The Core of Adoption

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I’ve come a long way since my memoir The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries was published (2012), but the way I felt then is still valid. Some things don’t change. You wake up in the morning, despite years of “recovery” and re-calibrating those original feelings of abandonment, you’re still adopted. Herewith, the original beginning of my memoir …


Sixty years ago, toward the end of World War Two, a five-year-old girl was left on the doorstep of strangers. Her mother left her there because she couldnʼt feed or house her child and also, suspected the girl, because as a daughter, she wasnʼt quite good enough. The strangers, miraculously, turned out to be wonderful new parents. Theyʼd been looking for a little girl just like her. Along with her younger brother, nearly two years old and part of the deal, the girl went from rags to riches. Though the term meant nothing at the time, she had been adopted.
A happy ending? Well, it seemed so until the girl went to school. Immediately she noticed that the other children all had their real parents. She was pretending that her mother was her “real” mother and trying desperately to be good enough. The worst thing would be going back to the foster homes sheʼd endured with the mother who couldnʼt keep her.
Outwardly, life was so much better now that she should have rejoiced. Her new parents did not really want to talk about why they adopted her. She was afraid to ask when her real mother would be coming back to get her. Possibly she would never come back, and it would be because she wasnʼt a good enough daughter. The little girl grew up carrying that shameful secret in her heart.
When the girl turned ten, she received a diary for Christmas. It had a lock and key and lines for writing anything she wanted. By now, it seemed to the girl that the kind, nurturing parents were new “real parents.” Never mind that she had many questions about her life with the original mother. If that mother gave her away, there must have been a reason.
Deep down, no matter what the new parents told her, she believed it was all her
fault. She was somehow inferior, not smart or pretty enough, just not OK. Since she couldnʼt talk about the shameful secret, she took to writing in her diary.
With the little blank book, she didnʼt have to be someone that she wasnʼt. The diary was her best friend, her confidante, a repository of feelings that she couldnʼt express anywhere else. It was so helpful. Always there, always ready to listen. Never judging or disapproving. A place where she was always welcome. So comforting were the diaries that when the girl became a teenager, a wife and mother, a grandmother, then a widow, she continued filling up book after book. At some point in the distant future, sheʼd burn the diaries, toss them into the ocean or maybe bury them in an arroyo.
But wait! The diaries might contain something valuable — a certain confession, insight, lament or situation. Gathered in a book, selected excerpts could provide a window for others whoʼd been adopted. Now a senior citizen, the girl resolved to harvest her journals, to transcribe passages that cried out to her. All of the mistakes, the bad decisions, the obsessions, the wrong thinking, would be put on the table and examined.
Just as she resolved that her personal history was worth writing, she was blindsided. The deaths of her biological father, her adoptive parents, and then her husband pushed aside the diary project. It was almost too much to bear, and for several years she lived inside her grief.
Only one journey would lead the girl to a healing. She had to go back and actually READ the diaries. As the girl scoured the past, an amazing thing happened. She came to realize that there was nothing so special about her personal drama. It was all part of being human. At last she could forgive herself and even begin to get over “growing up adopted.” She could quit playing a part and start living her life.

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Learn more by tuning in online to KSFR F.M. 101.1 when Elaine will be interviewed by MK Mendoza about the adoptee’s journey. Tuesday, October at 8:30 a.m. (MT). Comments welcome!



Adopting Hope

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Have you ever read something that brought a seismic shift in your thinking? This happened to me last week.
I was taking an urban walkabout in Santa Fe, New Mexico to the nearly deserted Plaza, our town square. I came across a prose poem inspired by the pandemic. It was displayed, blown up large, on a storefront, and it inspired me to think differently about my months of self-imposed isolation. I recalled the dozens of online operas I’ve viewed, thanks to the Metropolitan Opera’s HD free streaming, of my thriving vegetable garden in the back yard, of books I’ve read lately, of the novel I’ just finished writing, of hikes in the mountains and arroyos. Though I miss people, their hugs and smiles and warmth, there are blessings that come with staying put.

Photo by Tom McGuffy

 

PEOPLE STAYED HOME
by Catherine (Kitty) O’Meara

And people stayed home and read books, and listened and rested and exercised and made art and played games and learned new ways of being and stopped and listened deeper.
Some meditated some prayed some met their shadows
and the people began to think differently and the people healed
And in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways, dangerous, mindless and heartless,
even the Earth began to heal.
And when the danger ended and people found each other they grieved for the dead
and they made new choices and dreamed of new images and
created new ways of life
and healed the Earth completely
just as they were healed themselves.

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Join author Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption, hiking, and the writing life. Her newly-completed novel The Hand of Ganesh is being edited and scheduled for publication in 2021. What have you found helpful during the Coronavirus era? Please share your stories. Your comments are invited!

Outdoor Time

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Fall!

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For today’s post, I’m bringing forth a poem I’ve loved ever since studying it as an English major at the University of Virginia. This ode speaks to one at many levels; for me—don’t ask me just how— it ties in to the theme of my blog an adoption journey.
As time unfolds, we adopt and embrace each season. During the current pandemic era, I’ve been revisiting my favorite literature. John Keats, who lived from 1795-1821, created some of the most beautiful poetry of the Romantic Era. This tribute to the season has been called “the most serenely flawless poem in English.” Enjoy.

Sunrise in Late September

Sunrise in Late September

Ode to Autumn

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease;

For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;
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Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river-sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Aspen Vista, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on Adoption and Life

An Adoptee Abroad: Part Two

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Note from Elaine: The current pandemic has inspired me to reminisce about “Before Time.” Today I give you, dear readers, the second blog post from a wonderful trip one year ago. This journey, full of tulips and windmills (and also a lot of history), was one of the best I’ve ever taken. Like so many others, I look forward to a time when we’re free to travel safely: May it come soon!

A highlight of this Viking River Cruise was visiting Mastricht and Nimegan in the Netherlands, sites of the WWII operation called Market Garden. The operation did not succeed in turning back Hitler’s armies and resulted in some 8,000 deaths of Allied soldiers. This somber reminder of war’s futility was one of the most meaningful parts of my recent journey to Holland and Belgium. I was adopted shortly after the end of the WWII…and in a way I’m a product of that conflict. Both my adoptive and original father served. They were among the lucky ones who returned. So many did not. On this day we honor those lost and those who fought in all wars for America’s freedom.

I was deeply moved listening to the guide at the American Cemetery in Mastricht. He explained that between five and ten thousand people visit the cemetery every Memorial Day to honor family members lost during the war.

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Speaking of WWII, From Calcutta with Love, a tribute to my adoptive parents, is being reissued by Pajarito Press in late 2021. More information to follow. Join me on alternate Mondays for reflections as seen through adoption-colored glasses. And please let us know if you have a WWII story you’d like to share!

Farewell Ode to August

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Glad to leave August behind!

 

 

My Farewell Ode to August
by Bev Larzelere

Be gone fierce and haughty August! 
Imposing , arresting, dramatic, and solemn~Be Gone!
You were too august  with your honorable memorials, toppling statues, flying bullets, forceful winds, revolting riots, controversial conventions, inflaming lies, powerful protests, doling deaths.
So full of yourself, starring into the distorted mirrors reflecting contradictory reality.
So protruding and swollen with the rising heat and monsoons of late summer, twitching in the throws of politics, BidenIng our time and Trumping all bets.
Be gone,  be gone, August–all 31 days of your august presence–just be gone!

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NOTE FROM ELAINE: With her permission, I’m publishing an ode by my sorority sister Beverly (Kappa Delta). She captured my feelings about August – and perhaps yours as well?  Let’s hope that September brings not only beautiful weather but better news. 

Please feel free to comment What are your hopes for September?

Remembering the Past: Adoptee Abroad – Part I

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Note from Elaine: The current pandemic has inspired me to reminisce about “Before Time.” Today I give you, dear readers, a blog post from a little over a year ago. This journey, despite the rocky beginning, was one of the best I’ve ever taken. Like so many others, I look forward to a time when we’re free to travel safely: May it come soon!

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Saturday, April 13: Dawn. My friend Peg and I were embarking on our fourth European adventure in that many years. Months earlier, we’d signed up for a Viking River Cruise to Holland and Belgium. Travel time, at last! Our northern New Mexico weather had been balmy, but a cold front moved in during Friday night. The world was covered in a layer of snow. In a winter wonderland we met and motored to Albuquerque by shuttle. So far, so good. Our plane was delayed, however, and the airport situation looked grim.The only way we could make our first connection was to order a wheelchair. This was legitimate, as I’m still recovering from a spinal fracture, not up to running some 20 gates to try to make the Houston connection. (https://tinyurl.com/y4tputkx) There was another wheelchair passenger, so the plane would wait five or ten minutes for us. Otherwise we would have had to start our European tour belatedly. In other words, it would have been a mess.
Miraculously, we caught the flight to Houston and then on to Amsterdam. Nine hours after leaving Houston, we arrived in Amsterdam and were welcomed on our Viking ship Tir before noon on Sunday the 14th. We settled into our stateroom. Peg went off in search of a maritime museum while I unpacked and strolled around the ship. Just 192 passengers on this journey, a good number. Dinner onboard, early to bed.

Our trip through the Lowlands

Monday, April 15/ AMSTERDAM
A city tour began the day, both walking and canal boating. From Kees, our tall Dutch guide, we learned about the city’s rich past and prosperous present. Passed by the “I” Building, a film center. Kees told us that last year, 1,500 river ships and 100 ocean ships visited Amsterdam. In the 1600s, the Dutch last India trading company reigned supreme. Spices were the main goods. By 1621, there was also a Dutch West Indies branch that traded with Africa and South America. Select merchants and traders grew extremely wealthy.

Tulips outside the Rijksmuseum hint at floral wonders to come

The canals we floated along were part of a former swamp. In today’s Amsterdam, there are 2,500 houseboats. They’ve grown increasingly expensive. What would cost 50,000 euros in the 1960s would now be 1.7 million. We passed by the famous wooden drawbridge (“Skinny Bridge”) and magnificent “city palaces.” Many of the buildings were fronted with symbols of what the dweller within did for a living. For example, a slave trader’s city palace boasted heads on either side of the front door.
The Golden Age of Amsterdam was from 1600-1700. A latter day boom began in the 1970s, when a huge cleaning effort dredged filth from canals and streets. Symbolically, that was when the first Dutch MacDonald’s opened. The cleanup effort continues to this day. Bikes, which are everywhere and being ridden by everyone, end up thrown into canals. Today, around 25,000 have to be dredged out each year.

Canals and waterways abound and are an important part of history

Back on board the ship, Tir, we were treated to an evening of wooden shoemaking. Henk, from Vollandam, carved out a pair of wooden shoes before our wondering eyes. A million and a half pairs are produced yearly, explained Henk, but there are very few wooden shoemakers left. It is painstaking work, not particularly profitable. All the tools involved in the making require special maintenance. The tools themselves are becoming rarer. Hardly any people are attracted to the trade, our shoemaker mused.
As we went from lounge to main deck, a wooden shoe dance was in motion, a most fitting end to the first day of this European get-away.
(To be continued).
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Join Elaine during the next several Mondays for more about the trip of a lifetime. Stay tuned as well for news about the republication of From Calcutta with Love and the debut of The Hand of Ganesh.

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!