• 72°

Adoptions bring multiple blessings

Huang Hui Na arrived to little fanfare in November 2002. Three days into the Chinese infant’s life, she was abandoned, left in a cardboard box in front of an orphanage.

Sadly, female children are deemed expendable in many sections of the Asian culture.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, an Ironton couple had just begun filing the mountains of paperwork necessary to adopt a Chinese infant.

“We couldn’t have children of our own,” said Bekki Zornes of her and her husband of nearly 14 years, Jay. “So, after an international adoption conference, we decided (adopting a Chinese infant) was how we would start our family.”

“You have to jump through a lot of hoops,” Jay said of the international adoption process, which includes background checks, home and finance inspections, interviews with social workers, local and federal fingerprinting and child abuse agency searches.

“And the paperwork is as thick as the Columbus phone book,” he added with a laugh, noting that this was Bekki’s area of expertise.

“But it’s worth it,” Bekki said.

In May of 2004, 18 months and thousands of dollars later, Huang Hui Na officially became Lilly Zornes.

Now a second grader at Ironton Elementary School, 7 year-old Lilly recently returned from her first trip back to her homeland with her parents toting a brand new addition to the family: 10 month-old Julia (formerly Du Xiao Hui).

“I love Julia. She’s funny,” Lilly said of her brand new baby sister, adding that she helps her mom with babysitting, making bottles, and giving Julia a bath.

“What about changing diapers?” Jay asked.

“Oh, I changed one once,” Lilly said with a crinkled nose and a laugh. “It wasn’t pretty.”

As Lilly attempted to show Julia how to do push-ups in the family living room, Jay and Bekki discussed the four year wait to adopt another child, the two week trip to China to obtain her, and the blessings they both believe these young girls to be.

During this recent trip to China, which began in Beijing and ended in Hong Kong, Lilly was introduced to her heritage while Jay and Bekki worked on the legal documents, visas, passports, etc, necessary to make Julia an American citizen.

Jay’s sister and niece, Joni and Katie Hacker, also made the trip.

“Joni is involved in everything that happens in our family,” Jay said with emphasis.

The five-some visited the Great Wall of China, a zoo, and had more than their share of local cuisine…with the exception of Bekki, who doesn’t like Chinese food.

“She lived on McDonald’s,” Jay laughed.

Jay and Lilly, who doesn’t speak her native language, also had a humorous moment on an elevator involving an elderly Chinese man.

“He started talking to Lilly and she made a puzzled face and said, ‘Dad?’

“I said, ‘Don’t look at me. You have a better shot at this than I do.’”

Being an obvious stranger in a foreign land can be stressful, which Jay and Bekki noted. But what they really noticed was a sudden change in their perspectives.

“Just something as simple as going to the grocery store,” Jay said. “It really makes you think about how fortunate we have it here.”

Once the paperwork was properly in place, the Zornes clan headed back to America with the latest addition to their family.

“They said when Julia landed in Detroit that she would officially be an American citizen,” Jay, an avid Ohio State Buckeye fan, said. “And I said, ‘I didn’t think Michigan was in America.’”

So the question had to be asked: Why spend so much money and wait so long to adopt another Chinese infant? “Being older parents, we didn’t want Lilly to be here by herself,” Jay said, noting that he benefitted greatly as a child from his four siblings.

Bekki chimed in from her spot on the floor in front of Julia’s walker. “We wanted Lilly to have somebody else to talk to as she gets older.”

For Lilly, talking is definitely not a problem. Articulate and intelligent beyond her simple score of years, she is also, like her father, a big-time sports fanatic, listing basketball, golf, and soccer among her favorites.

But on this day, at least until she freely acquiesced to her mother’s command to do her homework, Lilly spent her time playing with Julia and absorbing the conversation among the adults in her midst.

What kind of life would Lilly and Julia have today and in the future if not for Jay and Bekki Zornes?

Nobody will ever know. And for Jay and Bekki, that’s the greatest blessing of all.

“We are open and honest with Lilly about her heritage and we will be with Julia,” he said when asked about the obvious questions the girls will have about their birth parents. “When they’re adults and want to go see their home country, I’ll be right there with them.”