An empty backpack and a new haircut. Two things that seem totally unrelated at first glance, but a deeper look reveals so much more.
Xiaoyun came to us with a red backpack and a large stuffed bear. Nothing more. She didn't offer to show me what was inside, and I didn't want to ask and make her uncomfortable. While still in China, she pulled out a school yearbook and asked me and mom to sign a page. She didn't show us the rest of the book, but I felt it was a step in the right direction. Eventually, after we got home, she did show us the rest of her yearbook, and pointed out the faces of her friends. Little by little, she pulled out the rest of her treasures from her backpack - stuffed animals her friends gave before she left school, yellow converse sneakers, a small green clock. Finally, she pulled out the photos. There were three pictures. They were of Xiaoyun and her 'China mama' (her foster mom for 9 years), when she was younger. What a treasure they were to have - a connection with her past. That empty backpack was a concrete sign that she was starting to feel at home here.
September 23 was another big milestone for Xiaoyun. What was planned was a routine bang trim for all the girls. Xiaoyun decided, however, that she wanted her hair cut. If you've seen her, you know that she has been letting her hair grow for a very long time. It was obvious from the start that she placed a lot of importance on her hair. Some of mine and Xiaoyun's earliest bonding moments were when I'd dry that long hair in China, and then brush it out before bed. She had shared with me that her 'China mama' would dry her hair and fix it for her. I'd also wondered if she used her hair to hide the scoliosis. She never mentioned it, but I know she is careful with the type of shirt she wears and I thought the hair might also be a covering of sorts.
But that day, before we went for our hair appointment, she told me she wanted it cut. When we got there and told the hair stylist, she tried to talk her out of cutting it. Knowing how Xiaoyun was about her hair, she was afraid she'd be upset once it was cut. She was adamant, however, and showed her the style she wanted. When all was said and done, she had about 11 inches of hair cut off. She loved the finished product (so did the rest of us).
Both things - the empty backpack and the haircut, seemed like a confirmation to me that she feels safe and loved. What a joy that is to this mama's heart!