Adopting my “Twin”
By: Jessie Lutz
I knew my parents were up to something when they summoned us to the kitchen table. It was a rare occasion when we held a family meeting. Except for dinner, we would only gather at the table to plan an upcoming family vacation or if we were in trouble and my parents needed to find out who “did it”. My sister Halle and I hoped it wasn’t the latter scenario. Fortunately, my parents seemed excited to have us there. We sat down giggling and our legs swung back and forth as if we were kicking in the pool. My parents cut to the chase and asked us:
“What do you girls think of adding another sister to our family?”
My parents had been searching for an older child from China. They had hand picked a little girl who had suffered from third degree burns as a baby that left her with terrible scars. She had been in an orphanage for eight years and she was exactly thirty days younger than me. They laid out three pictures of her on the table and Halle and I stared at them with curiosity and wonder. She had short cropped jet black hair, bright red cheeks, a cute half smile, and burn scars that entangled her right arm like poisonous vines. In the picture she looked shy and vulnerable. She seemed so far away, yet when I looked in her eyes, I could easily picture her in our family.
“Well what do you girls think? Would you girls be ok with her burn scars?”
I was eight at the time and I said,
“Every kid deserves a mom and dad!”
We all decided then that we wanted to add her to our family. After much debate on what to name her we came to the conclusion that she would be named Elise Lutz. I was thrilled to be getting a “twin.”
|Elise and me Guanzhou-2005|
My mom started crying and hugging the girl and I stood over to the side in awe that I now had a new “twin” sister. Chattering Chinese ladies snapped pictures of us, paperwork and finger prints were exchanged, and everything seemed to happen in a fast-paced blur. In a matter of seconds my new sister, Elise was finally ours. We left the building to head back to our hotel with her red suitcase dragging behind her, holding every item she had accumulated in the past nine years with room to spare. After the excitement of the day had worn off, Elise fell into a peaceful sleep. My mom and I, still feeling the effects of jet-lag looked out the hotel window and watched the boats in the harbor pass through. Their lights twinkled past like shooting stars. We couldn’t believe that we were in China and that we finally had Elise. In that moment, everything seemed right in the world.
The next morning, the timid demeanor of my new sister had vanished. While my mom was taking a shower, my sister was attempting to pour water into the electrical socket. I screamed at her “noooo” and ran to her and smacked the water out of her hand. She was startled, like a deer in the headlights and I was angry that she had been so ignorant. After all, I told myself, she was my “twin” and I didn’t act this way. Elise was hyperactive. Running down the hotel hallway, touching all my stuff, and repeating English words she heard on TV over and over. Worst of all, she scribbled all over my new princess coloring books. One time, she even ran out into the street and was almost squashed by a bus whizzing by. Thankfully my mom saved her in the nick of time. This new “twin” of mine was acting like a five year old and I was incredibly disappointed with her.
|My twin and me!|
As Elise learned how to live in a family and as her English improved, I developed a relationship with her. She would share stories of life back in the orphanage. I learned that Elise never truly had a childhood. She told me that she watched her friend die, witnessed the drunk gatekeeper rape girls, and was responsible for taking care of all the special needs babies in her orphanage. She watched babies with cleft palates become malnourished and die because they couldn’t suck the bottle properly. It opened my eyes to the utter hell she had gone through, and how strong she remained through it all. I began to see that in fact, she was the mature one. I began to admire her optimism and her spirit and our relationship grew tighter. Frequently, I’d go in her room or she’d come in mine and we’d have a sleepover, talking for hours.
|Elise and me NYC- 2012|
|I also have another sister, Halle! Here is the three of us!|