Why I came to New Mexico

I suppose it would be different if I lived in Ireland, but here in the U.S., I rarely meet anyone with the last name “O’Dwyer.” That’s why I was surprised and delighted yesterday when the couple sitting in the first row of my reading at Collected Works in Santa Fe announced their last name was “O’Dwyer,” too.

The Missus asked, “Do you get asked how to spell ‘apostrophe’?”

“All the time,” I said. How fabulous to commiserate over the disappearance of the apostrophe with two who understand.

Like me, they’re adoptive parents, to a grown son born in Ireland, although for years they’ve lived in L.A. Why they were in Santa Fe at the same moment I was, I don’t know, but somehow it made sense that we were in the same place at the same time, discussing adoption. Later, our meeting made me reflect—once again—how important blood relations are to all human beings, including our children who are adopted. How else to explain why we O’Dwyers were so excited to meet one another because somewhere down the line, way back, we might have shared a great-great-great grandmother? I am my children’s mother, but they have other mothers, as well.

The next time you’re in Santa Fe, please visit Collected Works. It’s everything you hope a bookstore would be: warm, friendly, cozy, and big, with plenty of shelf space to hold thousands of books. Co-owner Dorothy Massey and her daughter, Mary Wolf, were terrific to work with. And bookseller David Waag, who hails from Northern California, rides bikes, and has visited Guatemala, made sure the event ran without a hitch.

Yesterday’s reading including one of the most intense discussions of the book and adoption that I’ve had. This could be because every person in the audience had a direct connection to adoption, and had much to say about it. One of the most important comments came from a physician trained in Chile who practices medicine in New Mexico.  Someone asked whether U.S. citizens should be permitted to adopt children from Guatemala, and how Guatemalans felt about it. After I explained reactions varied, Dr. Herrera said that in Chile, families rarely, if ever, adopt non-blood-related children, and that the situation is probably the same in Guatemala. Statistics prove that it is. Research also proves that children are healthier when placed with permanent, loving families, wherever that family may be, than they are growing up in orphanages. My point is that if one considers the best interest of the child, international adoption makes sense.

I’m grateful to social worker and adoptive mom Nichoe Lichen, who helped spread the word of my reading to the adoption community. Nichoe is the current President of the Adoption and Foster Care Alliance of New Mexico and works to improve adoption laws in the State. Here is a photo of Nichoe, on the right, with Dr. Herrera and me.

Thanks to my dear friend, Bethany Nelson, for hosting me and taking photos. Our time together is a marvelous benefit of the visit. Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. I read at Bookworks in Albuquerque. Hope to see you there.

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