Xiamen Sisters at Statue of Liberty;Sadie Stone 2nd from right
Hydroflites 4-high;Evie Stone top left
I am a news and political junkie. My family would add sports to the list. I can’t get enough reading or watching news, news about politics and news about sports. But sometimes, as was the case a week or so ago, the news, political and sporting, was so depressing that I had to take a break. The debt deal debate and proposed solution did not solve the problem and nearly led to a default. The economy and the markets have been shaky at best, putting at risk millions of retirement accounts, including mine. And, to top it off, the Twins have looked like a AAA club on most nights. What’s a guy to do? Thank goodness I have daughters whose actions on the small stage make the larger political stage seem almost irrelevant.
On the same August weekend, our 13-year-old daughter Evie was competing in the Division II National Water Ski Tournament in tiny Tomahawk, Wisconsin, and 1,000 miles to the east, in New York City, our 16-year-old daughter Sadie was reuniting with four of the 12 girls she was adopted with as infants in China 16 years ago.
The kids have been members of the Chetek Hydroflites Water Ski Show Team for several years. Water ski teams are a big deal in many small towns in Wisconsin. And even though motors aren’t allowed on the lake where we have a cabin, the next lake over happens to be the site for the Hydroflites’ shows, which draw 500 to 600 people two nights a week all summer. We used to take the kids to watch when they were young. They became sort of ski show groupies and were finally invited to join. About three years ago, they asked Evie, who used to do gymnastics, to climb up the human pyramid. It was a bit scary at first (for us not Evie), but she mastered the climb and now regularly appears at the top of the “four high” as in four people high. She’s standing about 20 feet above the water on top of three layers of skiers being pulled about 25 m.p.h. This all takes amazing team work, coordination and cooperation, ingredients that seem to be lacking these days in the political and major sports arenas. One wrong move and the pyramid falls.
The Hydroflites placed 7th in the Wisconsin State Tournament in July in Wisconsin Rapids and were invited to participate in the Division II National Tournament earlier this month in Tomahawk, in northeastern Wisconsin near Rhinelander. I positioned myself on a bridge overlooking the lake where the tournament was held so I could get good photos while my wife Ann stayed behind and watched from the stands. In between acts, I texted Sadie in New York to give her updates of how the Hydroflites were doing. The reports to New York were positive. There were bare footers, jumpers, doubles couples, pairs, trios, trick skiers and, of course, three pyramids. When it was over, the Hydroflites had placed second of 14 teams in their first national tournament in many years. A great job by a dedicated group of skiers and drivers, show directors, announcers and supportive parents, all volunteers. We were proud of Evie for her performance, but we were really proud of the team effort.
Meanwhile, across the country in New York, Sadie and her “sisters” from Xiamen, China, were having a blast seeing the sites in the Big Apple. What is amazing is that they had managed to hook up with each other through Facebook. Some knew others casually or had met before, but they hadn’t really been together as a group since they were babies in an orphanage. We parents had kept in touch through e-mails and holiday cars. The girls organized the trip themselves, sort of keeping parents informed. They were to stay at one of the girls’ apartments in Manhattan with her dad as the chaperone. But no one really knew how it would work out. They grew up in Missouri, Minnesota and New York, among other places. They had different interests and attitudes and friends.
So when I asked Sadie on the phone one day how it was going, she said without pausing, “We really connected. It is as though we never left each other.” The giggles in the background reinforced her point. I found it both amazing and comforting that these five teenagers from the same orphanage 12,000 miles from here could come together 16 years later and reconnect without missing a beat. I was so happy for Sadie and proud of her as well for taking a chance to revisit her past and rekindle old friendships.
For four days, the girls were inseparable. The picture at the Statue of Liberty says it all: five Chinese-American girls reunited in front of one our most important icons. It’s a story of friendship and commitment, perhaps another lesson our political leaders could learn. And, along with the Hydroflites great performance, it was the best news I’ve had in many weeks.