Back to Where She Once Belonged

by Lisa DeNike Ercolano

I had only been Juliet’s mother for a few hours before I started thinking about how my husband and I would have to help her stay connected to her Chinese heritage.

“We have to pledge to take her back to China every few years, so she knows and understands her place of birth and the culture,” I said, solemnly and with every good intention, to my husband on the fuzzy, long-distance call from the hotel in Nanjing where I first met the tightly swaddled six-month-old with the bright red cheeks and a bristly mohawk of black hair.

My husband had remained in Baltimore with our homemade daughter, four-year-old Olivia, while I traveled to the People’s Republic, accompanied by my father, Bob, and a group of other adopting parents, to adopt our younger daughter.

She was handed gently to me in a Nanjing hotel room by the smiling, middle-aged Chinese woman, an ayi, who took care of her in the orphanage.

Sadly, good intentions notwithstanding, that is not what happened. As John Lennon famously said “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And our lives — as the working parents of two active, busy, growing girls — didn’t include the time, or the money, to make those intended trips. Added to the time crunch was the fact that, as a ballet dancer, Juliet had to spend every summer in training — just like an athlete!

So as Juliet entered her senior year of high school, we decided it was time to bite the proverbial bullet and make that dream of returning to China a reality. We put money aside, and contacted the wonderful agency that brought her into our lives — Children’s Hope International in St. Louis, Mo. — to help us plan the actual trip.

It seemed to take forever to get here, but eventually the calendar turned to June, and Juliet and I took off from Dulles International Airport for Beijing. (We decided, in the end, for various reasons that this would be a mother-daughter trip.) In future blog posts, we will be privileged to share some of the things we saw, the emotions we experienced and the things we learned, with readers of this blog.

Lisa and Juliet

Lisa and Juliet at the moat around the Forbidden City


Follow us to Part II of Back to Where She Once Belonged for a visit to China’s monuments





  1. Reblogged this on Brook Of Inspirations and commented:

  2. Congratulations Lisa! Keeping our girls intouch with their heritage is part of our goals to but not until they are old enough to appreicate it as well as how big this world of ours is. But, like you illustrate, intending to andmaking time are hard to do. Congrats! Beautiful family!

  3. Lisa: Thanks for your beautiful and inspiring account. As an adoptee who finally got to meet my Italian cousins and visit the village where my birth father was born, I know how important it is to connect with ones place of cultural/biological roots. Can’t wait to read further installments!

  4. I’m SO looking forward to the rest of your posts, Lisa! Thank you for sharing this experience with us!!

  5. Having been to China with our 3 daughters on 3 different family trips I can attest to the many benefits. They take away something different at each age as their awareness and understanding of their adoption deepens. The advantage of taking a 7-11 year old is they tend to be more open and less judgemental of the place and the things that are “different” than home. With our older daughter there were lots more questions and emotion when we travelled with her at the age of 13. I’ve travelled alone and in groups – equally positive experiences. I look forward to reading more and comparing notes. Soak it all up and have fun! It’s the 2nd trip of a lifetime!

  6. Lisa Ercolano says:

    Thank you so much for reading, everyone! I have to say that I do have quite a bit of regret/shame that my husband and I didn’t make a homeland trip happen sooner for Juliet. @menomama3 has a good point about different reactions happening at different ages. I am looking forward to sharing our experiences and hearing about those of other families.

  7. Every year—sometimes twice—my wife and stepdaughter traveled to China. Lauryann, my step daughter, has grandparents and cousins in China who are close to her. As a child, she spent many weeks in the summer and sometimes during the Winter Break. She speaks fluent Mandarin without an accent but doesn’t read the language. Next school year, Lauryann will be starting her 4th year at Stanford with plans to take a class that will lead to reading Mandarin too. This summer she is interning in China with a team of American heart doctors/surgeons in a remove, poor area of Southwest China closer to India than to Shanghai and Beijing.


  1. […] Read about the trip Lisa and Juliet too to China in Back to Where She Once Belonged, Part I […]

  2. […] Read about the trip Lisa and Juliet too to China in Back to Where She Once Belonged, Part I […]

  3. […] Read about the trip Lisa and Juliet too to China in Back to Where She Once Belonged, Part I […]

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