Even if she goes back to China again, it will be different. For one thing, she will not be the first child to return, being celebrated by one and all for her victorious homecoming. There may have been others and, even if there weren't, time will have passed and changed things more.
The older children will have split up and will not all be at the same school all together any more. Time will have gone by. The distance between when she was their reigning queen and the present will have grown. I am sure they will be overjoyed to see her...but I doubt that her way will be paid quite as generous as this time.
Also, it is likely that, by the summer of her eighteenth year, which is when she hopes to return, that she will know more of the truth about China than she knows at the moment. Her paradise will no longer be unfallen. It will be haunted by the truth of why it is that there are so many orphans and other horrors. This time, it was still only wonderful.
But this time, she really was the princess. An adoring group of followers trailed her everywhere. She was lauded by children and adults alike everywhere we went. The schools, the Chairman's, the orphanage where the staff remembered her from when she would stay with them on holidays or come to visit friends. She went where she wanted, did what she wanted, ate what she wanted. In fact, except for the one day that her mother dragged her to Shamain Island, every single thing was at her direction.
And she took it all with calm and cheerful aplomb, as definite and forthright as ever.
She has figured out that by 18, she will be big enough to travel alone--and thus will be able to stay for a much longer period of time...such as a significant part of her summer vacation. This is true...and yet it made me just a little sad. I had been so touched that she had wanted me to come with her this time. And I had such a good time. John and I are thinking that if she does go, I might plan--circumstances willing--to visit for the last five days or so...both to see everyone and to make sure that she does come home!
And now we are home. And she is just herself again...without even her Lady-In-Waiting to keep her company. She and I both crashed for most of yesterday. I found her up watching Chinese movies she had bought at 2:30am. And yet, she decided to go to school today. (That had been the plan, but I had told her she could stay home one more day, if she wished. ) It must be very hard to go to school without Ling Shan there. Ling Shan had been her constant companion and the best part of her school experience for months now.
And yet, she went.
I am so very, very proud of her.