Posts Tagged ‘adoptive families’

Three Identical Strangers documentary

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Mateo and I watched the 2018 documentary, “Three Identical Strangers,” last night. (Yes, the film finally came on DVD to our local library, because, as Mateo claims, we’re the only family in the country who doesn’t have Netflix.)

Wow. If you haven’t yet seen it, you must.

You probably know the rough outline—three identical triplets separated at birth, adopted to families in the greater New York area by the Louise Wise adoption agency. They find one another through pure chance at age 19, when two of the boys attend the same college and everybody calls one by his brother’s name.

I hesitate to say more, because the movie is full of surprises. Just when you think “Unbelievable!,” something more outrageous happens.

One small observation: The film focuses, rightfully and effectively, on the profound repercussions of being separated at birth. The practice is wrong, period. The boys continue to pay a heavy price. What the film overlooks is the repercussion felt by any and every child who is placed for adoption, the answer to the question, “Why did she give me up?”

The boys’ relationship with their birth mother is mentioned only once, in a short scene, when the brothers describe finding her name in New York Public Library records and meeting for a drink. Their mother was a high school student when she got pregnant, and for reasons not explained—Social pressure of the times? College looming on the horizon? Lack of family support to care for three babies?—she placed the boys for adoption.

I kept wanting the boys or their parents, spouses, extended family, or the psychologists involved in the boys’ case—many people are interviewed—to at least acknowledge this first, deep, primary loss. But everyone is so focused on the horror of the triplets’ separation that the core “hard thing” of adoption—being separated from your mother—isn’t even named. It’s completely overlooked. And, no matter what the circumstance or reason why, and no matter how loving and supportive an adoptive family is, being separated from your mother is a loss that never goes away.

Still, “Three Identical Strangers” is a provocative, engaging, important documentary. Mateo and I recommend it.

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“The Long Up” by Kay Ryan

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

I’d never heard of poet Kay Ryan when I picked up a copy of “The New Yorker” and read her poem “The Long Up” while sitting in a waiting room for one of our seemingly never-ending therapy appointments. This was 2011, when Ryan already had been named the sixteenth United States Poet Laureate and awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In those years, I didn’t know of Ryan’s accomplishments, and how could I, when my days and months were consumed with searching for whatever it was that would help peace descend on my house, my family, my kids. I couldn’t dedicate energy or time to anything except placing one foot in front of another to get through another day.

Everyone says teenage years are the hardest, but for us, it was the beginning: those early years when I didn’t understand my children or their internal journeys, so unlike anything I’d ever seen or experienced or heard of.

On that afternoon in the waiting room when I picked up the magazine, Kay Ryan’s simple, vivid lines soared off the page and landed straight in my soul. I dug out my journal from my purse—the journal in which my most constant refrain was a scratched and repeated “I can’t do this!! Help me!!!,” underline, underline—and copied the poem in its entirety. Her words gave me hope.

On the eve of 2019, Ryan’s poem may resonate in your soul, too. I’m with you in spirit. Xoxoxo

“The Long Up”

By Kay Ryan

You can see the
land flattening out
near the top. The
long up you’ve faced
is going to stop.
Your eyes feast
on space instead
of pitch as though
you’d been released.
The measured pace
you’ve kept corrupts
with fifty yards
to do—fifty
times as hard
against the blue.

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National Adoption Awareness Month

Friday, November 9th, 2018

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and today I’m thinking of ways adoption has affected me personally.

I was completely under-prepared to be an adoptive mother. Even if someone had tried to tell me what to expect—and no one did—I would not have understood adoption’s complexity until I was inside it, and inside it for many years.

Adoption is the most complicated relationship I’ve ever been involved in. And every year, as my children grow and move into the world more independently, it becomes more complicated.

I never imagined that the country of Guatemala—its history, politics, people—would inhabit my brain the way that it has. Maybe I should have anticipated this, but I didn’t.

At its root, adoption is loss. Loss is within, behind, beneath everything in adoption. It never goes away. Understanding that at a bone-deep level has helped me evolve in my role as mother to my children.

Adoption is also trust, hope, effort, and steadfastness.

Adoption is family, close and distant. Adoption is love.

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Antigua Front Door 2018

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

 

Olivia grows taller while I shrink. Still nice to revisit this memory.

The Antigua house where I lived with Olivia in 2003.

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Haircut. Antigua 2018

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Astringent scrub, straight edge razor, powder.

Red leather chair, magazines, TV in the corner.

Haircut. Antigua, Guatemala. 2018

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Guatemala. Summer 2018

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018


Something I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have, is the way Guatemala now possesses my heart. I’m here with my kids, so happy to breathe in this place. (Yesterday we visited friends who are weavers in Xenocoj; the photo shows Olivia standing beside them, dressed in their beautiful traje.)

Other photos show the kids eating lunch at Pollo Campero and a bus with balloons and sticky notes. (This week was St. Christopher’s Day, patron saint of travelers and drivers.)

With every trip, my appreciation for this remarkable country deepens.

 

 

 

 

 

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forever friends

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Olivia and Mateo are in Boston with my wonderful sister Deanna and her family while I’m in Los Angeles for my fourth MFA residency at Antioch. Here they are with forever friends–in 2012, and today. I love our GuatAdopt community. xoxo

 

 

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Annual gathering of GuateAdopt families

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Here I am at the front door in my huipil from Coban, Guatemala, as our first guests arrive for our annual party for adoptive families with children from Guatemala. Our community is what makes this party amazing. About one hundred people attend: Kids everywhere, while parents share stories, fellowship, and food.

I’m always happy when I read about other folks/organizations around the country also hosting gatherings. It’s very special to watch our kids grow up together while we grow as parents. We love our community!

photo by Susan Hurst.

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Road trip to Arizona

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Over Spring Break, we drove 1,000+ miles through the state of Arizona: Phoenix, Sedona, Slide Rock, Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Riverbend, the Navajo sacred lands of Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and the Big Crater somewhere outside Flagstaff. It was the first time we’d been to most of those places, and let me tell you, the landscapes are breathtaking. Arizona is gorgeous!

Every day was magnificent, but the kids especially loved our Jeep tour through Canyon de Chelly with our Navajo guide, Oscar Bia. Olivia said she liked visiting Arizona because it’s so different from California. “It’s like going to another country,” she said. “Except everyone speaks English.”

 

 

 

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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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