Longing for the Library

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There is Before and there is After. The recent past, the “After,” has been close to half a year, but in some ways it seems a lifetime.The Virus has changed our lives in ways that could not have been imagined.

Along with so many of you, I’ve adapted to Pandemic Time and Corona Virus Survival techniques. Walking or hiking every day, reading and more reading, working on the novel-in-progress, gardening, going to Zoom writers gatherings, reading groups, even to YouTube church services: these activities comprise every day, every week, every month.

I’ll admit that I’ve spent more than a little time reminiscing

Sifting through personal archives, I recently came across a bit of whimsey that reminded me of my years as a children’s librarian. The school was Carlos Gilbert Elementary, here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The school had been remodeled right before I was hired, and I was faced with the task of setting up the entire library. My first day on the job, I walked into a 23,000-square-foot room with nothing in it but bookshelves, tables and chairs. Along with help from Americore workers and dozens of parents, I organized a 10,000-volume collection of books that had been in storage. I had adopted the library, and it adopted me. Preparing the library took several months, and then it was time for the young patrons to visit.
Being their librarian was one of the most challenging but also most rewarding jobs of my life. The children, grades K through 6, loved library time and I relished connecting them with books.

Preparation for opening the Carlos Gilbert library took every ounce of my energy and nearly every waking hour. But to this day, I would do it all over again. Patrick Lewis’s poems reflects how I felt about not just “my” library but all libraries:

From Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis:

Please bury me in the library
In the clean, well-lighted stacks
Of Novels, History, Poetry,
Right next to the Paperbacks,
Where the Kids’ Books dance
With True Romance
And the Dictionary dozes.
Please bury me in the library
With a dozen long-stemmed proses.
Way back by a rack of Magazines,
I won’t be sad too often,
If they bury me in the library
With Bookworms in my coffin.

The Santa Fe Public Library (https://santafelibrary.org), here in my home town, has done a magnificent job of making books available through curbside pickup. Their system notifies patrons by email when reserved books can be picked up— It works quite well. Here’s to those “essential workers,” the librarians. May we soon return to libraries in person!

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Elaine Pinkerton Coleman publishes a monthly blog on topics ranging from adoption, nature, literature, and the writing life. She retired from being librarian in 2005. Currently, she is finishing the first draft of a novel, The Hand of Ganesh and is also working on a memoir. Comments invited.

Poetry Monday: Nature up Close

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Note: Though the coronavirus still rages, the world seems to be “opening up for business.” Many folks are now out and about However, some of us (including yours truly) are still stay-at-homes. For me, this makes sense. I’m writing a novel, and the best way to move forward is to stay put. Also, there’s more time to follow beloved pursuits…I’m re-reading some books in my personal library, one of which is The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson. As enchanting as the first time I discovered her! Emily Dickinson, who became a recluse, is one of the most original and passionate poets in American literature. Her profound insights into nature and life have fascinated readers for over a century.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) guarded her poems against publication during her lifetime.

A Bird, came down the Walk
by Emily Dickinson

A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. –

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.
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Join author Elaine Pinkerton for Monday Blogs on adoption, hiking and the writing life. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@TheGoodbyeBaby) Comments are invited. If you’d like to submit a guest blog post (subject to review), please send an email proposal. Thanks for reading!

Coronavirus Journal ~ “We’ll find out by Living”

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With tens of millions unemployed, more than 110,000 killed by the coronavirus and thousands of people protesting in the streets, Americans see their personal concerns and political choices through a strikingly existential lens — mourning the past, worried about the present and fearful for the future. — Lisa Lerer and David Umhoefer— “Americans can all agree: Future doesn’t look good” / New York Times

“Because survival is insufficient”
Motto of the Traveling Symphony in Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven.

Recently, my friend John Henry and I had a phone reunion. We talked about our latest, and then the conversation turned to Covid-19 and what would happen. How will it end? What about schools? How can businesses ever fully re-open? Can music, dance and theater ever be performed for live audiences? John Henry’s benefit concert (https://tinyurl.com/y97hbfao) scheduled for March 25th, aimed to help veterans travel to Washington, D.C. to visit war memorials. That was just the first of many casualties.

We must find meaning in the world’s seismic shift. Otherwise, we mentally just run in place.

So how does one live during these times? This is an age of what’s been termed info-besity. One of my first resolutions: do not watch constant news. Is it possible to both be informed and to rise above the endless regurgitation of discouraging happenings? To avoid steady consumption of media updates I stream movies or spend a daily hour or so reading. I indulge my inner book nerd; my taste in books is eclectic. Currently I’m enjoying two very different novels: Sigrid Undset’s The Bridal Wreath, set in the Middle Ages, and Richard Preston’s The Demon in the Freezer, a frightening tale based on a true story. One serves as antidote for the other.

“Change” – used with permission of the artist Ann Hosfeld, New Concept Gallery,
610 Canyon Road
Santa Fe, NM

Walking and hiking have also saved me. I’ve returned to the forest, choosing the less-traveled trails and hiking with just one pal (driving separately to the trailheads, wearing a mask when necessary, social distancing).

Most rewarding of all is working on The Hand of Ganesh, my novel-in-progress. Each day I spend time with the two protagonists, Clara Jordan (introduced in All the Wrong Places, available from Pocol Press or Amazon) and Arundhati (“Dottie”) Benet. The book is set in the 1980s – northern New Mexico and India. Going there in my imagination is a great escape from the present. The goal: finishing the first draft by September.

As if the pandemic weren’t enough, we are in the midst of protests about police brutality, racial inequities. Soaring unemployment is bringing people down. We face what might be the hottest summer in the world’s history. How will it end? I agree with John Henry’s conclusion, “We’ll find out by living.”

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Join author Elaine Pinkerton for Monday Blogs on adoption, hiking and the writing life. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@TheGoodbyeBaby) Comments are invited. If you’d like to submit a guest blog post (subject to review), please send an email proposal. Thanks for reading!

Hiking Alamosa Vista Trail, Santa Fe National Forest

The Day my Life was Saved

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Note from Elaine: Happy Memorial Day, a time we remember those brave veterans who’ve given us our freedom! In addition to honoring them, today I’m celebrating an anniversary. When I look back over the nine years since undergoing a serious operation (aneurysm repair), I am grateful to be here. If you’ve ever had a life-threatening medical situation, you’ll know what I’m talking about! The aneurysm inspired me to see life as a gift rather than something to be endured. And somehow, it brought peace and acceptance about being adopted. Amazing how that worked. So, despite the craziness of current times, I want to commemorate my second chance at life. Here’s a post that appeared a few years back. Please feel free to comment!

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The surprises began in late May. Just as I was retiring from my job as elementary school librarian for Santa Fe Public Schools, I contracted an intestinal flu that resulted in multiple visits to the doctor. Blaming my “bug” on elementary school germs, I assumed that I would eventually get better. Despite antibiotics, however, I felt worse by the week. My primary care physician ordered a ct scan, and the scan revealed a seriously advanced abdominal aortic aneurysm. A few days afterwards, I had surgery.

As I recovered from my surgical event, I proofed galleys for The Goodbye Baby

As I recovered from my surgical event, I proofed galleys for The Goodbye Baby

May 26th at 6 a.m. at Christus St. Vincent’s Hospital: Flanked by my tall sons (who’d flown in from distant locales), I entered the surgery center, was soon a gurney and being wheeled into the operating theater. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. To say that I was concerned would be an understatement. It this was to be the end, I worried, I had yet to finish editing my new book The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries. Yes, I focused on my book rather than thinking that I might not live through the very serious operation.
The anesthesia took over, and I was OUT. Working for several hours, the brilliant surgical duo Doctors Poseidon Varvitsiotis and Gerald Weinstein replaced my defective aortic section with a dacron stint, sutured it in place, and sewed me back together. My next moment of consciousness was in the Intensive Care Unit, where I would spend the next two and ½ days. Despite exhaustion and a morphine-induced stupor, I was amazed and grateful. My life had been saved!
After six days at Christus St. Vincent’s, I was allowed to go home. Friends rallied, a different pal spending the night in my guest room for a couple weeks, just to make sure I was OK. For a month, I was very feeble and could get about only with the help of a walker. It was a chore to eat, to dress, to do anything at all.
Following doctor’s orders, I took a siesta every afternoon. Some days I just rested; others, I actually slept. When I was at last able, I took a daily half-hour walk outdoors. Along with resting and walking, I edited, proofreading the final galleys of The Goodbye Baby. At last it was done: the day I received final approval from my publisher, I improved 100 per cent.
So, the operation is history. If all continues to go well, I will not need a check-up until a year from now. My doctor advised me to slow down, to continue taking a daily rest, and to take better care of myself. I’d made that decision as well. Though it didn’t have any obvious connection to the aortic aneurysm, I am no longer on perpetual overdrive. The operation and ensuing month of recovery made me realize that, in the big picture, it does not matter if I meet personal deadlines exactly as I’d envisioned.
Thus begins “the new normal,” and it feels wonderful.

P.S. Memorial Day will always be my personal date to celebrate BEING ALIVE! You can order The Goodbye Baby, a diary collection about growing up adopted, on Amazon. Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter (#TheGoodbyeBaby). Thanks!

May's surgical "event" allowed me the gift of being alive!

May 26th allowed me the gift of seeing my beloved ones grow and thrive!

Troubadour for Troubled Times

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John Henry MacDonald has been called “the Will Rogers of modern times.”

Today’s guest post features one of the world’s treasures, a person whose attitude toward life I’ve decided to adopt. A few years back. I met John Henry MacDonald on the hiking trail. He is a musician, philosopher, a one-of-a-kind singer songwriter, a man with a healthy attitude toward life, an outlook well suited to these Corona Virus Times. His is a philosophy that I’ve adopted.
And who is John Henry MacDonald?
In his own words: “From the streets of San Francisco to the jungles of Vietnam, from drug addiction and alcoholism and homelessness, to finding his strength and becoming a reigning figure in financial services in Austin Texas for more than 40 years, John Henry McDonald has lived many lives in one. And throughout the years he always kept a common thread: a love of folk, gospel, and blues music and a talent for telling a good story.”
A true survivor of many of life’s challenges, John Henry McDonald endeavors to tell his story of survival and hard-earned success by telling audiences about himself and about the man who saved his life. Entitled “A Guru Named Frank,” his beloved one-man show features 16 original songs wrapped around 11 vignettes and a ready encore. The stories and the songs describe his brokenness after the war, and the rite of passage McDonald undertook after meeting his guru, the man that would serve as John Henry’s guide to leading a productive and extremely successful life.

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“Nuts and Bolts of Calm” by John Henry
First we must wish to be calm. Then we must wish to remain so. (A decision has to be made).

A morning prayer recited.
Listing things that make us grateful.
Guided meditation.
A reading for the day.
These are all activities that still the mind. And these moments of stillness are the treasure we are seeking. Moments of calm. Priceless.
Now we’ve established that we can be calm. Next the task of remaining calm.

A worrisome thought has a beginning. And all of those beginnings sound something like this: “what’s going to happen to me when”… (Fill in the blank with negativity).
So it’s our job to identify the beginning of a negative thought and stop it in its tracks. You see, I control my mind, my mind does not control me.
So when a worrisome thought begins, I stop it by saying “No!!” Then I recall the morning moment of calm.
A quick prayer
Listing a gratitude
Return to the treasure of the quiet time of day.

Decide to be calm
Identify negativity
Stop it in its tracks
Repeat Repeat Repeat.

Listen to John Henry MacDonald’s song “Hold On”
https://www.dropbox.com/s/gtae3nmeup250l5/03_Hold%20On.mp3?dl=0

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Subscribe to Elaine Pinkerton’s website for monthly blog posts on adoption, nature, and the writing life. She is working on a suspense novel, The Hand of Ganesh, slated for publication in 2021.

 

Shakespeare-Mania!

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April is National Poetry Month. Not only that, it’s the BIRTHDAY month of the great English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. For me, it means ADOPTING SHAKESPEARE- HIS LANGUAGE, HIS PLAYS, HIS SONNETS, and you’re invited to join in. In a week, the Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616) turns 456! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please send favorite quotations, thereby entering my annual Shakespeare contest.   Tweet them, using my twitter name @TheGoodbyeBaby. Quotation competition takes place during the month of April. The prize, my two suspense novels (Beast of Bengal and All the Wrong Places, will be sent to the top contributor via snail mail. Past winners include poet/memoirist Luanne Castle (@writersitetweet). To honor Shakespeare and celebrate poetry month, read Sonnet 18 aloud to someone you love.

William Shakespeare

 

SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The contest ends May 1, after which my novels will be sent to the top contributor. So, as the song goes, “Brush up on your Shakespeare…start quoting him now!”

Join Elaine each month for musings on adoption and life.

Adopting a Silent Spring

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Is anyone else experiencing a distortion of time? Each day feels monumental and tomorrow seems totally unpredictable; one week ago feels like one month; the future feels foreshortened, like a blank wall just a few inches away.
— Joyce Carol Oates

We have entered the Pandemic Era of Covid-19.

Picacho Peak – Santa Fe, NM

Ms. Oates describes exactly how I’m feeling on this beautiful March afternoon. The world outside my window — the piñon, junipers, arroyo and labyrinth — looks the same. But, wait a minute. The world is completely different. All normal activities in my hometown have come to a screeching halt: cancelled, postponed, closed, finished. One of my hiking buddies has just come down with the virus. We were just together nine days ago. She’ll probably be fine, but it’s scary.

This morning at 9 a.m. I went for a walk. In 45 years of running, walking, and bicycling the same neighborhood, I have never seen it so deserted. Not a car on the roads, not a person in sight. Empty. This is a positive sign, I tell myself, as people are heeding the order to self-isolate. People are doing their part to “flatten the curve.” We must self-quarantine, not just for ourselves but for everyone.

When the going gets tough, the tough go hiking

That said, I’m finding newly available time to take walks, bike or hike; to tackle home projects that I’ve been putting off forever; to phone and catch up with friends from long ago; but above all, to move forward on The Hand of Ganesha, my novel-in-progress.

We’re adjusting to a “new normal.” It’s hard to remember what life used to be like before this strange juncture. I’ve gone from never having enough time to having nothing but time. This new paradigm, as author Joyce Carol Oates puts it, feels exactly “like a blank wall just a few inches away.” We must somehow fill in the blankness.

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Join Elaine for monthly posts on adoption and life.

Elaine Pinkerton has lived in Santa Fe since 1967. Join her for monthly blog posts Find her on Twitter: @TheGoodbyeBaby

Breaking Through Writer’s Block

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For months, I couldn’t write. Started a decade ago and worked on intermittently, my “novel-in-progress,” wasn’t progressing. Was it ever going to grow into an actual first draft? It had a title — The Hand of Ganesha ~ Clara and Dottie go to India— but after 200 pages, I’d stopped. The two protagonists, like me, were adopted daughters. Unlike me, they had not dealt with the issues of adoption.That’s what brought about their trip to India. I loved the idea behind the book, but it was not going to write itself.
Oh, there were plenty of excuses. Last Fall, I had the house updated: a new exterior stuccoing, fresh paint inside, and new flooring. I was engaged in a year-long decluttering campaign, selling or donating at least a fourth of my possessions. How could I write with so many demands on my time?
Then, just as I was about to knuckle down and get to work, along came the best ski season in years. I’ve loved skiing ever since moving to Northern New Mexico in the 1960s, and, like many of my friends who are still skiing, I want to enjoy the sport while still able.
How could I write with fresh powder snow in the mountains?
And so it went until one snowy morning when a blizzard made it risky to drive anywhere, much less up the windy ski basin road. OK, I told myself, time is running out. I don’t have forever.The clock is ticking. Our days are numbered. Driven by such thoughts, I gathered the photo albums of a research trip I’d made to southern India. I’d start by looking through pictures of the Shore Temple complex at Mahabalipuram. This would be the setting of my novel’s last section. Memories of the trip and of the novel I’d first envisioned came flooding back and I picked up at page 201, where I’d left off.
Just then outside my office window, four deer wandered into the snow-filled yard. Noses to the ground, they began grazing. Apparently there was new grass growing under the snow. They would find food no matter what. After watching them until they ambled on to feed in the yards of my neighbors, I opened my laptop and resumed. I wrote for an hour and continued each day throughout the week. The momentum will continue. In a mysterious way, the deer inspired me to get busy. and just write. Thank you, neighborhood deer.

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Have encounters with nature ever helped you in mysterious ways? Please send me your stories through this website. Especially if they relate to adoption or to writing, I’d be interested in publishing them. And join me on alternate Mondays for an adopted daughter’s reflections on adoption and life.

Best Friends Forever

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“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
– Marcel Proust

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali

“Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.”
— Misty Copeland

It’s been said that friends are those rare people who ask how you are and wait to hear the answer. Throughout my long life, I’ve been lucky enough to have friends who genuinely listen. Apparently I’m a good listener, because it seems that they use me for a sounding board as well. The better friends we are, the more fine-tuned the listening.

Over the past seven years of blogging, I’ve never written about Friendship, a topic dear to me. Now’s the time! Their names have all been changed, but everything else is true. Of all my friends of the past, Rebecca comes most vividly to mind. We were both writers, both single mothers, both associated with St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico…Our lives were in transition, we were going through similar passages.
I met Rebecca in 1983 at a book and author reception at St. John’s College. She was writing young adult novels for Scholastic Publishers and I was a freelance journalist who dreamed of getting a book published. She worked for St. John’s in the Admissions Office; I was a student in the Graduate Institute. Our children — her son and daughter and my two sons — were the same ages. I admired her ability to juggle a job, motherhood and writing books. She respected my juggling act, which included training for and running marathons. She understood my issues about being an adopted daughter. We were both also dating men who were friends. We celebrated holidays together, hiked and camped, immersed ourselves in the life or our city, Santa Fe: we were a family.

Rebecca inspired me to proceed with plans for a guidebook featuring walks, runs and bike routes around Santa Fe. She believed in me and my project; thanks to her encouragement, I found an independent Santa Fe publisher.l The result: Santa Fe on Foot appeared in 1986 and it has been in publication, updated every few years, ever since. Meanwhile, Rebecca sought a job that would take her closer to the New York publishing world. She landed one with the City University of New York. She and her children moved to the east coast, ending our wonderful proximity but not the friendship. Shortly after her move, Rebecca met the love or her life, Daniel. They married and began an enviable life of work, adventure and travel.

For thirty years, Rebecca and I kept in touch and spoke about getting together. Years slipped away, and it didn’t happen. It took a tragedy to reunite us. Daniel died, very suddenly, two years ago in May. The sudden loss brought Rebecca and Elaine back to a former closeness. Knowing how challenging it would be to face Christmas alone, I invited myself to spend the holiday with her. It was as though no time at all had passed. The time and distance between us fell away and as we shared the magic of New York at Christmas time. We renewed a friendship that ran deep, and it took on a new life. Truly BFFs. And thank you, dear readers, for listening.

Love Across the Ocean

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Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

The holidays are a time for remembering, and today’s post is a tribute to my adoptive Dad. Note: When I was five, my foster child status changed. I’ve been incredibly fortunate for someone who began life as an orphan. I was adopted by a college professor and his wife, literally going from rags to riches. One of the best legacies my Dad left me was a treasure trove of letters. Below, one of my favorites.

 

During the later years of WWII, my adoptive dad served in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of operations as clinical psychologist at the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta, India. Just when I think that the “Forgotten Front” has faded from public awareness, I meet someone who not only knows about WWII’s CBI arena but who is still honoring the memory of those who served in what General Vinegar Joe Stillwell called “a theater of uncommon misery.”
Yesterday I was making my way up a snowy slope to buy my lift ticket and enjoy a day of skiing. Leaving the ski area was an attractive couple in their 50s or so. They were not dressed to ski but seemed to be sightseeing. This was not so unusual, as many visitors to my hometown of Santa Fe like to come up to the ski basin just for a look around.
What was unusual was the CBI insignia on the man’s leather bomber jacket and the emblem on his armband. How often does one see honoring of the CBI, and of all places at the ski hill? I admired his jacket and

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the "Flying Tigers"

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the “Flying Tigers”

we talked briefly about “the forgotten front” and those who’d served there. He also had a relative, now deceased, who’d been stationed in that remote corner of the world. Thus the inspiration for today’s post, which is all about love across time and miles. Once again, I’m posting a letter from Lt. Richard Beard to his wife Reva written early in what would turn out to be an 18-month separation.

1944                                        At Sea
    Dearest Wife,
             This is written in commemoration of our 7th wedding anniversary, Reva, and will inadequately express my sincere happiness and good fortune in being married to you. I should prefer to look into your eyes for a moment and then kiss you to express those feelings; since that is impossible, will you accept this letter?
I was too moved to write on July 3rd, instead I sat for hours watching the waves slip past the stern of our ship. I ran over our wonderful experiences: I thought of our hard times and the troubles we have encountered; and then I reflected upon the almost perfect peace and comfort which is ours when we are together. How our eyes light, and how solicitous we are of one another’s welfare.
It is necessary, darling Reva, to refer to last summer and our second honeymoon. Perhaps six years of living with you had to fade into history before my love matured sufficiently to leave no vestige of doubt. You are my fate, dear, and I am content.
This war is but a passing shadow, Reva, in our lives. If it should prove more, and I am not to see you again, then if there is any eternity, forever you are engraved on my soul’s substance. But optimistically, I plan for the future, and I want you to do likewise. I hope that you will have a baby boy or girl waiting for me when I come home. If not then, together we shall secure the blessing of children in a family.
I love you, my girl wife, and each passing day confirms how engulfing my love is. Even now I look into your lovely face, and with blurred eyes, pledge to you again my everlasting devotion.

Your husband, Dick

Mom and Dad have been gone many Decembers below, but lately I’ve been thinking about them a lot.  I’m convinced that they adopted my brother and me mainly because of their deep love and devotion to one another. A powerful reminder. Whether they are formed in the traditional manner or forged from adoption, families make us who we are.
It’s really all about love.