Posts Tagged ‘adoptive families’

Two wishes

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018


Driving home from school yesterday, Olivia said she wished she could change two things. First, her last name so that it sounded, as she said, “more Latino.” And second, the fact that she and I look so different. “I hate that people see us and can tell I’m adopted,” she said.

Olivia’s at a new school this year–high school–a much bigger place where no one knows us and everyone does a double-take. The first day, a girl looked at the screen-saver on Olivia’s laptop, a family photo. “Who are they?” the girl asked.

“My parents,” Olivia said, and you can guess the rest of the conversation. These kinds of occurrences happen often.

I’m putting this out there because if you asked Olivia, she’d probably say she’s comfortable with being adopted, at peace with it. She’s a well-adjusted young woman who knows and loves her birth family as well as her family in California. Still, Olivia doesn’t enjoy constantly being singled out, stared at, questioned. Nobody does.

As we approached the driveway to our house, I told Olivia I could only imagine how tough it was sometimes to be her, that she didn’t ask for any of it. I said she was welcome to change her last name when she was 18–her first name, too, for that matter–reminding her it would need to be amended on her Certificate of Citizenship (!!!).

“What I can’t change is the color of my skin,” I said. Olivia said that was okay. She loves me anyway. ~

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Gayle Bradeis essay

Friday, January 5th, 2018

I’m sharing a beautiful essay by Gayle Brandeis, a teacher in my Antioch MFA program who read the piece during our December residency. The title, “My Shadow Son,” refers to a young man who, for 14 years, believed Gayle was his birth mother. The essay speaks to the strong drive felt by many people who are adopted to connect with blood family.

On Gayle’s public FB page, she identified the young man and shared his comments, including this paragraph: “[T]he real moral of this story is that in finding the history of my own birth family and in meeting my biological sister I have come to feel even more kinship with my true family (the one that adopted me). I could never have anticipated that revelation since I have already loved them with my whole heart since the day I was born, but it has been the most powerful revelation of my 32 years on this planet.”

Gayle’s YA novel, My Life with the Lincolns, is my son Mateo’s favorite book. Her latest is a memoir on my list to read, The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide.

 

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New Year 2018

Monday, January 1st, 2018

I have so few photos of our family–all 4 of us–that I feel compelled to share this one, at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. (Mateo figured out how to use the camera timer.) I’m (over)dressed for the Arctic, while Olivia’s in shorts. The other photo is of us with my youngest sister, Deanna, in front of the fountain in Balboa Park.

And Olivia and Mateo.

Happy 2018!

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Kallie and Maya

Monday, December 4th, 2017

We met Kallie and her daughter Maya in 2003, as we like to say “on the calle” in Antigua, when Maya and my daughter Olivia were babies in arms and Kallie and I each had moved to Guatemala to finish their adoptions.

Now teenagers, Maya and Olivia remain close friends–”oldest” friends, in fact–and Kallie and I share a bond that’s forever. Our families met up this weekend and remembered those days, and our other dear friends who fostered. xoxo

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Road trip

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

The Friday after Thanksgiving we drove up the California coast from San Diego, destination Santa Barbara. We planned to see the exhibition Guatemala from 33,000 km: Contemporary Art, 1960-Present. I had checked the SB Museum of Contemporary Art website to confirm the museum was closed Thanksgiving Day; however, in my enthusiasm, I may have missed it was closed the Friday after, as well.

The photo above shows us standing outside the locked doors.

But the day was not lost. Santa Barbara is a gorgeous city and the kids loved shopping in the Black Friday mix. We also toured the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a National Historic Landmark, and surely one of the most beautiful public buildings in the U.S. Meanwhile, we continued up the coast as planned, through Solvang and to Cambria. Today, we toured Hearst Castle.

Thankful. ~

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We got a dog

Monday, September 4th, 2017

We got a dog. A three-year-old Wheaten terrier mix, from a shelter in San Diego. Charlie has been with us three weeks, and we cannot imagine life without him. The kids adore him. Tim and I adore him. We’re outside more; we’re laughing more. Charlie brings out the best in all of us.

Why didn’t I agree to this sooner? Mateo has begged for a dog for five years! Here’s a post from August 2014 with a letter he wrote in 2012.

My post from August 2014:

One of the benefits of clearing out clutter is that stuff you forgot resurfaces, including this letter my son Mateo wrote me in January 2012. In it, he addresses a theme that remains ongoing: his pining for a dog. Reading Mateo’s letter helped me realize he’s wanted a dog for at least two years, a very long time in the life of a nine-year-old. Not that I’m planning to relent and get a dog. Just that Mateo’s desire is not new.

My son’s writing feels so energetic. His spelling and punctuation could use a copy-editor, but I love his voice.

Mateo’s letter, 2012:

Dear Mom,

I think Olivia an me shood get a DOG!!!!!!!!!!!

BECAUSE it will giv us xrsize.

If she didn’t want to do it I would do it for her.

Il give them a bath evry day.

If it’s a school day il do it after school.

If it’s a weekend il do it after brakefast in the morning.I’l take rely good car of the pupy.

“I promis promis promis”

Please Mommy i beg you.

yours Truly

Mateo

– What can I say? We had a lot going on. But I’m a passionate convert: If you don’t have dog, think about getting one. Yes, a dog requires work, and yes a dog will be another job for you. But a dog will likely give you this as well: sweetness, loyalty, and unconditional love. That counts for something. xoxo

 

 

 

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Trip to El Tenador

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

I wrote this a few weeks ago, when we were in Guatemala:

We caught the shuttle from Casa Santo Domingo to the restaurant on the hill, El Tenador. (the Fork.) Admired the Quetzal and VW sculptures of Efrain Recinos and the Jaguar mosaic of Roberto Gonzalez Goyri. Toured museums dedicated to Guatemala’s 1967 Nobel Laureate for Literature, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Pope John Paul II, also ran around the grounds and aviary. The view from the restaurant is spectacular. We recommend the tacos. (Today was our third visit. We love this place.) (They also have a zipline: Not as dramatic as in Panajachel, a bit pricey, fun.)

 

 

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Quinceanera

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Sunday we celebrated the Quinceaneras of three girls in our group of adoptive families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Glorious! Quinceanera is a celebration of a young Latina woman’s 15th birthday, acknowledging her transition from girl to womanhood. Customs to celebrate Quinces vary from family to family and may include a Catholic Mass, Courts and Groomsmen, mariachis and dancing. The parents in our three families incorporated traditions that resonated for us:

  • The changing of footwear from flat shoes to high heels. (The girls entered in flats and the three mothers helped them change into high heels, a symbol of adulthood.)
  • The exchange of a favorite stuffed animal for a tiara. (The letting go of “childish things.”)
  • A speech addressed to each daughter, delivered by her mother.

I’m grateful to my co-Quinceanera parents, Marie + Ralph and Miriam+ Allen, for contributing ideas, balloons, decorations, cake, and, above all, joyful spirits.

Thanks, too, to adoptive mom Ginny Curtin, for her fabulous photos to record the event, and to everyone in our community–parents, kids, significant others, friends–for sharing this special day. And always, to my husband Tim. xo

Below is the speech I wrote for Olivia.

THOUGHTS ON QUINCEANERA

Back in 2012, Olivia’s birth sister, Lucia, celebrated her Quinceanera. We were in Guatemala on our annual visit and wanted to do something special for the occasion. As is our custom, we went shopping together in the local market, and there we bought for Lucia her Quinceanera outfit: a wraparound skirt, called a corte, woven with hearts; an embroidered blouse called a huipil, made with fine fabric and fancy gold thread; and four-inch high heels I don’t think Olivia’s birth mother was thrilled about, but Lucia absolutely loved.
The experience impressed upon me the importance of Quinceanera, a rite of passage our daughters share with young Latina women around the world, including their home country of Guatemala. It reminded me of the multiple identities my daughter holds: Guatemalan, Maya K’iche, US citizen, person who is adopted. How impressively she navigates all of them—with confidence, intensity, and grace.
Olivia, so many people have helped you become the person you are: compassionate and wise, intelligent and creative. Today we remember and thank them: Your birth mother and father, your grandmother Abuela, the long line of ancestors who have lived in the highlands of Guatemala since before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Your two foster families, our friends in Guatemala. Your aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, neighbors, grandparents, teachers, coaches, counselors, religious leaders. Our community of adoptive families, gathered here to mark this occasion.
Olivia: As you go forward and walk through life, stand tall and stay strong. Be who you are. Be true to yourself. Remember that many hands hold you up. Don’t let anyone dim your light.
We love you. ~

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Foolish pie

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

A couple friends asked me to explain “foolish pie.” My grandmother was a fantastic cook of Southern dishes–fried chicken and dumplings, green beans with pork with a streak of lean, baked beans, sweet iced tea–and foolish pie was one of her specialties. The pie’s main ingredients are pineapple, whipped cream, and sugar. Served chilled, it was cool and simple on a hot summer night. I thought the recipe was unique to my grandmother, or maybe to Tidewater, Virginia. But I looked it up and here it is on Cooks: Foolish Pie.

My sister Deanna clarified for me why the name: “Foolish” because it’s so easy, anyone can make it. Not, as I assumed, because you’re foolish if you eat too much of it.

Maybe that, too.

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At the bookstore

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Last night while standing in line at Barnes and Noble, Mateo noticed the woman waiting behind us carried a purse made of fabric from Guatemala.

“Ask her where she got it,” he said.

“Do you want me to tell her you’re from Guatemala?”

“Just ask,” he said.

The woman finished her purchase and walked toward us. “Excuse me,” I said. “We’re admiring your handbag.”

She looked down at her purse and then at me and then at Mateo. “This? I got it at a county fair, years ago.”

Mateo nudged me, staying quiet.

“It’s from Guatemala,” I said. I pointed out the two different fabrics, cut from the embroidered blouse and woven skirt. “This part is from the blouse called a huipil. This part is the corte. The designs are specific to regions in the country.”

“Wow, I didn’t know,” the woman said. “I always get compliments on it. Now I can tell people it’s from Guatemala.”

Mateo took my hand and smiled. ~

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