Pearl Long's past, half a world away, is never far from the 12-year-old. It peers from the cover of a coffee-table book in the family's Pueblo home, in a child's sweet face that announces, "Here I am; love me if you will." Pearl was the cover girl with the slightly worried brow, photographed eight years ago at an orphanage in Hefei, China.
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[Bob] and his wife Cindy brought Pearl into their family four years ago, rather unexpectedly. Their two daughters were grown and they'd adopted Guoya about 1 year earlier, "just gotten up to speed with her," Cindy says, when the Denver adoption agency called and said they had another little girl for them. Bob remembers saying, "But we aren't on the list . . . OK, I'll have to talk to Cindy."
The couple decided to go forward with the adoption, which was fast-tracked because Pearl had serious medical problems."We got the call in February and went in August. It seems slow, but that was fast. There's just a gauntlet of paperwork you have to go through," Bob says.
The Longs and their three daughters all went to China to get Pearl, spent 10 days there and then came home. Pearl had brain surgery at The Children's Hospital in Denver and spent a good part of her first year in Pueblo recuperating. She doesn't remember coming to her new home.
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One day Cindy was looking at a People magazine in a doctor's-office waiting room and there was Pearl in a story about the orphanage book. Cindy says she was surprised and angry to see her daughter's photo in a nationally syndicated magazine, in a story about a book she knew nothing of. She was sure it was Pearl because she'd repeatedly and carefully studied another photo of the girl at a younger age during the months the Longs waited to go to China for Pearl, while she welcomed the unmet child into her heart.
But she called the book publisher just to be sure and then she called the photographer and said, "I just want you to know that little girl on the cover of your book isn't an orphan anymore."
Cindy says Bowen told her he had photographed only older children whom he was assured wouldn't be adopted, but he was very happy, nonetheless, that Pearl had been adopted.
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