Momma says . . .part 1
Welcome back to Blogville. I’m so glad you are here. I’ve poured myself a delicate hibiscus tea blend that reminds me of my mom’s perfume when I was a child.
I had to separate the ‘Momma Says’ blog into two parts because it is very emotional and I tend to jump around when I’m feeling emotional. (Of course I mean jump from topic to topic, not actually getting up and literally jumping lol.) So I decided to talk in this blog about when I had questions for mom as I was growing up, and then, for part 2, fill you in on a wonderful adoption discussion she and I had just last month when I was visiting her.
When I was growing up, discussing adoption with my mom felt very taboo. I mean, when any doctor asked about family medical history she would give him a scathing look and gesture that they needed to leave the room for any further discussion. Adopted people of my generation understand that ‘fight or flight’ feeling when trying to ask questions about adoption. For those of you not adopted, think about trying to ask your parents about sex or puberty in the 1960s. You remember that look of dread right? Well, in response to an adoption question, my mom would sometimes give me short or curt answers, and other times she would just look at me until it was so uncomfortable I said, ‘never mind’ and took off. Last month I returned to that uncharted territory and found that my interpretation of her reaction was not completely on point. Starting this conversation with my about to turn 97 year old mother was like walking on thin ice across Cochrane Ontario’s Lake Commando in springtime.
Since my mother brought it up, I have to mention my dad’s role in any adoption discussion or Q&A. How can I describe to you what it was like talking to my dad about adoption? Well, let’s just say I wasn’t sure he knew I was adopted. My mom would often tell me a story about how my dad once came home from a fall hunting trip and when I stood on my own he started to rush over to protect me from falling. My mom gleefully told him, “It’s OK, she can walk now!” That story inspired me to think that maybe my dad had been hunting when I was placed with them and he didn’t know I had arrived until he got home. I could almost hear my mom gleefully telling him, “We have a daughter now!” Not what happened of course, but truly don’t ever remember him even saying the word adoption’. As I got older I learned that I actually arrived into the family in June of 1959 on the Friday before Father’s Day. How special was that? Daddy’s little girl arriving in time for Father’s Day. I have seen the home movies and photos, he looked pretty excited and proud.
I honestly don’t think I ever really thought to ask my dad any adoption questions as my mom seemed to have been in charge of that. Last month when talking to mom about adoption she actually said she noticed that children all seemed to go to their mothers with their adoption questions. As a result she felt that, “The fathers were off the hook”. I could tell she was none too pleased about it, even in hindsight.
When we were kids we always seemed to be hanging out with other families who had also adopted children. Mom always seemed calmer when we were playing with those kids. I never really questioned why, I just noticed it. When I asked her about that last week, mom explained that she was just so happy that there were other children ‘in the same boat’ in Cochrane. It’s true, our families seemed drawn to each other and we kids played very well together. My mom said she could relax when my brother and I were playing with these other kids as they would never ‘say anything bad to you’ simply because all of us were adopted. Mom said that all the parents felt the same way, “You were our children and that was that.” but apparently not everyone in Cochrane felt the same way. As we continued to chat about spending time with those other children who were also on adoption journeys mom and I agreed that we kids were like cousins through adoption. It was like a special club where adoptive parents could send their children who were adopted and know they could just be regular kids. (I’m sure our dear friend Billy would wholeheartedly agree.)
Mom then observed, “We also noticed that you kids (cousins through adoption) would ask each other questions about adoption. Everyone seemed ok with the answers or explanations you told each other. “We parents never initiated that” she pointed out, “but sometimes we would overhear you kids talking. I think it was good for all of you.”
Sadly, my mom always behaved as if having to adopt children was her ‘fault’ and not my dad’s ‘fault’. It was as if she wanted to clear him of some shame that she carried. My mother would talk about back problems she had that caused her to have to leave school very young. She eventually needed surgery on her back when she was a young woman living in Toronto. My mother always felt that her ‘back issues’ were to blame for her inability to carry a baby to term. It was on the rare occasion that she would even talk about this so I hung on to her every word. But then the sadness in her eyes always travelled right to my heart and I would drop the subject. In hindsight, I was unknowingly leaving her all alone with her grief.
I feel that mom must have implied that her bad back was why she and my dad had to adopt because I remember, as a small child, witnessing my mother trip over a suitcase at the train station and fall to the ground. I recall being terrified that she would die, or that she might never be able to have a baby stay in her tummy. My mother was mortified when I told her that was the reason I was crying so hard. I’m 63 years old and if I close my eyes, I can still see her fall over that suitcase.
As we chatted Mom opened up about the early days of parenting children placed on adoption. She talked about how afraid she was to hire a babysitter and go for a drink with my dad at a ‘beverage house’ because they might take her children away. She spoke about how she felt that she had to ask her adoption worker if that behaviour would be ok. The worker reassured her that she should do whatever she would normally do if she had her ‘own’ children (oh that hurts me just to say it).
When I was young and I would ask about my birth mother my mom would usually tense up and visibly run some kind of check-list about what she should say. She was always clear that my birth mother’s father had made her give up her parental rights and allow me to be adopted. Mom always said that the birth mother’s family had been ashamed of my birth mother and sent her away to give birth to me. She was always very careful that I understood my birth mother was forced into making an adoption plan by her own father, (my birth grandfather). Mom always looked sad when I would ask about my birth mother, and given her explanation, I always felt sad that I made my birth mother and her family feel ashamed. So, I asked about it less and less.
Last month mom talked about how she felt that Children’s Aid workers would try to ‘trick her’ into taking foster children that she would likely have to give back one day. That made me feel sad until mom grinned at me, leaned in and disclosed that they ‘couldn’t fool her once she was on to them’. That made the former Children’s Aid worker part of me smile. She talked about her feeling of betrayal by the Children’s Aid workers when they would call and profile a child but not say for fostering until they had her interest. She related a story of how once she was called about a brand new baby girl and thought they meant for adoption but her heart broke when they said for fostering. As revenge, mom called all of her adoptive applicant friends in Cochrane to warn them of what the call was really about. The former worker in me almost defended the workers because of how much foster parents were, and are still, needed, but the daughter in me said, “Way to stand up for yourself mom!”
Well my thin ice conversation went pretty good. So I decided to take a bigger risk. Instead of just walking on thin ice, my next line of questions felt like the risk all the kids took after the annual Cochrane Carnival fishing derby; when we would run across the lake dodging the abandoned fishing holes. You might make across unscathed, or you might break a leg, but the thrill was worth the risk. So, with my heart pounding, I asked, “Mom, would you have any advice for people who want to adopt children?”
Pour yourself a tea, maybe a nice Chai, and come back to Blogville in two weeks to hear her advice in Part 2 of Momma Says . . .
As usual, please know that I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and comments. If you prefer a less public forum, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com
Momma says . . .part 2
Well as I said in ‘Momma Says . . .Part 1’, my conversation with my mom about growing up adopted went pretty good. So, welcome back to Blogville for Part 2 of this amazing conversation. I have just brewed a lovely cinnamon apple tea for your visit.
Let’s focus for a minute on my mom.
My conversation took place last month when I was with my mother to celebrate her upcoming birthday. As well, she needed refills on her supply of her favourite GF carrot muffins and cookies, and we often chat while she watches me bake. Realizing the golden moment that I was presented with, I asked her, “So, mom, how does it feel to turn 97 years old?” She thought for a moment and said, “You don’t really think about it until someone asks you a question and you stop and realize it is getting harder and harder to figure out the answer to their question. Also, I can no longer do so many of the things I used to easily do.” She expanded by saying, “I feel weaker and less able to do things but I’m definitely smarter.” I asked why she thinks she is smarter now and, without missing a beat, she grinned and said, “well, I don’t have to do so many things anymore, everyone does it for me”. Well, that is smart. So I handed her the muffin tin liners and put her to work!
Back when it was mom’s 90th birthday I suggested we get her an IPad. People thought that was a bit of a ridiculous idea but I prevailed. She has loved it from the beginning and still loves it seven years later. So when she was talking about being smarter now she said, “Its kind of like my machine here (referring to her IPad). I can play cards all day and my machine has to do all the shuffling and count the points. I don’t even have to pick up the cards when I’m done. Grinning, she turned her screen to show me the cribbage game that she was currently winning.
Her memory is failing for sure. It bothers me the most when I’m visiting and she’ll suddenly just stare at me. I know at that moment that she isn’t quite sure who I am. There was a time late last year when my mother sat across the table from me and proceeded to tell me a story about how she and her had husband adopted a little girl. I realized that I was listening to the story of my own arrival into the family from a perspective I had never heard it told from before. Sadly, in my heart, I knew it was because she had no idea that, sitting across from her, was the aged version of the little girl they had adopted.
As I explained earlier, given her age, and mom’s memory issues I decided it was the time to talk to her about adoption in general and my adoption specifically. This was the conversation I had started so many times in my life but quickly retreated because I sensed her pain or discomfort. Since, at that moment, she thought she was telling a stranger about her experience, she seemed very comfortable talking about it. So as bittersweet as it was, during this conversation I learned about her heartache at not being able to carry a baby to term, and how she and my dad learned about adoption from a visiting missionary at mass one Sunday, and how she called for information on adoption the following day. She talked of wanting a baby girl but reminisced about when they called about a 2 1/2 year old boy and how she called my dad and excitedly told him, “We are getting a little boy!” I learned how afraid she was to hire a babysitter and go for a drink with my dad at a ‘beverage house’ because they might take her child away. How she felt that she had to ask her social worker if that behaviour would be ok. Though I asked about it, she didn’t remember the application process or other pre-adoption steps specifically. Her response? “You just did what they said if you wanted to get children.”
Suddenly, Mom surprised me by asking, “Did you know about the woman who had you? Her father did not want her to bring you home and he wouldn’t let her, so we got you instead.” She looked sad when she added, “I always felt sorry for her because she could have a baby and was not allowed to keep it, and I got to keep it instead.” Mom then blew my mind by asking, “Did you ever get to meet her?” (Definitely a topic for a different blog, but I finally told my mom what happened regarding my birth mother because she doesn’t read my blogs, and she’s 97 years old. I’m afraid you will have to wait.)
Getting back to my first ever real heart to heart conversation about adoption with my mom. I asked her, “Was it hard to tell people that you were going to adopt?” “I forget”, she said, “we just brought you home and said you were our children. Nobody ever gave us a hard time.” She qualified that with, “It was just what families did. If you couldn’t have children you adopted. Simple as that.”
So, I asked her how her siblings, and her mother, my Granny, took the news that she and my dad were adopting. Mom looked at me like I had suddenly grown a beard and said, “Granny didn’t think anything of it as it was something that always was. I mean, adoption.” She added, “Like in the old days when parents died and their families would take care of the children. If there was no family then a family that knew the children would take them in.” She looked me in the eye and said, “Lynn, children need a family to take care of them and that was that.” Here is where I start bawling again from simply typing the words that she added, “You and your brother needed a home and that was that, you were part of the family.” Keeping the tissues close as I write that, I remember how she concluded with, “You were such good children. I think you were so glad you had a brother when you came to us, and he was so glad to get a sister. You were never strange with each other when you came to us, it was like you both knew you were home now.”
I am being honest when I tell you that I have never had a conversation like this with my mom. She always looked so hurt when I would ask, or would just stare at me like a ‘deer in the headlights’ and now I know that I was wrong not to have kept asking. But I was just a kid, and no kid wants to put that look of fear on the face of their parent.
As you know, I had decided to take a bigger risk by asking my mom if she had any advice for people who want to adopt. As I noted in Part 1, venturing into this topic felt like the risk we kids used to take after the annual Cochrane Carnival fishing derby. Usually on a dare, we would run across the lake dodging (we sincerely hoped) the abandoned fishing holes. You might make it across unscathed, or you might break a leg, but worth the risk.
It kind of felt like that when I asked, “Mom, would you have any advice for people who want to adopt children?” Without missing a beat she replied “I’d tell them to make sure that that is what they want”. Pushing aside the little girl in me begging me to stop talking, I asked what she meant by that and she replied, “I’d tell them that it’s not just like having your own” (I thought I had just figuratively fallen into one of those fishing holes- I could almost hear my leg snap). Well folks, since I have two legs, I decided to continue to ignore the little girl in me and pursue the concept. Metaphorically, I felt mom putting a cast on my leg when she said, “They need to be sure because sometimes children have questions about adoption that you can’t answer. You can’t just tell them about the birds and the bees.” I was in it now, why not keep going? I leaned forward asking, “Why couldn’t you answer?” She replied, “Well, lots of times I didn’t know the answer because they didn’t tell me much” (meaning the adoption workers). “Other times I didn’t know the answer because I wasn't adopted.” Well I sure did not see that one coming! I flashed back to some questions I had as a child when she would give me that ‘deer in the headlights’ look. Honestly, until that moment it had never occurred to me that adoptive parents sometimes struggle to answer their children’s questions because they have never experienced what their children were experiencing. Wow! What an enlightening moment for me, and hopefully for you.
But, since opportunity was knocking! Something I have always been curious about but was too afraid to ask my mom was why, when a doctor would ask about family medical history, my mom would give him a look and the two of them would leave the room. I remember thinking that she was sharing some magical secret about my biology with the doctor, or revealing some terrible medical facts about my birth family history. So today, I took the plunge, I worked up the nerve to finally ask, “Mom, I’ve always been curious why, whenever family medical history questions would come up, you and the doctor would always leave the room to talk?” In response, my beautiful 97 year old mother looked me straight in the eye and said, “I have no idea.”
Are you KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW???
Nope, no clue, not even a twinkle in her eye. Sigh.
I love you mom!
As usual, please know that I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and comments. If you prefer a less public forum, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Duck and Run
Hey there! Good to see you back at Blogville. Today I’m having a steeped tea with a splash of milk.
Remember when you were a kid, selling tickets at Stedmans, or chocolate bars, or seeking sponsorships? Remember trying to raise money so you could go on a school trip, or to camp, or to a Boy Scout Jamboree? Remember standing in the rain or snow or high humidity trying to get sponsorships for a walk-a-thon, skip-a-thon, or some kind of thon, raising money to support your hockey team, or ringette, or baseball, and other teams or organized activities that existed to keep us all busy and out of trouble?
Well, if you remember that, you will also remember the people crossing the road, or suddenly becoming very interested in their jacket’s zipper, or deciding they did not need that item after all, the one found only in the store where they would have to cross your path to get to. You would remember the lack of eye contact from the same people who, on a normal day, would stop you and bore you with a hundred questions about your parents, your siblings, your progress in school, and your latest bowel movements. People and their money were not easily parted, even with the plea “hey Mrs. Etmanski, wanna sponsor me for . . .”
If you have ever tried to fund raise or sell something in a mall then you have been where I was very recently, during my first public book signing. The book signing took place at our local shopping mall. It was well organized by a very enthusiastic bookstore employee who had many wonderful plans but, to her dismay, more and more technical challenges as the event loomed closer. Murphy’s Law applied to many of the event details (some of you will need to look up the concept of Murphy’s Law) but despite everything that had been, or was currently going wrong, this young woman pasted a smile on her face and the event moved forward driven by her heart and determination.
I was in the company of some wonderful author colleagues and we introduced ourselves and got to know each other a little. Our books were an eclectic collection of words on pages with our hearts inserted as bookmarks. We were all local authors in the North from Sudbury to Moosonee, ergo the creative and appropriate name of the event, billed as ‘Northern Pages’. Among us were an author with a TV series deal in the works, and an Indigenous Order of Canada recipient, a poet, a lover of fantasy writing, a thrilling mystery storyteller, a fun loving children’s author, and me, with my book for families travelling an adoption, kinship or other alternative care journey.
There was the usual ‘newness factor’ discomfort that comes with mixing people who have never met, people with experience and those without, as well as differing personalities. We all turned a comparative eye to each other’s works and were both intimidated and encouraged. Many of us were new to book signing events such as we found ourselves in, while others had been there, done that. Some of us were equipped only with our books (proudly labeled with stickers that said, “Local Author” and “Signed by Author”) to stack on on tables covered with green tablecloths. We lovingly placed our books next to the supplied bottle of water, pens, and a plastic book stand. Other, more experienced authors got busy setting up retractable banners and promotional display monitors. I noted that the mall IT guy seemed less than enthusiastic when trying to find a working outlet in the temporarily repurposed, otherwise empty, storefront. IT folks really are unsung heroes aren’t they? He made it work.
The bookstore and the mall had promoted the event, paper flyers evident at each entrance as well as invitations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Each author attending had promoted the event on our social media, some of us even doing Facebook live feeds at the book signing itself. We had told our friends and family where and what time the event would be taking place and exactly at noon, we overcame the tummy butterflies some of us had, put on our best and most confident smiles, and sat or stood filled with pride in showing our books!
We were authors, ready to meet the public!
So, getting back to the fundraising/sponsorship experiences from our youth, I was transported back in time while at this event. People would glance in at us wondering who we were and what was going on in the normally empty storefront. We, holding our breath in anticipation that they might cross the threshold and look at our books, patiently waited. Some folks would look around outside the storefront for signage and discover that we were “local authors”, most then turned and took a sudden interest in what a phantom friend, just out of our site, wanted. Duck and run! Evidently disappointed that it wasn’t a comic-con preview, or some kind of give-away free sample event, off they went. People we knew and called greetings to by name turned red and walked faster in the other direction. Those same people were the ones that would, in this very same mall, normally bend your ear for 30 minutes about nothing in particular and everything in general.
I know, I have felt it too, the pinching obligation to buy tickets or sponsor someone you know for whatever they are raising money to do. I get it, I have felt the same obligation to go look at the quilt or earrings or baby outfit someone I know has crafted (but if I’m honest, only if they made eye contact with me). I know that I too have been guilty of faking that I see an invisible friend just out of sight that I must talk with right away, or of quickly turning away so I don’t make eye contact. I have done it too. But suddenly the shoe was on the other foot (another expression to look up) and I felt invisible.
The bookstore manager popped by to introduce herself and helped me feel visible again. Then one of us would welcome a friend or acquaintance who had come out to support them, some even had one or two fans arrive, so again we felt seen. We welcomed chatting with the bored partners of shoppers, even though we knew they were just killing time. Many of us, almost in tandem, would half rise from our seats in anticipation, eternally hopeful that someone coming through the door may be coming to see us. Maybe they had even heard of our book(s).
Unexpectedly, I had two friends come in with their previously purchased books for my signature. They could have easily come to my house or gone out for coffee/tea with me to the same end, but they didn’t, they came to my first ever book signing! I know I’m an author but there are no words to describe what that meant. I won’t name names to avoid embarrassing them, they know who they are. Thank you for coming.
Let me tell you what else happened at this book signing. I got to know six other authors. I met these other kindred souls who want to make a difference in society, whether by entertaining or by teaching. I learned about, and could relate to, their writing challenges and successes. In differing ways each author I met that day helped me through my very first book signing so that I can approach the next one with infinitely more confidence.
Oh and this happened at my very first book signing . . . my husband, who originally planned to poke around the mall’s stores and maybe go home for a bit and come back later for me, pulled up an empty chair and sat with me instead. He’s obviously already read the book and doesn’t need my signature on anything but the occasional form or cheque, but he takes our partnership seriously. When someone would approach my table he would stand and wander casually off, maybe get a tea refill for me, and let me do what I do best . . .talk. Thank you for staying with me at my very first book signing, one in a number of firsts we have been through together.
Through this event I have been reminded of the talent that residents living in Northern Ontario possess; an often overlooked natural resource. In this life there are many opportunities open to us and what we do with them is a choice. This experience has taught me to never again purposefully avoid artisan vendors when I am somewhere that they are. To give your attention to the work someone else has poured their heart and soul into costs you nothing, they really want to hear your thoughts about their work more than anything. No artist wants their work purchased out of obligation and stored away never to be seen again; though they will of course gratefully take your money if you find something you honestly like.
Finally, I have also learned that a rare and beautiful sunny July afternoon on a weekend in Northern Ontario is probably not the best time to draw people to the mall for a book signing.
But, thanks for trying Gina. Well done!
As usual I would love to read your comments and if you prefer a less public forum than commenting here, please email me at email@example.com!
To keep or not to keep?
Welcome back to my little Blogville. Today I am enjoying a ginger tea with a wedge of lemon, what is your tea of choice?
Special note: Before you begin reading this blog I want to you to take note that I am not referring to Hoarding Disorders (HD) as defined in the DSM-5. That is a condition that should be diagnosed and treated by mental health professionals.
What I will be talking about is the concept of ‘Decluttering’. Unlike most people I know, the need to declutter our lives literally baffles me. I can’t be the only person who asks why? “It’s just stuff”, they say, “they are just things” they tell me, “they don’t matter…”
When I explore my reaction to the concept of decluttering, I wonder if my response is impacted by being an adopted person. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, I was a person without a birth family history. Until I found and met my birth father and his children (when I was around 32 years old), and until I met my maternal birth half-sisters (when I was about 59 years old), my history was confined to the contents of an 8 1/2 X 11 inch business envelope and a clear bag containing the clothes I was was wearing when I was delivered to my parents at 9 months of age. When I was a child I remember asking my mom how come those clothes looked so sad and she responded with, “Oh honey, they keep the good clothes for the next foster children because they know adoptive parents can buy nice things.” My child mind processed that to mean, “Your foster parents did not buy you anything, everything you had when you were there was used.” I was 62 years old when I finally found out that I did get new clothes as needed, as well as gifts (actual new things) for my first Christmas in my foster home; something I had always wondered about.
I acknowledge that those little baby shoes collecting dust on my bookshelf are not important every day, nor do they impact on my daily life. But when I pick them up intending to discard them I am flooded with memories of the little baby feet that they once protected, and the first steps that they once supported…if I throw them out, what will inspire those memories?
Those aren’t just baby shoes, they are mini transporters that turn me into a time traveller. As soon as I touch them I am transported back in time. I can hear her giggle, I can see her little feet, I can even see my young hands tying up the laces. If the shoes are gone, what will make me think of those moments?
“Throw it out mom, I don’t want that junk anymore.” That junk!The book we waited in line for at 6 a.m. so you could be the first to buy and read it. That Lego set that lit up your little face on your birthday just when you had given up all hope that it might be one of your gifts. . . junk? Throw it out mom, its just junk, that toy you HAD to have, life or death . . .“ppppuuuuulllleeeeaaaaassssseeeee mom!”
When all of my children moved out what if I HAD thrown out all those toys? When that baby grandchild came to visit what would have inspired that giggle as they reached out for that indestructible telephone, or stacking toy, giggling just like the baby, my baby/their parent had done while playing with that same toy. Chubby hands placing the farm animals just so, sitting on the floor with the parent whose now strong and capable hands once placed the farm animals the same way. Why does this not matter?
I believe that grandparents keep special toys to inspire in their adult children, now parents themselves, the same joy they felt. The next thing you know your adult child is making the cow moo, helping their baby to stack the next ring, and reverting back to play, leaving the adult stressors aside for just a moment. Now that grandparents have time to sit back and watch, it is a special moment when the child of your child plays with those old toys, that junk.
I need these mini time machines to help jog my memory now that I am at an age where every day feels the same. I love being transported back to the special moments that I spontaneously relive when my memory is jogged by photographs, certain smells, conversations, and that ‘junk’.
I can be transported to a time when I mattered as my parents’ daughter, my brother’s sister, my friends’ friend as I was growing up. I am reminded of those times when I look at faces in old photographs, or when I open my mother’s cedar chest and look at my first mittens, or some art projects, or the ‘used’ outfit I was wearing when my social worker delivered me to my parents. When I open that cedar chest, I can smell my childhood.
I mattered as a young woman making a life of my own. I remember this when I look at my husband’s pressed boutonniere from our wedding day, or when sipping wine from glasses that transport me to a warm sunny day on our honeymoon when we watched a young artist etch our names onto them. I mattered to employers in those first jobs. They trusted me to do my best and I trusted them to let me learn, to teach me. I know I mattered when I look at my resumé and the attached letters of recommendation.
I mattered as a young wife and mother, in the days when I looked down and my hands were young. I was once someone’s whole universe, the most important human being in the life of another human being. I know I mattered when I look at my poorly crafted-more-beautiful-than-anything-else-in-the-world special occasion (popsicle stick picture frame, pot holder, candy dish…) gifts. When I touch those gifts I am immediately transported back to looking at the pride on my child’s face as they handed it to me.
I think my father-in-law started to understand this just before he passed away. When he retired he started a project. He began taking the family vacation photos and other family adventure photos and trimming them into collages. I now feel that he was doing two things. First, he was reliving these events as he went through hundreds of photos. Second, consciously or unconsciously, I feel he began to understand the old adage about the journey not being as important as who you take the journey with. He was cutting away much of the scenery and focusing on the people with him, because their expressions became the most important memory for him. (This is a “decluttering” I understand lol.)
When I met my birth father’s adult children, two of my (then quite young) new nieces presented me with home crafted gifts, a book mark and a popsicle-stick keepsake box. (These items actually appear in one of the instagram posts promoting this blog.) When I look at these gifts, I am reminded of those children expressing such unconditional acceptance of a new person in their world. How do I chuck those?
I have a box that I keep the things my birth father sent me in. He would send me letters, postcards, and even the odd book. The greatest gift he sent me was in the beginning when he sent a card, created like a birth announcement. It said, “Mr. Scott *** is delighted to announce the Discovery of his charming daughter, Lynn Deiulis. A sister for Leslie, Craig & Beth. In the card he included a tiny little cigar wrapped with a tiny pink ribbon bow on which he had handwritten “Its A Girl”.
I waited 32 years to begin learning about my birth roots. Is it too much to ask to keep this box when/if I “declutter”?
When my older maternal half-sister (Lynne) and I met our younger half-sisters we all brought each other little gifts, tokens to say hello. I feel like Lynne’s and mine meant, “nice to meet you” while theirs said, “welcome to the family”. An example of being welcomed is a tiny family tree with all six of our birthstones on it, and another was a gift of bracelets for each of us with our name and birth order number. They resembled the hospital baby bracelets of the past. We took a very neat photo of each of our hands/arms wearing these bracelets. I usually wear my bracelet when I’m making presentations as it reminds me that I represent many people when I talk about my adoption journey, and to be respectful as all of our journeys are different. One person’s clutter, I suppose.
When we met our maternal birth half sisters we all went together to meet their father. He is a lovely man, and judging by his daughters, was a good father. It was a very emotional meeting. But, in a gesture that makes me weep every time I remember it, our new sisters offered Lynne and I each a ring that had belonged to ‘our’ mother. Apparently, when she passed, there were six rings and the sisters had each chosen their favourites and put the other two away. I wear this gifted ring every day, right beside my family ring, where it also belongs. Cluttering up my hand.
My grandchildren call me, “Meemaw”. They give me great works of art for the coveted fridge spots. There are two refrigerators in our home. Sadly, I still only have so many fridge magnets, and so much room. My grandchildren notice when their works of art are moved by me but accept it when I tell them that even great works of art in museums are moved occasionally. Sometimes, my grandchildren secretly place their works of art over their cousins’ pieces. It does my heart proud the times when I see that the cousin noticed and did not say a thing. Though impossible to keep it all, there will always be cherished pieces. These works of art clutter up my heart.
I understand the need to get rid of 5 of your 6 roast pans, or 8 of your 10 sprinklers, but I cannot bring myself to get rid of what I call, “linked” items. These are the things that link me to my roles in life, a birth child, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, even a work colleague. I started my life without an attachment, and I know I will leave this life without those trinkets, but in the meantime I am very attached to the tiny time machines my clutter represents to me, and hope you understand me, and people like me, just a little bit better.
Thanks for reading!
(Whatever you do, don’t print this blog and clutter up any space with it!)
As always, I would love to hear from you. If you prefer to comment using a less public forum feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org