Catching up with the Scottish clan and remembering past goodbyes

As I get ready to leave The Herald on Dec. 30, I wonder if I will cry on my way out the door.

I know the departure of one former reporter, Christina Harper, was my soggiest moment at The Herald. I am saving my pennies to someday visit her in Scotland.

Readers will remember an amazing series Christina wrote, about adopting a daughter in China. She took us through the agonizing process of applying to adopt, through traveling to meet Wendy Fu, to the joy of having baby at home.

When she got the phone call saying Wendy was born, Christina wrote:

“And then, in the next instant, I was someone else, my life had changed forever because I knew my daughter, Fu Yan Xing, Blessing Swallow Happiness, was born on June 13, 2002, and was waiting for Eric and me in Jiangxi Province in China.

“She has some wispy black hair, two teeth and, my favorite, ‘shows excitement at food.’

“I cried into the phone, then flew around the building telling people about her. I was reminded that I should call my husband. Oops.”

I asked Christina to write about her new life, and leaving The Herald. I thank her for sharing and bringing readers up to date. Here is her report:

By Christina Harper

There are many things I miss about living in Snohomish County since I moved back to Scotland in 2009: Thanksgiving, trips to Warm Beach to see Bruce The Spruce, driving around neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights, and Costco cheesecakes, and my friends at The Herald.

In my almost 25 years in the United States, I accomplished many things that I am proud of: I became an American, worked for The Herald, and adopted my two daughters from China. It was a wonderful time in so many ways.

But life takes turns that we can never expect. Marriages end, jobs are lost and wanting to be closer to family takes precedence.

So when out and about here in Edinburgh, I start bleating on about Everett, Seattle, Marysville, and the U.S. in general. I get some funny looks.

“You are so American,” my friends say.

“Well, yippee doodle sir-eee,” I reply.

The first time I encountered an American tourist in Edinburgh, I’m sure I scared her.

“I’m AMERICAN, TOO!” Like I am the only other American in Scotland. It sure feels like that sometimes. When the tourists are gone it’s just me waving my special little flag and that’s thanks to Kristi, or Krispi as my daughters fondly call her.

Kristi gave me the flag when I brought Wendy Fu home to Washington from China in 2003. All I wanted was a hug. It had been a difficult trip. Wendy’s dad, Eric, and I were exhausted after a 17-hour flight. Hot, sweaty, tired.

We came down the escalator at SeaTac and I recognized the feet at the bottom. It was Kristi. As her body came into sight I felt like I was going to burst into tears. There she was, camera poised and waving a tiny American flag. She took a couple of pictures before declaring that I had received the best-looking child of the bunch and handing me the Stars and Stripes.

That flag gets taped to the top of our Christmas tree in Edinburgh every year. We thought we were short of an angel. Turns out we had one in the form of Old Glory.

Kristi is leaving The Herald at the end of this month. That’s hard to say. Hard to write without tears. So many great memories.

Like me, Kristi will likely breeze out of the newsroom, teary eyed but looking forward to her new life with her family. She’ll feel like she’s on vacation then something will happen to tell her for sure that she’s not going back. Kristi and her husband, Chuck, will be bustling around, walking the malls, playing with grandchildren, when a big news story will break, or she’ll see something and think, “That will be a good column.”

It’s instinctual for some former reporters to immediately want to make a call, check in with an editor, or grab a notebook and pen. When it dawns that, well, that’s someone else’s job now, there’s a pang of disappointment. All of a sudden you feel distracted from everyone around you. You want to be the one to tell that story.

News twinges, I call them.

And there’s the readers. Kristi will find that void hard to fill. When you are used to answering phones with people on the other end who may be calling to compliment you on a story or who are raging and calling you names, or who just want to talk to someone, there is a void. Kristi and I could both write columns on Herald phone calls. Many, many columns.

Kristi will miss the same people I miss: Scott North, Robert Frank and Julie Muhlstein to name a few. Like others at tight-knit workplaces who have been together for years, we’ve seen more births, marriages, divorces and deaths than we care to count. We are bound to each other forever in a unique way: through stories. Kristi can always stop by, although that’s not really her style, or email.

It’s her emails that keep me going, especially around Thanksgiving: the warmth of friends, the turkey buffets, and the pies. Oh Lord, how I’ve missed pumpkin pies with Cool Whip. I’ve missed them so much that last year I decided to make one.

Armed with a can of Libby’s and a ready made crust that I bought from a store that imports U.S. foods, Wendy Fu, 9, and Lucy, 6, and I set about making our pumpkin pie. We wanted to share with our neighbors. Hey, it’s the American thing to do.

They sliced the pie. Forks poised … through the pumpkin … through the crust and up to the mouth. At this point my eyes were practically rolling back in my head and I was only watching.

They didn’t like it. No. Sorry. It didn’t taste good to them.

Fine. Whatever. Philistines.

The kids and I marched that pumpkin pie home and happily devoured the remains.

Thanksgiving this year was going to be different. Excitement was high around the third week of November. I had found an American women’s group to join and they were having Thanksgiving. When I went along to my first coffee meeting I was buzzing. There were women from all parts of the U.S. and one from Edmonds.

“EDMONDS!” I cried to Wendy and Lucy when I got home. It was as if we had just landed on the moon. “Get the flag!”

Four days before the much anticipated Thanksgiving I broke my ankle. No pumpkin pie for me this year.

Other than missing pumpkin pie and those who appreciate it, my move across the pond has been a good one. Wendy and Lucy love Edinburgh, and being near Grandma. Wendy won her first medal this year in fencing and is beginning to play a mean violin. Lucy is the headliner in this year’s Nativity. I thought she was too old to play Jesus. She is. Her part is the sleepy shepherd in “The Sleepy Shepherd.” Both girls love spending summers in Seattle with their dad. There’s Skype, email and trips to Everett to visit friends we all enjoy and look forward to seeing.

It has taken time for me to adjust to life in Scotland, but recently marrying my high school sweetheart has helped anchor me.

People like Kristi can stay in your life forever, whether it’s something she wrote 10, 15, years ago that you remember and laugh at or because you’ve met her and won’t forget her. Either way, she is a true friend. And she gave me a flag.

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