The Flat Side

I made chicken soup for my daughter tonight. Mindlessly, chopping and peeling and crushing, which is how we all make chicken soup. But these days are different: gone are the days of celery, carrots, turnips, fresh parsley from the garden. These are the days of thick slices of ginger, crushed to let the juice out, many many garlic cloves, also crushed and juicy. Fragrant star anise, spring onion, very finely ground white pepper. When the chicken is cooked in this fragrant broth, I pull it out and shred, shred, shred. Then it all goes back into the pot. Without even thinking about it, I grab the big beautiful Chinese soup bowl, the white Chinese soup spoon with pink flowers on it, and ladle it out for my girl. Sometimes I stop and smile, and tonight was one of those nights, at how excited she gets when we’re in an Asian store and she gets to pick out bowls and spoons that look like the ones she had in her home in Wuhan. I have to smile at the pink floral rice spatula, the one that she practically begged for, and how she quietly gets it out of the drawer and places it beside the rice cooker when I make rice.
I love her relationship with food. Her culture is so rich with flavors and smells, they’re all deep in her soul. As she waits for the soup to cool, her nose as close to the surface of the soup as she can get it, I hear, “mmmmm, onion. mmmm, gijjer. mmmm, gahlic. mmm, pepper. mmm, spice (star anise), mmmmm….shicken.” Oh, my heart. 

This sweet girl, who thinks she’s not worthy. Look at her, isn’t she worthy of everything? Every beautiful thing in the world? But she doesn’t see it that way just yet. More and more though, she does with us, and that’s a big step. She often sees herself as quite worthy at home, of everything! Until we screw up. But: She ran like hell to me today and grabbed my head close and said “I love you”, plain as day, at school pick up. Usually it’s “I uh you.”

And then there’s the flat side: Do you know about the flat side? Do you know that there are babies all over this planet who lie alone, staring straight ahead, not being picked up or nurtured enough, so that their sweet heads lose shape and become flatter on the side or back, however they sleep? Or stare. Because that’s what I think about sometimes, when I’m watching her sweet little head, I think about what it must feel like to just stare. For  years. 

And so at night, while she’s sleeping, I rub the flat side of her head and kiss it kiss it kiss it. I keep thinking I can fill that space with kisses and touching and round it back out again. 

I know this all sounds very deep, and heavy, and I know that it reaches your heart in places that can cause the ugly cry, but that’s real. It’s real, but in no way defines this girl. It did, but every day it becomes a smaller part of her story. Here’s her current story: a happy child who’s slurping her soup and watching Teen Beach 2 (“I pick. Beach. Boy.”)

I haven’t updated the blog in so long because Maya keeps me BUSY. Oh, so busy. When we met her, almost 18 months ago now, she was tiny. She weighed around 38 pounds, her iron level was 2, and our sweet girl couldn’t stand long without falling because she was so weak. Flash forward to today, where she’s getting so much stronger that she’ll probably graduate physical therapy by Christmas. She has Nystagmus, and I’ll let you read all about that here:

Because we weren’t aware of that at first, and because it’s taken us a while to filter out what’s caused by weakness, what’s caused by Nystagmus, what’s caused by lack of exposure, what’s caused by nutrition, what’s caused by trauma… we have just recently wrapped our heads around this diagnosis enough to be creeping out of the “educating everyone everywhere” zone, into the “this diagnosis will not define her” zone. 

And here’s where I want to give a special shout-out, to the doctors, therapists, teachers, school administrators, vision experts, other mothers, sweet friends, and everyone else who listens patiently and shows their obvious love for our child. We are supremely blessed beyond measure to have the support that we do, and it shows in Maya’s ever-growing confidence, her bounce, her risk-taking, and most especially, VERY especially, her laughter.


We’ve come so far in our almost year-and-a-half together, and I just CAN’T WAIT to see where this family is going.


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4 Responses to The Flat Side

  1. Will says:

    This beautiful girl, this blossoming soul, is a gift to us all. Thank you for sharing your story and letting us be part of her life.


  2. H.R.H. Queen Grandma says:

    what a stunning writer–you have grasped the core of mothers and children everywhere! thank you.


  3. tootitan says:

    Beautiful, eloquently (and elegantly) written, and deeply and honestly felt. Thank you.


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