Little Fires Everywhere

Just in time for Mother’s Day, I finished reading Celeste Ng’s book.  I don’t think any author could do a better job of weaving in EVERY topic I’ve ever spent writing a blog about in this effort.  She manages to address transracial adoption, abandonment, infertility, surrogacy and abortion before the book is completed.  Race and class underline all the characters and how they interact with each other.

I spent the last few days unable to attend to my own research for my own manuscript in process because I was so very engrossed in this story and could not stop reading.

I will try not to spoil it because you should read it for yourself.  I learned about it through an adoption group I belong to and not because of the book per se but because of the TV series.  I don’t know how close that series was able to stay to the book but I don’t get commercial TV here.

It is a  story about mothers and today we celebrate Mother’s Day.  These women’s stories interweave and clash in different, sometimes shocking, sometimes deeply moving ways. At the heart of the drama is a court case trying to resolve the difficult question of who “deserves” to be a mother.  I would say there is no such thing as “deserving” to be a mother.  One either is or one is not.

The author has friends who’ve conceived easily, who’ve struggled to conceive, who’ve adopted or gone through invasive IVF procedures or used surrogates, or who’ve decided not to conceive. Ng says – “The main constant seems to be judgment. Motherhood seems to be a no-win battle: however you decide to do (or not do) it.”

She continues, “Someone’s going to be criticizing you. You went to too great lengths trying to conceive. You didn’t go to great enough lengths. You had the baby too young. You should have kept the baby even though you were young. You shouldn’t have waited so long to try to have a baby. You’re a too involved mother. You’re not involved enough because you let your child play on the playground alone.”

“It never ends.” And I personally know ALL of that is true.

Ng concludes her thoughts with this insight – “We give women less information about their bodies and reproduction, less control over their bodies, and less support during and after pregnancy – and then we criticize them fiercely for whatever they end up doing.”

Celeste Ng writes in such a skillful manner that I feel humbled in my own attempts in comparison.  I cannot recommend her book enough to do it’s brilliance justice but do – read it – if you have not already.

 

Not Real

This is complicated.  It is weird growing up knowing your grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins are not really related to you.  That is what it is like when BOTH of your parents were adopted.  Adoptees experience adoption as individually as any two people experience reality.

My mom had to stop creating the family trees on Ancestry because she said to me, it just isn’t real.  She somewhat hollowly said she was glad she was adopted but I knew from long years as her confidant that wasn’t totally true.  She was glad that as a Georgia Tann baby she didn’t end up in worse circumstances.  She ended up in a wealthy home with privileges.

So much so, that when she conceived me with a boy that came from very humble beginnings, her parents really felt disappointed that she had married below her class.  My adoptive grandparents never shared family holidays until I was well into maturity and then I only remember one occasion when the 3 of them were all present for one Thanksgiving (my mom’s adoptive father having died long before that time).

While my adoptive grandparents certainly played their roles for real and had an enormous impact on all of our lives, now that I know the truth of who my parent’s original parents were, that is who I think of when I think about my grandparents, even though I had no in life real experiences with them.

At my age, it is not uncommon for one’s parents to have died and if that is so, one’s grandparents have also died.  It’s not that I think those adoptive aunts, uncles and cousins are not really “good” people – they are.

Yet, now that I have cousins and one aunt who are genetically related to me, I’m all about slowly without a lot of force, experiencing their lives and all that unfolds in any human life as a way that I can become better acquainted.  To build familial relationships with people that share some of my genetic DNA during whatever time we have left in this world.

Actually Not Related

This is the day my parents married in 1953 because my teenage mom was pregnant with me and my dad did right by her.  They were both adoptees.  As incredible as it may seem to the reader, it was only recently that I realized how miraculous it is that I did not end up given away and adopted.

Certainly, my mom’s adoptive parents could not have been happy about all their dashed hopes for my mom.  No debutante ball, no marrying into the upper class.  Instead her husband came from a humble and poor family.  In spite of it all, they remained married for life, over 60 years, and died 4 months apart.

How to explain what it is like ?  I chose to relocate myself to Missouri.  Eventually, I would discover lots of connections to my chosen home state.  Yet, they were not my own family connections, not really.  There was the town in Missouri – Dittmer – founded by my mom’s adoptive father’s family.  There was the town in Missouri – Eugene – founded by my mom’s adoptive mother’s family.  There was the town in Illinois – Belleville – founded by my dad’s adoptive mother’s family.  I could not claim any of these places had a real relationship to my family history.  It is a weird black hole to spend one’s life within.

Now I really know what is important.  Loss, betrayal and abandonment force us to let go of our attachments.  When my parents died, I became an orphan.  I also lost a close and loving relationship with my youngest sister, who’s mental illness that appears to be some kind of paranoid schizophrenia, caused her to distrust me as I attempted to close out our parent’s estate.  I heard my mom’s voice in my head saying “finish the work.”  That work was requesting the court to create a supportive situation for my sister since she could no longer depend upon our parents and was hostile towards me.  A lifetime of being there for her was lost and abandoned by her.  Sadly.