyes and see you there.
All your worldly possessions in a tiny purse, wearing your pink pajamas and socks but no shoes. Just a tender little soul, all alone, with everything and everyone they ever knew in life, gone forever in the time it takes for a hotel door to close.
Your body and face were pure fear, primal, and complete. You clawed at the door, and the wall, you screamed louder than any human may ever have.
But fearlessness isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the abilty to overcome your fears. And you did.
We spent our first night together as a family, you never closed your eyes. We had our first meal, our first trip to the park, our first everything.
I once actually had a woman tell me “you were so brave to go to China and adopt a girl.” That’s laughable. Imagine, someone calling me brave for flying in business class as an adult with my family, knowing where I was going and what was happening – no, I wasn’t the brave one that day.
You flew home with us and didn’t cry once, not from Hong Kong to Tokyo, not from Tokyo to Los Angeles, not from Los Angeles to Boston, not one peep. You faced your adventure, unable to speak with us, with the same strength you faced your first day on earth.
I remember when you tumbled in the airport in Los Angeles as we were changing planes. A full face plant in front of twenty people onto the concrete floor. You could hear the people gasp, waiting for your cries that never came. You just stood up, brushed yourself on and caught up with us. I realized that it was because no one would ever come when you cried at the orphange, so why bother. That realization still troubles me.
Now you proudly ask people where they are from, listen as they answer and then tell them you’re from China. You love your brother and your mother and me. You explore the world and life with a sense of purpose and determination that we all love so much.
I’m not sure I will ever see pure fear like I did that day when we met you.
I know I never again will see such courage.
Happy Birthday Phoebe.
I love you.
this is Phoebe now, pictured at an Industriales baseball game in Havana Cuba a month ago.