Posts Tagged ‘adoptive family’

A visit with friends in Guatemala

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

When Olivia was a toddler, I moved to Antigua and rented a small house where we lived together while her adoption paperwork was being finalized. I studied Spanish a few afternoons a week, leaving Olivia in the loving and capable hands of nanny (and friend) Yoli Rodríguez. Yoli had children of her own, including her then-young son, known as Junior, who was a good “big brother” to Olivia, as well as to Maya, the daughter of another adoptive mom, Kallie K.

This summer in Guatemala, Yoli invited us to lunch at her home near Antigua, where we discovered photos of Olivia and me, and Kallie and Maya, displayed on Yoli’s living room wall, among Yoli’s other family pictures. Seeing the photos reminded me that our children remain in the hearts of their early caregivers, as their caregivers remain in ours.

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A new baby

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Most days, Mateo takes the bus to kindergarten, but sometimes we drive so we can read together in the classroom for 15 minutes before school begins. I chat with the other mothers on the playground as we watch our kids jump and run, their little bodies radiating energy and happiness. At the sound of the bell, the teacher, Ms. S, emerges from the classroom and the kids fall into an orderly line. Ms. S has been teaching kindergarten for more than 20 years. She knows how to set a tone.

This morning, the excitement is especially high. Ms. S’s oldest daughter, a married woman who lives back East, is pregnant, due to deliver any minute. I know this because all week Mateo has been telling me, “Ms. S is about to become a grandma!”

As the kids file into the classroom and Ms. S is telling us about her daughter’s long and seemingly endless labor, her cell phone rings. “Oh, oh, oh!” Ms. S spins in a circle as she flips open her phone. “It might be news!”

Another false alarm.

Inside the classroom, I settle into a miniature-sized plastic chair and Mateo goes over to his cubby to pull out his book box. Then he does something he has never done when I come to the classroom to read. He crawls into my lap and snuggles. He wants to be held.

Chatter about babies swirls around the classroom–”During my first pregnancy…” “She was ten pounds eleven ounces!,” “And then the doctor said twins,”–and I remember the arrival of my nieces and nephews. For a few stunning moments, the world stopped: It’s a girl! It’s a boy! He’s got the same eyes-hair-chin-nose. She’s gorgeous!

As I hug Mateo, and he clings to me, I wonder about his birth. Mateo is from Guatemala, and one of the few facts I know about his life is that before he was born, his biological mother made her decision to give him up. I imagine that in order to separate, she had to distance herself from her son. No calls to a grandma waiting on the other end of a cell phone. No announcements sent to aunties and uncles and far-flung kin. Did Mateo’s mother count his fingers and toes?

I reach into my pocketbook for my glasses and blink away a few sharp tears. Through some miracle, Mateo found his way to me and my husband, to his sister, Olivia; to our family.  Forever, I am Mateo’s mother and he is my son. But today I’m reminded, again, that like all children who are adopted, Mateo has a story that started before I met him. His prologue is one I may never know.

When Mateo was born, did anyone celebrate? Please tell me yes.

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Holiday mode

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

The last day of school before winter break meant holiday parties in classrooms around the country, including those of Mateo and Olivia. I attended both.

Mateo was proud of his gingerbread house, made from graham crackers, candy canes, and chocolate, held together by cupcake frosting sprayed out of a can. Later, he constructed a reindeer ornament from popsicle sticks, and drew a  picture of a snowman wearing a colorful striped scarf.

After Mateo’s party was over, I made my way to Olivia’s school. In her classroom, each student had been asked to make a presentation on his or her ethnic heritage, followed by a potluck lunch comprising food from each child’s background. The meal demonstrated the great diversity of California’s population, with dishes from Ireland, Norway,  Mexico, Italy, Wales, Cuba, and Iran. Olivia spoke with confidence about being indigenous Maya and Guatemalan, and explained how tortillas are made. Her fellow students enjoyed seeing the Guatemalan flag and a picture of the country’s official bird, the beautiful and elusive quetzal, depicted in the flag’s central field as well as on the cover of Olivia’s Guatemala ABC’s book. Below, Olivia is holding her favorite hackysack ball, a common sight in Guatemala, shaped like a frog.

The next morning, we set off on a road trip to visit grandparents and family in San Diego. With pit stops and delays because of rain, the drive took nearly eleven hours. But with my sister Patrice along and Shakira’s music blasting from the CD player, nobody seemed to mind. We arrived in San Diego in holiday mode, ready to sleep late and slow down.

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One Doctor

Monday, July 12th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, my sister, Patrice, who works in the drama and dance department at Stanford University, sent me a series of articles about Stanford physician Paul Wise, who has been going to rural Guatemala for the past thirty years to deliver healthcare to families in dire need, ever since he first visited in 1970 and “fell in love with the place and its people.” On his most recent trip this summer, Dr. Wise was accompanied by a team of Stanford medical students and undergraduates. The articles were written by Adam Gorlick, a Stanford News Service writer.

The group’s work was centered in the area surrounding San Lucas Tolimán, on the southeastern shore of Lake Atitlán. (Tolimán is the name of the volcano that sits on the edge of town.) Gorlick began the series by describing the havoc wreaked on San Lucas by torrential rainfall, including Tropical Storm Agatha in late May. The description rings all-too-familiar to anyone who has traveled in-country during rainy season, when flood waters create landslides, destroy homes, and render roads nearly impassable. Gorlick went on to note the poverty endemic in a country “wracked by decades of civil war, political corruption and the violence of a growing drug trade.” The majority of  residents in San Lucas are farm workers who earn less than $1,000 U.S. per year. (more…)

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The “2-to-1 Fade”

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Among its many claims to fame, San Diego is a military town, as I learned when I lived there in the 1990s. The Marines are at Camp Pendleton and the Top Gun pilots at Miramar. Coronado, where I rented an apartment, is home to the Navy SEALs. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere and not be aware of the military. Aircraft carriers dot the shoreline, fighter planes fly in formation overhead, and men and women in uniform perform drills on the beach.

Until I moved to San Diego, my primary experience of the military was through my uncle and his family. When I was a little girl, they visited us in New Jersey from their home in Ft. Hood, Texas, where they lived when they weren’t overseas. What I remember most from those visits was the haircuts of my four boy cousins, military-issued buzz cuts, less than an inch long. In San Diego, I saw those same cuts again, a symbol as ubiquitous as desert camouflage and combat boots.  (more…)

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