Brightening home

Freshman Lily Philips gains sister through adoption

Freshman+Lily+Philips+and+her+sister+Summer+eat+lunch+on+a+Disney+Cruise+to+Cozumel%2C+Mexico.+Courtesy+of+Lily+Philips.

Freshman Lily Philips and her sister Summer eat lunch on a Disney Cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. Courtesy of Lily Philips.

The streets bustle outside as freshman Lily Philips and her family sit inside the warm diner that shields them from the cold November air. The restaurant is clamored with menus flipping and dishes clattering in the kitchen. As the food eatery comes alive with voices, the family buzzes with excitement for the new family member. They sit as the family that they’ve known for a majority of their lives, now with a new addition, Summer. That Thanksgiving day, they brimmed with smiles and love, thankful for their new daughter and sister.

In 2017, Cindy Wren and Rebecca Bingham, Lily’s aunts, participated in an advocacy trip in China where they fostered orphans. One of those orphans was 13-year-old Summer, who they took a particular liking to. Back at home, Lily’s mom, Melissa Philips, used Facebook to spread the word about Summer. After months of nobody adopting her, she adopted Summer herself.

When Summer first came home, there were certain difficulties the family had to work through, the biggest one being the language barrier. The orphanage in China didn’t make an effort to thoroughly teach the orphans, thus limiting Summer’s knowledge of the English language. 

“I can just say ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye,’” Summer said. “It’s the hardest to read and write in English.”

Because of those barriers, the family occasionally felt it was difficult to develop a bond with Summer. But the feeling disappeared the longer they were able to get to know each other; Lily created an especially close bond with Summer due to the extra time spent together sharing a room.

“It was really difficult to talk to somebody that you don’t know what they’re saying to you,” Lily said. “I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be a good enough sister and we wouldn’t get along and she wouldn’t like us.”

The family life has also changed due to her arrival. Summer’s disability, cerebral palsy, causes her arms and legs to randomly seize up and sometimes makes them difficult to control. Since adopting her, the family had to make more of an effort to be conscious of Summer’s abilities to go somewhere.

“From day one Summer felt like she belonged and was always meant to be there,” Melissa said. “Even with [the adjustments].”

According to Melissa, it wasn’t the easiest feat to develop that familial bond between her and Summer. This was especially difficult considering Summer wasn’t shown affection since she was a toddler, so when it came down to it, she had to show Summer she cared.

“I worked to be a mother,” Melissa said. “[Summer] has never had one so she never had someone to say ‘I love you’ before bed or notice that she needs something and get it for her.”

Although Summer may look different from the rest of the family, they see her as one of their own. Summer and Lily are only a year apart and share a room, so their bond strengthened the most in their family, due to sharing a room and being close in age.

“[She’s my] birth sibling basically,” Lily said. “I always introduce her as my twin sister since we’re so close in age.”