Friday, June 27, 2008

Lucky Family


Well, today is a day that is quite confused in my mind for many reasons. Confused first because we are now safely home after more than 24 hours of continuous travel and I am not certain what day it really is for us. I am not certain if this is our normal blog schedule or if, as some have indicated, we have actually missed a day of blogging. While maybe not confusing, it is worth realizing that most of us--Bill, Linda, Melissa, David, Cole, Shelby, and Piper—are returning home. More interesting is that Luke has left a homeland of caring people to now come to a new home and become part of a family. Having started this process two and one-half years ago, it is a strange mixture of thoughts as the transition to Nicholson 7 (the way we count--six of us plus one dog Ginger dog) begins in Illinois. Enough deep-thinking, although I am not sure I can avoid it going forward either.

The day started very early for Melissa and me at 4:15a.m. because we had to have our bags outside our door for pick-up by 5:00a.m. That task handled, we organized our carry-on items, grabbed lots of papers and legal documents, and rousted the kids at about 5:30. Bill and Linda joined us early also and we all moved downstairs for our 5:50a.m. departure for the airport with the other families from our agency. It was a mostly quiet group of people who were all anxious to get to the States. Given that that were 11 or 12 new babies in the mix, it was still a peaceful ride. We arrived at the airport in Guangzhou and moved all the families and luggage through to the check-in for our flights to Hong Kong. I will say we never really had a major logistical snag during this trip because the agency reps are so thorough. There are just lots of things along the way “to make sure of”. Like, make sure your baggage gets checked all the through to your destination city—for us Peoria. The gate agent was more concerned about getting us to and through our customs port-of-entry—for us Chicago—so we had to “discuss” baggage and he ultimately gave me the look that said “hey guy who cannot speak Chinese, I know my job” so I relented and the bags were tagged correctly. We then said good-bye to our reps and those families not flying through Chicago and we pushed through Chinese immigration. Remember, at this point in our travels, we are all on visas as guest travelers and Luke is really Yi Duanlu traveling as a passported Chinese citizen. So, he is the easy process norm and we are more the exception. At all points, I am clutching an 8.5 x 11 “brown envelope” and Luke’s passport because they are our link to him. The “brown envelope” is sealed in red and can only be opened by a US Immigration officer. Everytime I show it or relinquish it I am explaining to people “do not open it” even though they already know to just read the cover sheet and not open the envelope. Hey, you do not get through 2.5 years of paper-chasing without being a stickler for the rules. Our flight from Guangzhou to Hong Kong was uneventful and quick—about like flying from Chicago to Peoria. We arrived safely and began a long walk to the transfer station to get boarding passes for United Airlines because they could not be issued early. So, we think we are going to have about 3 hours to do nothing and ultimately stand in that line for what seemed like 2 hours and 59 minutes. Basically, the flights were all heavily booked, maybe over-booked, because bad weather had come through Hong Kong days earlier and really jammed the flight schedules. At first, I am patient. After all, I am getting ready to travel a distance in 15 hours that probably 100 years ago took six months by boat. Patience begins to wear thin and I start thinking about being “so far back in line” that every person ahead of me is “taking the last good seat” and I am getting ticked. At that point, one of the adopted girls, facing outward in snuggly, spews her breakfast about three feet from me and I immediately relax, thinking “at least that’s not me”. Aaah, the sin of comparison. Ultimately, a guy I like to refer to as “Fast Freddy Wong” gets us checked-in to our seats. I am in the “do not talk to me and do not ask me question mode”, which does not work well for me in pressure situations, especially when Bill and Melissa and Piper – all of whom want details and control—are in the mix. Why am I stressed? Well, while in Hong Kong on day two of the trip, Bill and I went by taxi to a United agent in a Hong Kong office complex and began altering ticket assignments for the return trip. So, what a talented travel agent put together before our trip, Dave and Bill were trying to put asunder. I do not remember all the logic and details, but we used Bill’s accumulated miles to upgrade my economy ticket to a first class ticket. We did this so that we could then have Melissa fly in business class with Linda and with Yi Duanlu (not yet Luke). Recognize that Yi Duanlu was supposed to fly in economy and had to be upgraded to a lap ticket to fly with Linda in business class. If you are confused, you should be. We were basically locking up seats but not changing names and I was just absolutely panicked that what we had done would somehow be undone by “Fast Freddy”. Hence, I did not tolerate very well the innocent “How’s it going?” questions posed every 30 seconds by my travel group. Ultimately, it all worked and we moved through security and boarded the plane. The real travel arrangements—Bill in 1st class, Melissa, Linda, and Yi Duanlu in business class, and Cole, Shelby, and Piper and I in economy “plus”. “Plus” meaning four more inches of leg room. I was so rattled that when the kids claimed seats in rows 41 and 42 that I did not notice we claimed A and B seats rather than J and K seats. So, a very nice man came to take his seat, at which point we hurriedly grabbed almost all of our possessions and disrupted the crew in the galley so that we could cut through to the other side and take our seats. I say almost all of our belongings because Shelby inadvertently left a bar of Toblerone in the old seatback. We then had to have our flight attendant retrieve the treat for the sake of harmony between father and daughter. The flight went well. Bill was gracious enough to stop by a few times from 1st class to let us see Luke. Melissa says she came to see us once—a fact that cannot be verified because she says “you were all asleep”. I may have been a fatigue-induced coma but I was never asleep. Once the plane landed, my anxiety level shot back up because this was “go time”. Think of stepping off the plane, with a child you call Luke who is known paper-wise as Yi Duanlu, while you are holding a “brown envelope” that can only be opened by a US Immigration officer, and all the while you have Neil Diamond’s “You’re coming to America, You’re coming to America, today!” drumming in your head. So, again, when Melissa is gently questioning “Which line do we go through?” I am thinking, “Woman, we go through the line I tell you to go through, which is the line that very large woman with a very shiny badge and a very loaded 9mm handgun tells me to go through.” There is no question—only a process to be followed. So, we meet the US Immigration officer. Melissa tells all the kids, “Pay attention, this is a big deal”. The officer is named Hawk. He is very tall, very big, has a shiny badge, and a loaded 9mm handgun. I am Hawk’s whipping boy. He wants passports—he gets passports. He wants the “brown envelope”—he gets the “brown envelop” and I DO NOT tell him not to open it. He is Hawk and he carries a 9mm handgun. He places the words ADIT on our customs form and places all of our documents in distinctive pink envelope. His instructions are precise and short, “Get your luggage, take this folder to Customs agent, and he will tell you what to do next”. Do you think I asked Hawk what the next agent was going to tell me? No, that would be a process violation—Hawk told me the next guy would tell me what to do—if Hawk wanted me to know what the next guy was going to tell me to do then Hawk would have told me himself. See how this works? So, we get our bags and move through the next agent, again with a shiny badge and a 9mm handgun. He tells me, “Take your family to station number 2, turn right, give your pink folder to the next agent”. So, I know the drill now, and I just do what the man says. I give the papers to the next agent and he says, “Take a seat, I call you when I need you”. I am good with that, although Melissa suggests, “Shouldn’t we tell him we have to make a connecting flight?” Of course, I am thinking, this guy now has all my son’s vital legal documents, and a shiny badge, and a 9mm handgun, and a Russian accent and I am going to tell him I have a connecting flight concern? I do not think so. First borns (Melissa) and babies (David) just do not think the same. He calls us back up, I am pumped thinking here comes the Pledge of Allegiance, Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America—something, anything—and he says, “Here is your daughter’s, I mean son’s Chinese passport back. I stamped it here and I stamped it here. I wrote this code by this number, he is now legal resident. Take your bags and exit to the left”. Neil Diamond’s “You’re coming to America, you’re coming to America, today!” is just ringing in my ears. He is now Luke, although I love the rising tone inflected by the Chinese when they say Yi Duanlu because it reminds me of his playfulness.

We then re-checked our bags for the last flight to Peoria. We experienced a few delays with that flight and ultimately boarded it a little before 6:00p.m. We arrived in Peoria around 7:00p.m and as we were pulling into the gate, we see a massive gathering of family and friends on the airport’s outside viewing platform holding signs welcoming Luke. It was just a sight to behold. On the plane we laughed and told fellow passengers to “Be careful getting mixed in with that crowd”. Now I just cry thinking about it. That throng of people then moved inside to meet us as we exited the gate area and the cheers erupted and the hugging began. It was just the finest moment of the trip. To have so many friends and family members take time from their life to visit at the airport return, to “blog” throughout the trip, and to pray continually for Luke and our family is phenomenal blessing from God! As part of the adoption process, we were asked questions like “Do you have a support network?” and “How will friends and family respond?” This airport greeting and the last few weeks on-line with you all were our answers to those questions. Thank you.

Everyone is now asleep at 65 Blackberry Lane. I am not because I am writing and crying. Melissa has “caught me” crying a few times lately and said as only a first born can say, “What is your deal?” I can muster a one word response—“Lucky”. Now, some in China think that Luke and other adoptive babies are “Lucky baby”. But, I know that we are “Lucky family” and it is blessing from God.

We “eye knee” all.
The Nicholsons

25 comments:

donna said...

how truly awesome is our god!! this experience for the "nicholson 7" is nothing short of miraculous! thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing us all to share in this fantastic journey with you. it has been quite a privilege! now it's time to let everyone else in morton to start loving on him! see you soon! love and blessings, donna

Jason, Kate and Tait Miller said...

I am crying my eyes out at the incredibleness of God! Two and a half years of faithful prayer and patience have led you to a brand new beginning. What an awesome story and testimony of God's unending love! You are right Luke and the Nicholson's (plus all of us) are so "lucky" to be able to be loved by God and by others! Enjoy you time. I am now praying for true rest and a smooth transition for Luke, as he learns a whole new world! Love you all- will stop by later this week when craziness dies down!

Kate

joyphotography said...

out of control allergies.....God is truly amazing. Luke is such a beautiful blessing and we are so glad that he is finally home. We will continue to pray for the Nicholson 7 as you adjust back to Illinois time and life with an almost 2 year old! we "eye-knee" you all...

Anonymous said...

Being a "Baby Boomer" and raised on television, all I can say is (in the words of Ty Pennington) Welcome home Nicholson family. Welcome home.

Love y'all,

Uncle Neil

And make sure you emphisize to Luke that I am his "Great" Uncle Neil!
The Rugaard's welcome you, Luke, with open arms to our family!!!!

Anonymous said...

Welcome Home! Get Luke to the DQ soon! Now that I have the song in my head . . . I have to go listen to Neil Diamond . . . today!

Flash

Heather S. said...

Glad you made it home safely. I will for a restful week and a smooth transition into life with a little one.

mjandthe3ts said...

So glad that you are all home safe and sound with Luke. We can't wait to talk you all and see Luke for the first time!!! Thanks for allowing us to see a glimpse of the journey that you embarked on.
May God richly bless your whole family!

Love,

The Hohulins

Anonymous said...

Joe, Zach and I have been following your journey each day and we are praising our Most Awesome God this morning as we read this blog of your safe arrival home. The real journey has just begun (so please don't stop blogging now) as I am sure you realize! James 1:17
In humble praise and thanksgiving for this awesome gift to your family, Regina

Trisha said...

nicholson 7, words can't describe the respect and love we have for your family. we ARE blessed to be a part of this adventure and will continue to be. i am in such awe that i can't even think of what to write. thanks again!
p.s. a big shout out to DAV for all the blog entries.
p.s.s. missy sue, just wondering when the "nicholson 8" adventure begins????
love!

Nichole said...

I am so truly happy for your family. Your post touched my heart and gave me such hope for our adoption process. I rejoice with your "Lucky Family".

The Luces said...

Thanks again for sharing your wonderful adventure with us Dave and Missy. I can't wait to meet that darling little sweetie pie in person! I'm thankful for your safe and uneventful return!

<3 Dani

Mom & Dad said...

Thank you Dave and Melissa for allowing us the privilege of sharing in A most "Blessed Event" in your family! We have talked to the Lord for two years about this little one being held in China! How awesome to finally see with our own eyes the work God has done! His Righteous Right Hand has been upon this adoptions from the beginning...we have trusted the Lord thus far; now we trust Him even more as we live this life He created for Luke to live in the Nicholson family! As your friend from Midway Baptist Church in Garner, N.C. said when Cole (your first child) was born..."God did good!) Our hearts are full of joy! We love you, MOM & DAD

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dave, for your informative and sometimes very funny travelogue! It was addictive, not being able to really start my day until I knew how you had just spent the day we were just beginning. It was comforting to know each day that you were safe and having a great time! Grandma Shirley will tell you in person how much she enjoyed her "daily reading." And the best part for you is we won't have a thousand questions for you...you were so good with the details, enough even for we Zobrist girls!! Also, the pictures spoke a thousand words. Thank you!! It is so good to have all of you home, but I will miss knowing how your family spent the day. Hope you are all resting well, and we are looking forward to spending Independence Day with you and getting to know Luke!! Love, Aunt Em

Sheila said...

Praise the Lord! & Welcome home to you all, especially Little Luke. I will cherish the look on his face seeing him for the first time (nothing but smiles!) He is just precious! Thank you again, Dave, for all the details. I have so much enjoyed reading your blog! You will continue, right?

Love to you all, Sheila

Jon E. said...

Nitecruzer,

As Glatz would say...U R DA' Man! You will have a blast with Luke. Will never forget meeting you guys at the airport...it's almost 1 but I have to admit that your blogging talent has pulled me in day after day. Praying that Luke will come to know why he is the "Lucky Son" in the Lord someday...

Jon

June R. said...

Welcome Home dear little Luke# This has been an awesome experience. Dave, I've been wondering--what are you doing for an encore?
Love you all, Grandma June

Mike & Dawn said...

"Nicholson 7" we are so happy for you and have loved the blog through your journey! Luke doesnt know how good he has it! God has blessed you and will continue to bless you, we will still pray for the transition here in the states.

Anonymous said...

Welcome, Luke! What an amazing story of God's faithfulness to you and your new family! We look forward to meeting you and watching you grow! God is going to use you (he already has!) in amazing ways, we're excited to see where He takes you!

-brad and cali

Holli said...

Happy Home Coming!! So excited for you, your family and your friends:). What a blessing it has been to follow on this journey! I can only hope Luke and your family will touch many more lives- and bring even more babies HOME FOREVER!!!!
LOVE TO YOU ALL! Praying for you still!

burns family said...

LOVE IT!!!! I stopped by to briefly see Luke today. What a little doll. He was sleeping so peacefully. I am amazed how well he is adjusting. Missy looked "normal"--("you married up" Dave!! Ha) To your credit though, I think you missed your calling as a professional blogger!! Darn allergies.

Love to all you "LUCKY" ones!!
Lisa

Kim Livngston said...

What an awesome journey!!!! This is amazing. I am having trouble reading and writing this because of the tears. You really should write a book. God is so Faithful and His mercy is everlasting. His love overflows and continues to overflow through the love from your family and friends. I love you guys.. . . Luke, You are going to love our Colts!!! God Bless you all!!!

Holli said...

Dave? Missy? what did you have stuff to do when you got home?:) we need an update!!!

Anonymous said...

It was very exciting and encouraging for me to read through your story and look at your pictures, even though we've never met. Our family has been on this journey for more than 2-1/2 years as well, and we are hoping to get our baby girl from China by the end of 2008. As you know, it can almost start to feel like it will never happen. It's so encouraging to be reminded that it will. May God bless your family!

Stephanie Snyder- Palmetto, FL

Anonymous said...

That whole post just gave me the chills...seeing how awesome God is and seeing how this is affecting your family and those around.
We will keep you in our prayers as this transition continues to take place for days to come! Congratulations!!!

LOve april and Nathan

The Haleys said...

Throughout the story of your home-coming, i'm thinking,"I did this! I know this! David is exactly correct." One added stressor that you didn't mention, was that during the anxiety of getting the baby through immigration and holding tightly to the precious envelope of papers, you have a little BABY with you! Just traveling from Asia with a child was enough to push me and Mark over the edge. Way to go guys! :)
- Christie

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