Separated at birth, twin sisters born in China finally meet
This story beats love at first sight. Two people longed for each other, though they may have never met. They felt connected though they may never have touched. They'd even been given the same first names, though their families were strangers. By the time Meredith Grace Rittenhouse and Meredith Ellen Harrington were finally introduced, love was almost beside the point. Their bond was more mysterious, more fundamental. The Merediths are Chinese fraternal twins who were adopted by two different American families. The girls found each other almost six years ago, when they were 4, and haven't let go since.
Jiangmen, China, is a subtropical city, but during the winter it can cool off quite a bit. It was on an early December day that Meredith Grace's birth mother left the newborn baby girl outside and said goodbye. In China, children who are abandoned by their parents are often left in public places where they are found quickly. Meredith Grace's mother chose a busy part of town, the entrance to Holiday Park, across the street from an orphanage. If anyone knew how long Meredith Grace waited on that sidewalk or heard how loudly the baby cried, it might have been her own mother-women who abandon their babies have been said to wait nearby, still watching over their children, unable to do more than see who comes along.
Meredith Grace was taken in by the Jiangmen City Social Welfare Institute on Dec. 8, 1999. She was described as weak upon arrival in the single typed page of history the orphanage gave her adoptive family. The administrators guessed she was 1 week old and gave her a birthday of Dec. 1. Two weeks later, another baby girl, also found nearby, arrived. She was given a birthday of Dec. 16, though now she celebrates on the first day of the month.
During the nine months the two girls lived at the orphanage, they likely did not have much contact. As far as their American adoptive families know, there was no reason for the institute to suspect that the girls were twins. They lacked a strong physical resemblance then. At the orphanage, babies slept in stainless-steel cribs lined up end to end. They were taken out to play on bamboo mats placed on the pink tile floor, but the infants would have been too young to interact much. Their adoptive parents believe, however, that the girls were cared for by the same two nannies, which would suggest that their cribs were in the same room. When they were 4 years old, both girls were able to remember who was the "nice" nanny and who was the "mean one" when they looked at a picture of the women (even though the "mean one" was smiling). Such is the detective work of families hoping to find clues that their daughters knew each other from the beginning.
When she was 10 months old, Meredith Grace moved into her new home in suburban Chicago with Jim and Susan Rittenhouse, one a science-fiction buff and the other a dog lover, and now, together, parents. Meredith Grace was an early talker, and like her father, an enthusiastic one. Bubbly and smart, she developed a passion for geography and soon was drawing maps of the continents and begging for a globe. She adjusted to her American life well, but she was obsessed with the idea of sisters. She used to tell her preschool teacher about the one she had in China; her parents took this to mean that she wanted one. Asked to complete the sentence, "When I grow up I want to be a ... ," a 3-year-old Meredith's answer was "sister."