Almost seventeen years ago, my husband and I learned that we had been selected by the Chinese Government to be parents of a little girl. We were ecstatic. Her Chinese name was BiYunYang. But the question for us, as for many new parents, “What would we name her?”
After rejecting a long list of names for a variety of reasons, I remember sitting on the floor at the Boise Barnes and Noble store going through books of baby names. I came across the name Calla. The name was a derivative of the Calla Lily which grows wild in China and Idaho. Since our baby had started her life in China but we hoped would thrive in Idaho, I thought this was a perfect name. The strong “K” sound also went well with my husband’s last name, Kozisek.
I went home and told my husband I wanted to name our daughter, Kayla. I have trouble with pronunciation. I actually thought “Calla” was pronounced “Kayla”. He corrected me on the pronunciation indicating the first “a” was short with a strong C in Calla. “Kayla”, on the other hand, contained a long ”a” and strong” K”. We both were undeterred by my mistake. “Kayla” seemed a perfect name for our new daughter. The story of Kayla’s name originating from the Calla Lily, rooted in China and Idaho, is still part of our family folklore.
Every Easter, I buy a Calla Lily from our church youth group to be displayed on the alter. We bring Kayla’s plant home after Easter services and display it on our kitchen table before replanting into our yard. Some years, the lily, a perennial, survives Idaho’s winter and returns the next spring. But more often, we only have the lily throughout the summer months. The tall-stemmed plant with the glorious, glistening bell-shaped flower and arrowhead shaped leaves is a regular reminder all summer of the gift we received in spring 2000 from China.
The language of flowers has existed for hundreds of year. For example, during the Victorian period, lovers sent secret messages to one another with small bouquets, called tuzzy-muzzies. Today, the symbolism continues, as lilies displayed at church represent new hope, new life and new beginnings of the Easter season. I personally believe that we saved Kayla and gave her a new life and a new beginning when we adopted her from China.
The Bible references lilies on a number of occasions. One of my favorite Bible verses about lilies is Luke 12:27: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” This verse refers to the natural beauty of the earth. God’s world does not need additional adornment. The verse, however, also reminds me that my Chinese daughter is a gorgeous girl and we are fortunate to have had the opportunity to share our lives with her.
I became interested in Chinese adoption after seeing several beautiful Asian girls in Helena, Montana. When I investigated the adoption process, I learned that these girls were available because of China’s one child adoption policy. Since boys were seen as more valuable in providing for their extended family in later years, girls of poor Chinese families were given up for adoption. Many of these girls were left at bus stops, on door steps or otherwise without any identifying information. Relinquishing a baby was also against Chinese law so babies were deserted in public places.
We now know that these policies have proven to be short-sighted. China has a shortage of marriageable age young women. Recently, there have been reports of occasional gangs of young Chinese men in rural areas crossing Chinese borders to kidnap young women.
China has lifted the one child rule and made international adoption much more difficult. But during the period when I was interested in expanding our family, adopting a young girl from China was relatively easy. All one needed was to be patient and diligent about paperwork and have the funds to pay the Chinese government for processing and travel.
Our Kayla lily has proven to be true to her American name. She came to us as a malnourished, 8 month old, weighing only 9 pounds and unable to sit on her own. Within months, she was sitting, crawling, and full of wonder. Now 16 and half, Kayla is an honor student and outstanding athlete. She is a beautiful person both inside and out. We chose the right name for Kayla. Her soul is truly rooted in the beauty of the wild lilies, that thrive in Idaho.
As William Blake wrote in his poem, The Lily
The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat’ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.