As I look outside my hotel window, it’s a bit dreary and overcast and there’s a light drizzle that seems to come and go at whim. No matter rain or shine, today marks a very special occasion for my family in Taiwan. It is the eve of the lunar Chinese New Year, and I will be reunited with my birthfamily this evening. I will meet my older brother, as well as an Uncle and his children, the spouses of my two sisters, and the children of my 2nd sister for the first time. It will be a momentous occasion, one to remember always. My elder sister made plans for this evening before I even arrived in Taiwan. I’m so happy that we will celebrate and welcome in the New Year together, and am so grateful for all that my two sisters have done for me since my arrival here in Taiwan.
It’s now 8:00 pm, and my sister rings to tell me that all are waiting downstairs for us. My heart makes a giant leap. First, she asks to come up to my room to deliver something special. She arrives bundled in her silver jacket and hat, umbrella in tow, and it’s obvious that it’s raining outdoors, as the special items she has brought show evidence of rain droplets. First, she hands me a gift from my brother, John. It’s specialty teas from Taiwan and next she hands me another gift filled with a bag of candies, apples, and jewelry significant to the New Year. The gifting never ends, and my family has been more than generous. This afternoon, I wrapped gifts for each of my 10 family members to present this evening. Small tokens from the U.S. and the state of Arizona. I hope that they like them, though I feel they are so insignificant compared to what I’ve received. The special gift my elder sister gives me is remarkable. It’s a handmade stamp with my Chinese name. The stamp is quite beautiful; a deep, dark shade of red and at the top in the form of a dragon. The set includes a small, round beautiful blue and white porcelain container of red ink. It is so special, and I am deeply moved by the thoughtfulness and generosity of my sisters and family.
We head downstairs to meet the rest of the family and to the restaurant. My brother, the eldest among the 4 of we siblings, tells me, “nice to meet you,” and shakes my hand. My sister introduces her two children, and I’m introduced to Uncle and my 2nd sister’s sister-n-law, my two sisters’ spouses, and my Uncle’s son and daughter. They are all so welcoming. I tell each, “nice to meet you,” and immediately wish that I knew more Mandarin. We stop to take pictures, including pictures with Mr. Fortune who is dressed in full costume. After 45 years, we are finally reunited. I am overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude, happiness, and joy.
We head into the dining room. The spirit of festivity and celebration is in the air. There are many other families gathered together. I hand out the gifts I’ve brought from home to each member, or couple, in my family. Soon, one course after another is brought out, and by the end of our dinner, I’m stuffed. Many toasts are given to the elders at the table, and “welcome home, Marijane” is also toasted several times. I am moved when my Uncle, now the eldest in our family, comes to sit next to me. I try my best to understand what he’s saying and understand the significance of his gesture to speak with me as the brother of my biological father. He tells me that he doesn’t know what his brother would say now that I’m come back, “he’s not here.” As he continues to speak, Uncle’s eyes appear to be watering, although I can’t be sure. It seems as though he is on the verge of tears, his voice and lips trembling. Later, my elder sister confirms that he was quite emotional and that he is a very kind-hearted and gentle man. His beautiful wife died after only 6 years of marriage, and he was left to care for his 2 children on his own. Uncle says that he wishes to give me something, that I’m part of the Huang family and asks if I’ll accept it. My Uncle then hands me a red envelope. I’m again overwhelmed with gratitude for my family and their great generosity towards me. I give him a big hug and thank him. I truly feel at a loss for words.
As the evening continues, there is much lively conversation, more toasts, and I feel like this is the most amazing homecoming. I want so much to honor those in my birthfamily as they have honored me. I vow that next time I visit, my Mandarin will be much more up to par. As the evening comes to a close, I’m elated that we had this time together. I didn’t take as many pictures as I wanted, as I was so caught up in the moment. However, my sister will send more to me – her husband took numerous photos throughout the evening. I am so grateful that my family has welcomed me home. I never in a million years dreamed of such an occasion. It’s almost more than I can bear to have to leave by the end of the week. For now, I will enjoy this time with them. May there be many more celebrations in our future.