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Healing hearts

Adopted baby girl helps bring Mauser family together after death of son Daniel

By Joe Garner
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

There are four Mausers again this Thanksgiving.

The Chinese baby that Tom and Linda Mauser named Madeline after adopting her last month has restored the family circle shattered by the Columbine shootings.

The couple's son, Daniel, 15, was killed in last year's school tragedy, leaving them and daughter Christine leaving sorrow in a happy home, leaving a void.

Linda Mauser, 49, a stay-at-home mother who herself was adopted, had suggested they adopt a Chinese daughter.

"It's not that Madeline can ever be a replacement," Linda Mauser said. "I can't describe it really, but she brings joy back into our lives. I think that's something we really needed."

Tom Mauser, 48, concurred.

So did Christine, 15.

When her parents hesitated over their decision to adopt at nearly 50, Christine held out for a baby sister.

"I love her," Christine said. "She's so sweet. She's so cute, but I'm not big on changing diapers yet."

Now, only a month after the Mausers returned home from China with Madeline, she sets the rhythm of the household.

She squirms, she walks, she falls, she drools, she demands attention, she delights.

She reunites.

Madeline must mean joy in Chinese. Or maybe thankfulness.

She turned 1 year old Wednesday with a cake and presents.

"Our family will never be the same again, but I feel, in some ways, we have been restored," Linda Mauser said. "Our family definitely has a different look. We felt there was a very large void when we lost our son, but I just felt like this was something necessary to fill the void.

"I feel kind of re-engaged again maybe that's the best way I can describe it because she pulls me out of that sad feeling," she said.

But, having lost one child in the nation's worst school shooting has brought the fear of losing Madeline into the Mauser home along with the joys of nurturing her.

The Mausers don't want to be fearful, fretful, overprotective parents.

"I think my fear is stronger than it was before," Tom Mauser said. "Just things like crib death fear of losing another child."

"Overall, you're more aware of your vulnerabilities," his wife said. "That's true."

"There will be times we get up in the morning, and I don't hear Madeline, and I have a little bit of a fear," Tom Mauser said.

Linda Mauser sometimes gets up in the night to check on their new daughter, just to stand in the dark and listen to Madeline breathe as she sleeps.

"I just want to be sure she's fine," Linda Mauser said.

As a new mother again, she said parenting "is a little like riding a bicycle. You don't really forget, although I've kind of forgotten some things, like when are they supposed to get their teeth?"

Linda Mauser, a former paralegal, enjoys her role as a mother who stays at home. She finds greater rewards within the family circle than in the working world.

"It's more interesting, actually," she said. "I have always found being a parent very rewarding."

Tom Mauser, who took a year's leave of absence to campaign for tougher gun-control laws, will resume his career as a planner with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

But he has been transformed by his sometimes unnerving experiences as a very public, identifiable face in the national gun-control debate. President Clinton invited Mauser to attend the State of the Union address in Washington in January, and Clinton and Mauser shared the dais at a gun-control rally in Denver in April.

"When you go through a tragedy, your values change dramatically," Tom Mauser said.

"Americans need to understand how much they have, and they don't need more material things to be happy," he said. "We saw a lot of happy people (in China) who, by our standards, were very poor, struggling people. There is something to be said for a simpler way of life, and a more basic way of life and a family life without the emphasis on material things.

"Certainly, what has happened to us has taught us to find richness in other ways," he said. "Madeline is part of that."

Christine is enrolled at J.K. Mullen High School, a Catholic school. When the time comes for Madeline to go to school, the Mausers plan to evaluate schools she might attend before registering her, but they don't plan to home-school her.

"I'm a little more wary of things that can happen," Linda Mauser said. "I'm more aware of bullying in schools. Before, if someone had said they were home-schooling their child I would have been more skeptical.

"People can come into any place. No place is totally safe, but I still think bullying is a problem in schools that hasn't been addressed. I still think there is a lot of denial going on in the public schools about it."

Beginning in a year or two, Madeline will attend the Joyous Chinese Cultural School conducted by Chinese Children Adoption International, the Englewood agency that arranged the adoption. The curriculum introduces adopted Chinese children to their native heritage, culture and language.

A Chinese orphanage official brought Madeline to the Mausers Oct. 16 in a Nanning hotel, even though they had been told she was living with a foster family. Madeline was presented to them wrapped in layers of cloth, which is the custom with Chinese babies.

The Mausers will keep that baby clothing, along with souvenirs they brought home, such as teapots, wall hangings and jewelry, to give Madeline as she grows up.

Perhaps they will take Madeline back to China when she becomes old enough to understand the first months of her life, before she became Madeline HaiXing Mauser. Her middle name, a variation on her Chinese name, translates as "ocean star."

Instead of a baby book, Madeline will have letters from her sister and a notebook from her mother telling about their trip to China to adopt her and the love she has brought to their lives to heal the pain caused by Daniel's death.

"I really thought she would add something to our lives," Linda Mauser said.

"And she has."

Contact Joe Garner at (303) 892-5421 or garnerj@RockyMountainNews.com.

November 23, 2000