After attending the Muriel Tonge Tribute this past February 2015,
I was brimming with excitement to meet the woman I read about and admired in the book “The Banquet” written by Emily Foster (Muriel’s granddaughter.) Since Muriel was the supervising nurse at St. Christopher”s during my year in residence there, I was determined to find and contact her. What a stroke of luck that Meaghan had found her and subsequently found us.
The day of the reunion started like others: a few nervous jitters meeting new adoptees mixed with the joy of seeing old acquaintances. We were all anxious to hear Muriel speak and she did not disappoint.
She recounted many stories of orphanage life. As she spoke of the challenges and hardships both the orphans and staff faced, I felt myself transporting back in time. I was going back more than 50 years and imagining myself as a baby in her care. Was I the one she spoke of with dysentery? Or maybe it was me that suffered prickly heat and had oozing pus sores. Was I malnourished and fed by tube? Perhaps not.
But what I did learn was Muriel gave every newly admitted orphan to St. Christopher’s their first bath. It was her way to personally check our physical condition. AND THAT I knew was ME! Muriel gave me my first bath! She held me and bathed me! I finally had a confirmed piece of my history. A beautiful snapshot of my early days that I can press in my mind and imagination.
I have to tell you that I found a photo of myself among the many old pictures that Muriel brought with her. The picture cut off the lower portion of my face below the nose. But out of the hundreds of photos she had, I found myself. It was amazing.
But I’m getting off point….I want to tell everyone who was unable to attend the reunion about Muriel. If you’ve read “The Banquet” then you know what a courageous, dedicated, and innovative woman she was back in China and Hong Kong in the 50’s and 60’s. She loved babies and children and she would do ANYTHING to improve their given situations.
What you might not know is that this 93 year old bundle of energy (like the energizer bunny) is a master at chopsticks and knows EXACTLY what to order in Chinese restaurants, is highly opinionated (don’t call yourself “abandoned”, you are “regifted”) and believes the cup is ALWAYS way more than half full (It doesn’t matter where you begin in life, it is where you end up and what you make of yourself.” She believes with every ounce of her feisty self that the human spirit can triumph over any adversity. She is living proof. We are living proof. Her positivity is infectious as is her love for all of us.
I hope that we can all meet again with Muriel. One day was incredible but somehow not enough. Her story continues as does ours. I hope we cross paths again. -Kathy