She didn’t know what gift to get her 10-year-old for Christmas. It turned about to be a miraculous one.
- Posted on Nov 7, 2017
Saturday morning. Three weeks before Christmas. The kids were busy. My husband, Tom, was in the family room watching TV. And I was alone at the kitchen table, on my computer, racking my brain. I’d gotten gifts for everyone on my shopping list. Everyone except for one person. Audrey.
Audrey was my gift. In 2006, Tom and I had decided to adopt a baby girl from China. Tom’s a doctor. I’m a physician’s assistant. We had three sons already and wanted to use our medical backgrounds to help a child who had special needs. The second I saw Audrey’s photo in the clipping from the adoption agency, I knew she was the one. Our daughter.
She’d been born with a rare heart condition. I looked at her photo and prayed every night until the adoption went through. Finally, in August 2007, we brought Audrey home. She was weak and needed multiple heart surgeries. Nine years later, though, she was a healthy and energetic 10-year-old who was taking fifth grade by storm.
So what to get Audrey for Christmas? A board game? A bike? A tablet? Nothing seemed quite right. Then it hit me. Audrey knew she was adopted, but she didn’t know the details of her birth. I could give her the original China “finding ad”—a little bit of her history!
Only one problem. I’d long since lost my copy of the photo, which was in Audrey’s finding ad, a notice posted in local newspapers in China whenever an abandoned baby is found. Where could I get a hold of that?
Maybe Research-China.org? It was a website I’d used ages ago during Audrey’s adoption. I e-mailed the site’s founder, Brian, and asked if the website had any more information on Audrey. He responded, "I found two photographs, one with the foster father and another with her foster sister. Let me know if you'd like to order the photos."
Foster sister? I’d seen a photo of Audrey with her foster father before. But never a foster sister. I wrote Brian back and asked him to send the photos. I checked my in-box again and again while Tom and I went to an appointment. Finally Brian responded. The first photo was the one I’d seen before. The second one took my breath away. There were two little girls sitting on a woman’s lap. They looked exactly alike. Was Audrey a…twin?
I gasped. Tom glanced at me from the driver’s seat. “What’s wrong?” he said. I pointed at my phone screen. “There are two of them!”
I e-mailed Brian back right away, asking what he knew about the other girl. He replied, "The other girl's name is Tong Min Mei. Since Audrey's Chinese name is Tong Min Gui, it's likely they're twins. It's Chinese tradition to give twins names that, when combined, become one word. Mei and Gui put together mean 'rose' in Mandarin."
What happened to Tong Min Mei? Had she been adopted? Was she still in China? Brian couldn’t give me any more information. That left me with Audrey’s adoption agency. I called them bright and early the following Monday. They had no idea that Audrey was a twin! They offered to get in touch with the orphanage in China—it could take weeks to get a response, they said. There was no way I could wait that long. I had to find the other girl in the photo. But how? Where could I reach the most people in a short time?
I messaged everyone I could think of on Facebook. All my friends and all the adoption groups I followed.
The next two days were a blur of phone calls and internet searches as friends and strangers from Facebook helped me track down leads. On Wednesday, a friend of a friend searched an old Yahoo! adoption group and found Audrey’s sister’s name, birth date and the name of her adoptive parents. Scott and Nicole Rainsberry. They lived in Washington with their two sons. And a 10-year-old daughter.
Her name was Gracie.
I did a little more digging. Apparently, Gracie’s aunt and I shared a mutual Facebook connection. Through that common friend, I messaged her aunt. She responded and forwarded me Scott and Nicole’s contact information.
I e-mailed Scott right away, attaching the photo of the girls sitting on their foster mom’s lap.
On Thursday evening, Tom and I spoke to Scott and Nicole over the phone. We couldn’t get over how alike our girls were. Both had nearly identical heart problems and a love of sports, dogs, macaroni and cheese, side ponytails and math. They even had the same glasses!
Friday, two weeks before Christmas. Audrey met her sister, Gracie, for the first time via Skype. The girls talked for two hours about everything under the sun. They made promises to talk again soon. We were already planning to meet Gracie and her family in person.
After the Skype chat, Audrey couldn’t stop crying. “I always felt something was missing,” she said. “Now I feel complete.”
Best Christmas gift ever.