The Precious Gift Of An Heirloom

8 January MMXVI

We know precious little about the likes and dislikes of Song-Felicity Williams but we know she loves cake. We have photographed evidence of her that bears witness to it.

In September, we sent a birthday cake to her orphanage in China to celebrate her second birthday. The following morning we awoke to emailed photographs of her birthday celebration with fellow toddler friends. Nearly every picture shows either her mouth opened wide to a fork full of cake or a sweet smile shining through birthday frosting. Those pictures are priceless treasures to us as we await her homecoming.

We love birthdays in our family and we treasure celebrating them. As we anticipated the birth of each of our babies, I selected a birthday cake that would be theirs. A cheese cake, a strawberry cake, a hummingbird cake, a red velvet cake, a pumpkin pound cake and a coconut cake…each the signature of a child’s birthday celebration. My mother made them the day each child was born and had a birthday party with our other children. That night, she brought the remainder of the cake to Jimmy and me. We ate birthday cake in our hospital room and toasted our newborn with champagne. Each year since, on their birthdays, I have made their personal birthday cakes…the same ones I selected myself for each of them while I still carried them inside of me.

Sending a birthday cake to my baby in an orphanage dislodged an avalanche of emotions within my heart. I was saddened that I could not make it myself for her…saddened that an awareness of her birth was veiled from me until she was nearly two…and so very saddened that every birthday she has had since her arrival in this world has been spent in an orphanage.

But when I witnessed that smile on her face through the birthday frosting, it confirmed for me that 1. she is indeed a birthday cake-loving Williams baby and that 2. a cake will undoubtedly be involved the day she arrives in our arms in China.

She will not understand our spoken language when we get to her but I suspect she will understand that we are happy when she crosses the threshold of our Chinese hotel room and finds a cake waiting for her. My primary mission for our hours in China before we have Song-Felicity in our arms will be to locate that cake and have it waiting for her when she takes her first physical steps into our family. God bless our in-country guide! He or she is going to think I am crazy when I ask for assistance finding a cake the minute our plane touches down in China!

As my cake plan began to form, another longing also surfaced…a longing for Song-Felicity to have a meaningful memento to remind her of our first cake moments. I am hyper sentimental. I long and seek to attach meaning to beautiful things. I love wearing my Poppy’s boots even though they swallow my feet. I love wearing the ring that my grandmother wore and love the memories of spinning it around and around her right hand ring finger as a child. I love eating at my grandmother’s table in our home now and using my great Aunt Mary’s table linens. Everything within me delights in being surrounded by things that have been loved by those I love.

So I began to dream of eating Song-Felicity’s cake off of pretty china plates that would belong to her when she grows up as a physical reminder of our first moments together in China. I imagined them in detail. In my mind they were antique and fragile and lovely. I fantasized about the pink cherry blossoms that would grace them as a nod to her Asian heritage. I pictured eating her birthday cake off of them with her and with her Daddy and siblings each year from now on. I envisioned them displayed behind glass in our home where she can always see them and be reminded that they are hers and told and retold and retold of our first cake moments together in China.

I am well aware that not many people will understand my longing to bubble wrap an antique china dessert service and take it across the sea in my carry-on luggage. I recognize that this is a quirk of mine. But I knew exactly who would understand…understands me regularly and whom I, for some reason, needed to understand me now.

My Godfather also happens to be my uncle and I am convinced that I received more of my genetic predispositions from him than from anyone else on my family tree. My left handedness, an affinity for angels, a love of antiques, my sentimental sappiness and an uncanny ability to remember things from our very early childhoods.

I needed help finding Song-Felicity’s cake china and he is the very best at locating precious things. But so much more, I needed someone to “get” this quirky, though undeniably impractical, desire and vision of mine…a desire to gift a toddler with a beautiful heirloom and attach a meaning to it by toting it across the sea.

I did not need to see his face. We were on the phone when I shared my heart. But I heard him “get” me through his voice. Though I had shared my heirloom idea with several people, he was the one who entered effortlessly into my excitement and my vision and my mission. A part of me rested after I heard him share the delight of the cake vision with me. He assured me that he would help me look for the china and said he would email pictures of options he found. And he insisted that he wanted it to be a gift to Song-Felicity from him.

Only days later, I heard from him that he would not be emailing pictures. This time, I was the one who recognized the delight in his voice revealing he had found Song-Felicity’s heirloom. He assured me that he was so certain that it was “the one” that he did not need my approval. He was excited about me seeing it for the first time when I could hold it in my hands. I began to joyfully anticipate its arrival and we made a “date” to be on the phone with each other as I opened it so we could open it “together”.

There is no way my heart could have been prepared to navigate the emotions that pierced it throughout the hours following my excavation of the precious china pieces from their shroud of bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts. Yes. They are the perfect rendering of my vision for them. My Godfather knows my heart and its desires well enough that I never doubted that they would be. But they are also so very much more.

The antique china pieces are a tangible recognition of Song-Felicity as my daughter and an avenue to honoring that. My baby girl across the sea whose clothing is even community property was now the owner of something lovely and precious. Though none of that finds meaning with a toddler, it finds meaning so deeply within her mother and it will surely become something beyond dear to her in years to come. As she grows up, this heirloom will be a witness to how very much she was loved and welcomed and achingly awaited before she ever made her way to us.

And the gift also echoes and affirms how precious she is, and has been always, to her eternal Father. Through the antique china pieces, I glimpse how He, too, is treasuring His beloved child. And the awareness that He is treasuring her through someone so dear to me is heavenly evidence to my heart of how intimately He chooses to express His Own love for each of us through the way we love each other. For these, and for so many more reasons that can never be reduced to words, my baby daughter’s antique cherry blossom china is a treasure even now before it is ever attached to the memories we will make with her.

As I gaze at her heirloom day after day…multiple times in each one of them, I also look forward to this next September when Song-Felicity’s birthday will be celebrated with this special gift and our China memories that have been attached to it by then. And I joyfully anticipate candle wishes and cake frosting kisses with our daughter perched on my lap eating the cake I have already chosen for her while carrying her within my heart….a caramel pound cake.

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