Red thread connects American mom with Chinese children

LingLing and FeiFei Stewart

Elizabeth Ling Ling (r) and Caroline Fei Fei

Heather Stewart was loving life.  At 39, she was single and had a great job in marketing with Saab. She lived in a hip Atlanta neighborhood, surrounded by fun-loving, attentive friends. And then, she says, “It was like I felt a hand on my shoulder.”

Although Heather hadn’t thought about raising children before, she felt that hand guide her to a nearby adoption center. Heather filled out reams of forms. And then she waited.

And waited.

In the meantime, her mother, also named Heather, suggested she name her future baby Heather.

“Absolutely not,” she said.  “It’s confusing enough with Big Heather and Little Heather. Besides, the baby might already have a name.”

Due to China’s 1-child policy and the preference for couples to keep boys, Heather assumed her baby would be a girl. (Instituted in 1979 and still in effect, the 1-child policy was slightly relaxed in 2013.)  Heather decided she’d name her future daughter Elizabeth, her middle name and the name of both her grandmothers. “It was an olive branch to my mother to keep our name heritage alive.” Heather also decided to keep her daughter’s Chinese name as her middle name.

In September, 2002, a baby from Hunan province became available. Heather and her mom spent three weeks in Hunan and Guangzhou, China, picking her up. 8-month-old Ling Ling was renamed Elizabeth Ling Ling.

Two years later, Heather decided Elizabeth needed a sister. She applied again. After four more years, Fei Fei was found abandoned, standing on a street corner in Maoming, Guandong province, calling for her mother. She was thought to be 10 months. (To stand unsupported and speak by 10 months suggests one precocious child.) Fei Fei was turned over to an orphanage. Before long, she became Caroline Fei Fei, in the arms of happy mom Heather.

A good friend of our family, Heather heads up Chevrolet truck advertising. The Stewarts live in Northville, MI. Elizabeth and Caroline are now 12 and 6. Elizabeth excels at piano and soccer. Caroline is a talented gymnast and loves dressing up as a princess. Big Heather stays with them when little Heather is away.

“With my daughters, my life is complete,” Heather says.  “I believe we’re connected by a red thread.” According to Chinese wisdom, a red thread connects those meant to be together in life. An ancient legend holds that the lunar matchmaker god ties a red cord around the ankles of those destined to meet.

Heather’s mom is smitten with her grandchildren, even though neither is named for her. Not exactly anyway. A year after Elizabeth Ling Ling became her daughter, Heather happened to talk to someone fluent in Chinese. She told him the story of Elizabeth’s name.

“Do you know what the word ‘ling’ means in Chinese?” he asked.


“It’s the botanical name for the heather plant.”

(Please share your Godsigns stories with me, however ancient.)  

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6 thoughts on “Red thread connects American mom with Chinese children

  1. David farbman

    What an amazing story about an amazing woman and her awesome daughters! Way to nail that story mom!

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks, honey. From such a talented fellow author, and the human red thread between Heather and our family, I am honored by your comments. xo, proud momma

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