On Saturday night I was sweating like crazy. For about 45 minutes I had been falling on the bed as Elli karate-kicked the air. She would kick, I would fall. That was the routine. Over and over and over...and over again. Those were our dance moves that night. Other nights, it was a pillow. Saturday night: the cutest karate kicks ever seen or heard and the goofiest falls you've ever seen as well. But I had to dance with her.
Her laugh. Oh, man. To hear her laugh just gets me all choked up. It is the purest, most sincere laugh I've ever heard. When I hear it I wonder if she has ever laughed like that before. When I would fall on the bed she would laugh with such joy: I just had to keep doing it. Leslie watched all of this unfold and she said, "You're having to work hard for these laughs, daddy." She was right, and I had the sweat to prove it.
After all that playing, we went to bed. Sunday morning started just like every other morning since we.ve been in China. We woke up, got dressed and went to breakfast. Now, let me explain something to you: Elli is not a morning person (like her Mama). Leslie needs a cup of coffee before you can talk to her and Elli needs an exorcism...I mean, she needs breakfast before you can talk to her. Especially Baba.
I'll be married to Leslie for 15 years this Wednesday and I still haven't learned. I still aggravate her before she's had her coffee and I get the death stare. At breakfast Sunday morning I tried to blow a kiss to Elli, kissed her head, tried to offer her some juice and even offered her a donut (what kid doesn't like a donut?)- but she wasn't having any part of it. Cue the death stare. I guess I haven't learned.
After breakfast we loaded up the van and headed for Shamian Island to attend Elli's first church service. The ride there was just like every other ride: she rode with Leslie and didn't have a lot to do with Baba. When we arrived, we got out of the van and started walking the 1/4 mile to the church. The street was narrow and there was a lot of traffic. Leslie was carrying Elli and I was following behind with the boys.
Then, it happened. Right there on the streets of Shamian Island...my princess asked me to dance. As Leslie was carrying her (the safest place in Elliana's mind), Elli put both hands in the air reaching toward me, and said, "Baba." I couldn't believe it. I immediately began to trip over my feet. "Did I hear her correctly? Was she asking for me? Do I go get her from Leslie- something that has resulted in a meltdown every time in the past week? Did she really say, 'Baba?'" My heart was pounding as I reached for her. When I tried that before she would fold her arms and scowl as if to say, "How dare you even think I would come to you?" I think I expected the same response as I I reached for her. However, this time, she lunged at me.
I had her. Maybe she had me. Or better yet: we finally had each other. On any other Sunday, it would have just been a walk to a church building. This day, as I held her close and she held onto me, we waltzed to church. And we danced all day long:
-she stayed with me while Leslie went to Starbucks (without freaking out)
-she let me hold her while she ate a lollipop
-we took a long walk together through the gardens of Shamian Island looking at flowers, watching people fish, laughing at strange Chinese people randomly singing karaoke under the gazebo by the Pearl River and blowing kisses to one another
-I pushed her along the cobblestone roads making funny noises and she threw her head back and laughed
-we snuggled in the car on the way back to the hotel (she was asleep and didn't know any better- but Baba's got to get some snuggles when he can)
-When we got back to the hotel, we wrestled and played ball with Adam. At one point she looked at me and said, "Baba" followed by some of the cutest Chinese words I've ever heard, asking me to put her on my back and shoulders (which, of course, I did)
I knelt down in front of her. She reached up with both hands and rubbed my rough, unshaven cheeks, spoke the sweetest Chinese words EVER as she rubbed my face, then bowed her head for me to kiss her forehead. Oh. My. Goodness.
When all of my biological children were born I just could not kiss them enough. Every time I would pass by their high chair, their crib, their blanket on the floor, or wherever they were- I would have to kiss them.
For the past week, I've done the same with Elli. I've kissed her so many times. Every time I passed her I would kiss her sweet forehead or her hair. Until Sunday, I think I was that annoying guy who kissed her all the time, Tonight, as I go to sleep, I feel like her dance partner...and I hope the music never ends.
Sleep well, Elli. You'll need your rest. Daddy's feet are tired, I'm working hard for this dance, but tomorrow, we'll dance again. You are loved.