The crashing sounds of soldiers boots moving through heavy underbrush drew
nearer. Their angry voices sounded rough and deadly to Tie Li’s ears as she
flattened herself against the jungle floor. Uncontrollable fear shook her.
“Great Spirit, help me.” Her lips moved, but she dared not utter a sound.
“Oh, Great Spirit, please help me!”
Now she could see the grass and leaves moving violently as cold, steel
bayonets tore into the heavy green walls of her living hiding place.
Blood-caked boots smashed into the ground inches from her head.
“You die, you die!” A sweating, cursing soldier loomed above her as Tie Li
pressed even closer into the moist, hot ground. She held her breath. “Great
Spirit, Great Spirit, Great Spirit!” her lips moved wordlessly.
Suddenly someone grabbed her leg. She felt herself being pulled roughly
along the ground. The flickering glow from her burning village reflected
against the evil smile of her captor. “Now,” he said, lifting his gun to his
shoulder and taking aim down the long, dark barrel. “Now you die!”
“No!” Tie Li cried out. “No, no, no–”
“Tie Li, Tie Li!” A new voice filtered into her fear-frozen mind. “Tie Li,
wake up, wake up. It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream!”
The girl continued to struggle. Visions of death, of burning, moved through
her mind. She could hear the screams, smell the hot breath of the fire
engulfing her home, her world.
“Tie Li, wake up, wake up!” In the midst of her horror, she could hear
someone calling her name. The voice was loving, kind. She wanted to find the
voice. She wanted to run to the voice. “Help me!” she cried into the fire.
Mrs. Parks gathered the frail,trembling body of her new daughter and held
her tightly, swaying back and forth to the sound of the child’s sobs. “Oh,
Tie Li,” she crooned “what did they do to you? My poor child. You are so
frightened. Even in your dreams you return to the war, to your village.”
The sobs slowly eased into quiet, steady breathing as the dream faded into
slumber. Mrs. Parks rocked back and forth in the darkness, gently stroking
the long, black hair that tumbled from the sweating brow and flowed along
the smooth, olive skin of the girl’s arm. Her thoughts drifted to the day
when she and her husband had decided to adopt a child.
“Not just any child,” her husband had said, bending to adjust his tie in
the small mirror hanging by the front door. “We want a child who really
needs our love.”
“All children need love,” she teased, knowing full well the thought behind
“You know what I mean,” he said, trying to look misunderstood. “There are
little kids who have lost everything–family, friends, home–everything.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” she said gently, putting her arms around
him. “And I love you for it.”
Now two years later, she held a sleeping 9-year-old girl who fit the
description perfectly. Tie Li had lost everything except her life. They had
their child who needed their love more than they could ever know.
“Good morning!” Tony bounded into the kitchen carrying a large cardboard
box. “I’ll be right back. I have to take this out to my workshop in the
barn. Won’t take but a minute.” He slipped out the back door before Mrs.
Parks could move sound through her open mouth. She smiled. Tony had enough
raw energy for three 11-year-olds. The box probably contained his latest
invention, or at least parts for one.
“Did I hear Tony?” Mr. Parks laid the morning edition on the table. “We do
have a son named Tony, don’t we?”
Mrs. Parks laughed. “Yep, that was him–cute, always busy, likes to invent things.”
“Sounds like our Tony all right.”
Another cardboard box entered the kitchen with two little legs between it
and the floor. “Morning.” A girl’s voice echoed from behind the burden. “Be
back, OK? Tony needs some things. I help.” The box bounced off the
refrigerator, the table, the antique hutch in the corner, and finally
wobbled out the back door.”
“And who was that?” Mr. Parks laid the paper down again.
“That, my handsome husband, was our daughter–cute, talks with an accent, Tony’s shadow.”
“Oh, yes, I remember meeting her once. I think Tony was out of town.”
They both looked at each other and laughed out loud. “Oh, Bob, they are
such precious children. I love them so much. But…” Her smile dimmed.
“She had another dream last night, didn’t she?” Mr. Parks walked around the
table and lifted his wife into his arms.
“She gets so scared. I just don’t know what to do.”
“We’re doing all we can do. The social worker said that some of these
children have emotional scars that will last for years. She said they need
love and lots of it. We can give her that love. I know we can. And she
couldn’t ask for a better mother than you.”
“Oh, honey, do you really think I’m a good enough mother for Tie Li?”
“I don’t think, I know. Look how well Tony is turning out!”
Mrs. Parks had to stifle a laugh. “Sometimes I think that all Tony needs is
“He is a smart little boy, isn’t he?” Mr. Parks returned to his place at
the table. “His teachers say he’s a genius. Of course, he gets that from my
side of the family.”
Splat! A wet dish rag landed square on his head. Pretending not to notice,
Mr. Parks continued, “I come from a long line of geniuses, and every one of
us has had to wear wet dish rags on our heads.” He sighed heavily. “It’s a
price we have to pay.”
The door of Tony’s workshop swung open as Tie Li stumbled into the room.
“Where you want this box, Tony?”
Tony smiled at the words coming from his adopted sister. She always said
his name with the accent on the last syllable–Toe-NEE. He liked that.
“Just put it over there by the computer table.”
The box weaved an uncertain path across the room and settled with a thud in
its assigned place. “What you make with all this stuff?” Tie Li stood
still, trying to rub feeling back into her aching arms.
“This isn’t stuff,” he corrected, arranging the contents on his work table.
“This is highly sophisticated, scientific equipment.”
“Looks like stuff to me,” Tie Li insisted, sitting down next to the table.
“Well, for your information, I’m making something for you.”
“For me!” Tie Li sprang back to her feet. “You make something for Tie Li?”
“That’s right, but I can’t tell you what it is. It’s going to be a
“A surprise for me?” Tie Li jumped up and down. “I like surprise! When you
give surprise to me?”
“Soon.” Tony studied a circuit board under the goose-neck lamp arching
across the table. “I just have a few more adjustments to make.”
“Maybe this my surprise.” Tie Li moved toward the large, cloth-draped
object in the corner of the room.
“Tie Li, you stop right now!” Tony reached out and grabbed his little
sister’s arm. “You’re not supposed to snoop around in my workshop.” Tie Li
let out a happy squeal, wiggled out of Tony’s grip and ran for the door. “I
no snoop around. I go eat breakfast.”
Tony watched her scurry across the farmyard and disappear into the big
yellow house. He thought of the day when he and his mom and dad had gone to
the airport to pick up his new sister. He had watched her walk down the long
passageway that led from the arrival gates to the customs area, clinging to
a nurse’s hand. How tiny she had looked, and how lost! Suddenly a feeling
like none he’d ever felt welled up like a tide in his heart. With his
forehead pressing against the glass that separated him from the long lines
waiting to pass through customs, he’d had made a vow with himself, a vow he
knew he’d never break. He was going to love that little girl. He was going
to be the best brother he could be.
He stood in the doorway of his workshop for a long moment. Turning slowly,
he walked across the room toward the large object bulging under its cover.
He ran his hand down the contours of the cloth and spoke quietly to himself.
“Tie Li. You’re my sister now. I know about your dreams. Maybe I can help
you forget. Maybe I can give you new dreams. Maybe.”