we are everywhere

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Overheard at the Gate

Recently, I was offered and accepted a new job at the airport. I work at the gates and sometimes I am assigned a flight that is going to the city in which my first born lived from about the time he was five years old.

I cannot tell you how hard it is to stay focused on the job while I assist 50 passengers to board an airplane departing to the city where my son grew up. Absolutely crazy making for me. The pleasant, middle aged woman handing me her boarding pass may have been his next door neighbor. Her children may have played with him. She may have served him lunch at her kitchen table and been lucky enough to see my 7 year old son with mac and cheese smooshed on his chin. If she did, I hope she was kind to him. And if she was, I hope many blessings for her.

That older, refined gentleman wearing the grey vest may have been his 8th grade teacher and had the opportunity to encourage my son during a particularily rough school year. If he did, I hope he was kind to him. And if he was, I hope many blessings for him.

Any young man or woman handing me a boarding pass may have graduated from high school with my son.

One time, a young man boarding the plane to my son's hometown stopped dead in his tracks beside me as he handed over his boarding pass. He gaped at me with that "just seen a ghost" expression. I wondered especially if he might be a friend to my son and recognized me in away. My son and I look much alike. And of all my sons, my first born looks the most like me.

Sometimes, I am at the gate for a flight to another city and someone will rush to the counter in a panic to ask where is the gate to XXX city; the town where my son's
adoptive family still lives. I remain in professional mode and look up the gate number for the passenger.

Inside, I am screaming, "Do you know my son? Do you know the **** family?"
I quell that internal voice and do not allow myself to speak.

I do not wish to breech any trust that I have been able to build with my son. Anything that I learn of his parents needs to come directly from him. The world is really very small and it is likely that one of the passengers I encounter traveling to XXX does know my son or his adoptive parents. And my son and I are
forming our own relationship. As his mother, I feel that I have the primary responsibilty in building a foundation of trust and must do everything within my power to create and sustain an atmosphere of trust and safety within our relationship.

So as desperately hungry, as voracious as I am on some days to learn details of my son as a child or a teenager, I have to be patient and wait for the details that come from him; or any details that someday, I may learn from his adoptive family.

And what really matters the most to me is to know my son in the present and the opportunity to know and share in his life right now. My son is very kind to me.
And each day I hope and pray for many blessings on him.

About two weeks ago, I was working at the gate and I overheard a conversation between two men. One of them lives here in Minneapolis and was flying to his hometown of XXX city; my son's childhood home. This passenger said that if you plunked yourself down in a suburb of Minneapolis and then punked yourself down in a suburb of XXX city, you would not be able to tell the difference. Each location has rolling hills, lots of trees and lakes and rivers.

I learned this tidbit of my son's life without stepping over a trust breeching boundary. In a way, I was thrilled to have this morsel of information. And I listened and committed it to memory. As always it is bittersweet to hear and to take in.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Shredding Fabric

Happiness for me is walking into a fabric store. Bins and racks of beautiful, luscious, inspiring fabrics contain glorious spectrums of color for my eyes; also bolts of sensations for my fingertips. There are solidly woven cottons in matte and polished finishes; silks as soft as I remember my newborn sons' golden red hair. Rich, thick warm wools in crayon colors dare me to wash them in hot water/hot dryer just to see what they look like all fluffy and "fulled". Hunting along the narrow aisles of my favorite fabric stores gives me ideas for even more quilts to make than my 9 already in process. There are simply too many quilts to make in one lifetime. Sometimes, I find a yard of fabric on the 1/2 price shelf that I just know will add the right accent of color or texture to a quilt project patiently awaiting my attention at home.

So I decide to by one or two yards of a new perfect fabric. The sales person carefully measures and cuts the finely woven cloth that so many people have together produced. A cotton farmer has grown the seasons crops with great care and knowledge, harvested and sent the cotton to the factory where workers comb, clean and process the fibers. Other people artfully work to have the threads woven and dyed into a textile designer's patterns. Wholesalers, marketers, and transportation workers get my fabric to the shop shelves so I am able to continue my rather expensive habit.

Then, I go home and begin the destruction of the collaboration of all these people's careful and creative efforts. I destroy the piece of fabric that have I so excitedly chosen. I measure my fabric and I begin shredding! Yes, I clip the fabric at the salvage and rip it apart along the entire width of the fabric. And I do this again and again until I have shredded the entire piece into carefully calculated stips. Then, I cut these strips into smaller pieces before they are assembled into new configurations. And then I pierce my lovely little scraps of shredded and repieced fabrics numerous times with the sharp sewing machine needle; about six perforations per running inch in order to "quilt" my piece and give the fabric dimension. I have even had thoughts of applying paints and inks to some of my quilts; which would only further transforming the original purchased piece of fabric.

Sometimes, I find a shirt at the thrift shop or buy a brand new skirt off the rack because I know that it will fit right into a particular quilt.

These pieces of fabric which I cut from the bolt or away from a clothing item; fabric pieces that were once whole and beautiful or at least whole and functional, I must destroy in order make something else. Something new; something functional and maybe even beautiful too. On most quilts,I try for "beautiful". Some express sadness or a my mood or a certain message.

Am I trying to draw a parallel to adoption here? Yeah, it is pretty obvious that this is where I am heading.

Adoption, by law, creates a family. And in the best of situations, to the benefit of the child being adopted, the adoptive parents will love and nurture the child and create a healthy, functioning family. I would go so far as to say that an adoptive family can be beautiful and a "living work of art". (Note: I did not use "in the best interest of the child" here; rather I wrote, "to the benefit of the child.")

Now, on the flip side of the creation of the adoptive family, there is the destruction of the natural family which must first occur in order for the adoptive family to be created. War, natural disaster, failure of government leaders, illness and death are all things that can happen to shred the fabric of the natural family and separate its members. Horrible, evil things happen. Calculated separation through coercion and unethical adoption practices happen, too. All of these can result in families being ripped apart. Mothers, fathers and children lose one another. Grandparents lose their grandchildren. Siblings lose one another. Through any of these separations, the fabric of the original family will never be the same. The family will never be again that whole piece of cloth woven so very tightly according to natural law. Never again will all the threads of the family be in place and the original pattern be clear. Never again will it be a strong, whole piece of cloth.

The family that loses a child to adoption is shredded and torn. The part of a mother that is her child; certain fibers of her heart, fibers of her soul are pulled from her being and interwoven into the fabric of another family.

Can the adoptive family, this new creation, be a beautiful entity? Yes, I believe it can. Can the child love and belong in his adoptive family? Yes, I believe so.

Does the creation of this new "living work of art" balance out the horrendous and unspeakable loss of the first family? No, I believe it absolutely cannot negate for the child the loss of his/her natural family. The gain of the adopting family does not ever balance out the loss of the natural family. I heard someone else put it this way once; the books will never balance out to zero when it comes to adoption. The gains and losses can never be balanced out because they are simply not recorded within the same bookkeeping systems.

Adoption has happened. Adoption happens. And I believe that it should only happen when a child truly needs another family. All mothers, fathers and children should be given the support needed to stay together. And there are people who would disagree with me and say that adoption is never necessary; that legal guardianship is an alternative to adoption. That can be a discussion for another place and time.

What I presently feel the most strongly against is the continued promotion of adoption by entities of society which have the awareness of the destruction done to natural family members through the processes of surrender and adoption. For people and agencies to continue to promote and facilitate infant adoption with full or even partial awareness of the damage done to infants and their mothers and fathers; and to assert that grief counseling for the surrending parents and attachment therapy for adoptive families can "fix" or lessen the damage, is unconscionable.

In adoption, the end doesn't justify the means.

To create something new of potential good or beauty with the knowledge that you must first destroy something else, and to choose to proceed anyways...Well, it is best to dabble at this only at the art table; not the family table.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Gathering My Thoughts

I get to be home today. Yeah!!! Although I am on jury duty this week, I have been instructed by a judge not to report to the courthouse today.

I got called to be on a jury panel yesterday and some of the potential jurors are being interviewed today. I am to phone in later today to see when and where I report next. I am speculating that I either will be instructed to go back to the courtroom to interview as a juror for this particular case; or that if enough jurors are chosen from today's interviews, I will then be thrown back into the jury pool for a different case.

So, I get to be home and am trying to gather my thoughts, blog for the discipline of writing, do some laundry, and spend some time outside on this absolutely perfect summer day. Summer's end is just in sight and I will miss it's last days if I stay in my current summer hibernation mode. I have been inside most of this past month because of the extreme heat that has lambasted most of the country. Summer's fever has broken here, and the day is glorious!

I started a new job a few months ago. It is part time and the pay is really ...ummm....poor! However, there are travel benefits. Hubby, sons and I are able to go places that we could never afford on his public servant salary. My monetary contributions to this little domestic unit have been minimal at best over the past decades, but the good news is that I think I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. This is so exciting for me, particularly as my 50th birthday is crouched outside summer of '06's exit door. My best laid current plan is to have two part time jobs; one for benefits and the other for better pay. So, I am working really hard at the airlines job and trying to succeed in that position. And I am volunteering and putting in some classroom time to renew my old, dusty state teaching license. I am pursuing relicensure but hoping to work in a related but entirely different area of education than I did before. I am very excited about it!

Reunion with my son has caused me to see how all of my life since his birth has been affected by his surrender. Reunion is helping me to decide what is really important in my life right now and helping me to make conscious decisions about how I want to spend my time and energy now and in the future. I believe that reunion has not only helped my first born son find out to a greater degree who he really is; but that it has helped me find out better who I really am. Not only through reunion does he have the opportunity to see himself reflected in me and his father; I have the chance to see reflections of myself in him.

In a way, I see the reflections of myself more clearly in him that I do in my other children. I think maybe that the interactions that I have with my first born do not have the same kind energies and "baggage" so to speak, that my interactions do with my other boys. Granted, all the years of separation create unique excruciating struggles and chaos, but I think that what I am trying to say is that my interactions with my first born contain certain qualities of a mother/infant bond. Reunion has allowed our first interactions since my son was three weeks old. Reunion has allowed us to communicate and interact. All is fresh and new; first smiles, first words...But here my son is a mature adult and I am not a new mother who gets to sees her infants smile, eyes or face mature and morph back and forth over the years from looking like hers or the father's or grandpa's and back again to her own...My son is a grown man and all the genetic coding has had decades come to fruition. I have missed it all. Decades after his birth, my first glimpses of my "baby's" smiles, facial expressions, thought processes are really mirror images of my own.

Today my thoughts are pretty much all over the place, but I will try to gather them together a little bit. One of the things I like about my job at the airline is that I work at a large international airport. I love to people watch. Sometimes, I wonder if any of the women I pass or even board on one of my flights is going to see her grown child, "again, for the first time." Is her heart exploding like mine did the first times I flew to see my son. Can she breathe? I couldn't.

Over the past few months at my new job, I have run into people I haven't seen in years. Two weeks ago, a woman came to my gate and asked me arrival information about a flight. I knew that I knew her. I was certain. I told her the gate for the flight she was meeting. Then I asked her if she had attended a particular high school. No, she hadn't. A certain grade school? No, she hadn't. I was still absolutely positive that I knew her. I'm one of those people who have trouble remembering names, but never forget a face. I was quite bold and asked her name. When she said her name, I remembered from where I knew her.

Less than two months after my oldest son was born I went to work in a department store for the summer. I worked in hosiery and this woman, A, floated between departments. She and I were about the same age and we sometimes took our breaks together. She was an outgoing, energetic, open and loving woman then and it was clear that time had not changed her. She said she remembered me, too.

I decided to ask her if she had any memories of me during those few summer months we knew each other through work. I explained that I had only surrendered my son a month before taking that job and I wondered if she had any memories of my affect at that time. Her response was that she remembers me as "sad."

A and I talked at the airport gate for a short while about adoption. She shared some of her life with me. She has been married for 28 years and she and her husband have been unable to have children. She asked me what I have learned from my experience.

You know....I was dumbfounded; absolutely speechless. I have learned so much, yet couldn't form a single thought in response to her. Granted, it was the end of my work day and there had been some pretty crazy flights to get out and I was tired. Still... I couldn't believe that I was speechless on I topic about which I have so many impassioned thoughts and convictions.

So, on another day, I will take on as a personal challenge, A's question to me. Another day, I will gather together my present thoughts about what I have learned from the birth, surrender, adoption of my son. I need to do this for myself. Thought gathering summer days are good.