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Lia, My Sister This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     My calendar at home tells the story of my life and everything that happens in it. Important dates, deadlines, and birthdays are scrawled across the months. Black X’s indicate days off from school. Red circles accompany important holidays, like Christmas, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving. But this year, for the first time, there is a new red circle. It indicates culture and unity, it stands for family and togetherness - it is the Chinese New Year.

On July 26, 2006, my parents brought home my adopted Chinese sister, Lia. At just 11 months old and 15 pounds, she was off the medical charts - the bottom, that is. She was extremely skinny but healthy. At four days old, Lia had been abandoned in front of a hospital in Gaozhou, Guangzhou Province, China. She lived in a very poor orphanage for 10 months. The infants there spent most of their time in tiny, metal, cage-like cribs. They were propped up on pillows so they could feed themselves, and rarely saw the sky. Before Lia came to our home, she had never felt the grass. In the orphanage, Lia got only the most basic care; the caregivers did their best, but there were just too many babies.

I will always remember the first time she saw our living room with all the toys that were waiting for her. As soon as I set her down, she wailed in such a way that made your heart break and immediately clamored to be picked up again. Now, months later, Lia has adjusted and is doing really well. She is remarkably jovial considering that she has been through more in her first year than most people have in their entire life. Lia would not have had a future if she had stayed in China

If you ask me if Lia is my real sister, I will answer, “Of course,” and, no, I am not crazy. Just because she looks different from me does not mean we aren’t sisters. I love her just as much as I love my biological baby brother. She’s my sister - a person, though still young, who has inspired many changes in me.

The experience of adopting Lia changed my attitude about the world. Knowing about her previous life has made me more thankful for what I have. Many high school students, including me, whine and complain about what we have. Older children in Lia’s orphanage have probably never seen a toothbrush, while we complain about having to brush our teeth twice a day. We don’t realize how lucky we are to have warm food, a good school, parents who believe in us, and a home.

Holidays for my family will never be the same. Having two young children in the house makes everything so much better and brighter. Since Lia arrived, she has been stuffed with turkey, ripped wrapping paper off presents, and stayed up late on New Year’s Eve.

Soon another tradition will begin in our family. Lia will wear a Chinese dress, have her picture taken multiple times, and display an exuberant smile. For the Chinese New Year we will celebrate culture, tradition, unity, and the change that is sometimes necessary to make a family grow and be happy. It might only be a circle on a calendar each year, but the memories it creates will last a lifetime.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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