Tag Archives: adopted

Geez! You must be “adopted” …

This blog post has been housed in my head since I heard This American Life’s Episode 498 a few weeks ago.

You can listen here.

On our way up to the Korean culture camp on July 4th, I took the opportunity (long car journey) to catch up on my listening. My husband and I were seated in the front seat, listening.

Act Two, The Gun Thing You’re Not Supposed to Do, began playing. A woman from Texas told the story of how her family prided themselves on their responsibility in teaching gun safety to the children. However, this woman, after the Newtown shootings, revealed to her family that she had, as a teen, secretly used the handgun hidden in her parents’ dresser, and narrowly missed shooting herself.

The father and mother were devastated but changed their behavior by locking up their guns. Her brother, Matt, (at minute 45:59) says, “I kept callin’ her how stupid she was! That she must have been adopted!!”

At these words, I sucked in my breath. My husband looked, wide-eyed, at me. We both glanced to the backseat, but both kids were busy and distracted.

The brother continued to talk about how his sister asked him if it changed the way he would handle gun education with his children.  At this point, the host, Ira Glass responded, “So your plan is when you have kids, they’re not going to be idiots like your sister.”

The brother answered definitively, “Right.”

Ira Glass then said, “You know I’m making a joke here, right?”

That joke and the comments were not funny to me. I wanted desperately to stop the car and write it all down. Luckily, I was not able to do so because my post would have shown my initial anger.

I like to think that I am not an angry person, but the misuse of the word “adopted” upset me. It hurt. Being adopted does not make you immediately “stupid” or an “idiot,” but hearing those words in the same conversation, in jest or not, does not help. I have the utmost respect for Ira Glass and listen to him every week, but his attempt at irony was lost on the brother, on me and who knows what countless others.

This misuse of the word, “adopted” happens everyday. The Twitter page, @AdoptionHonesty, is documenting all uses of the word “adoption” and its derivatives.

In the last post, I spoke about my calculated and careful writing when I write about race. But in actuality, I am mindful when I write every post.

My goal in writing this blog began in 2007 as a way to record my feelings on my adoption, my race and my life for my children and their children. It would be my way of creating a family history that wasn’t oral, but concrete.

As I transitioned from a private life blog to a more public presence, parents and grandparents began contacting me and writing me. They wanted to hear my stories.

Since meeting other transracial adoptees and learning more online, I have heard many angry stories. I fear that anger only shuts down a conversation.

To keep the conversation going, I can merely give my personal story and impressions. Hopefully, these stories will become threads in the fabric of families and the quilt of adoption.

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Mother Made

Rows of fresh orchids in plastic shells lined the shelves of the White Way Five and Dime. We picked each up and examined it. We were looking for the perfect red one …

Red symbolized life, and white for death. On Mother’s Day Sunday, we chose our best dresses and proudly wore the red orchids. A simple flower meant immeasurable, unconditional love. That same Sunday, we would take my mother and her mother, my grandmother, out of eat at a sit-down restaurant. This was a treat for everyone as we usually gathered at my grandmother’s on Sundays for lunch. Mother’s Day also included a visit to my grandmother’s mother’s gravesite.

My mother also saved the handmade cards we made as children for her. No Hallmark would do.

Today, I despise the lead up to Mother’s Day.  I get confused and angered by the numerous commercials that urge us to buy, buy, buy to show our love for our mothers. I’m angry in that my mother is not around to see me proudly wear a red flower or to share a special dinner with her grandchildren.

My last visit with my mother before her stroke, she had flown to Colorado to visit me in November of 1998. With her, she brought Kerr jars of canned green beans (immediately and proudly displayed over the window in the Thanksgiving photograph below). Proudly, she said, “I learned to can green beans on my own! I really wish I had learned from your grandmother, though.” It was times like this that my mother would get somber. Her last memory would crop up.

“You know, the worst thing I remember?” she would start, “I was cleaning up Mama’s kitchen, and I opened the Crisco. There inside, I found her finger marks.”

I imagine them today. Deep crevices in the Crisco. Grandma used her hands when she cooked. She didn’t have all the special gadgets that we have today. She didn’t measure but learned from her mother that biscuits took “about this much.”

So today, I celebrate the beans. The last jar has moved with me from Colorado to Maryland to Virginia and now, Wisconsin. I doubt I will ever open them. They represent the love and the loss.

I never learned how to can, but I plan to try canning tomatoes this summer. (My mother did learn the art of canning tomatoes from her mother, but I did not learn from her.) Repeated mistakes.

I can make her pinto beans and ham hocks, and her cornbread.  Again, no fancy measuring devices. Just eye-balling it.

I do enjoy the quiet time in bed with my own children as we cuddle on Mother’s Day. Our tradition is a breakfast in bed, and I love that.

If you could wear that red flower on Sunday, I encourage you to learn from her, and I plan to teach my daughter the art of mothermade.

Come on, Hollywood.

This weekend, my son asked to watch The Avengers.  I enjoyed the quick wit of Iron Man and the strength of the Black Widow.

What I didn’t appreciate was this scene:

Thor’s use of adoption as an excuse to distance himself from his brother left me feeling sick and hurt.

Come on, Hollywood. Be more responsible.

The Spectrum of Somewhere Between

Looking for an adoption film? Look no further.

While some may read my blog and believe that I am lost, or found, or searching, I direct them to an adoptee in this film, Jenna Cook. She says it so eloquently:

“All of us, this whole adoption community, we have this commonality about us, this unity. But at the same time, we each are at our own place, in our own journey. It’s a journey of our past, and we each have our own road and our own paths set out for us.”

This film, by far, is the one adoptive parents, children and families should see. The director, Linda Goldstein Knowlton, has found four teens that have four different stories. Each is happy in her adoptive family, and each searches for identity. Knowlton, an adoptive parent, has brought this film to fruition for her young daughter, Ruby.

Someday, when her daughter becomes that insecure teen, she will take comfort in the testaments of these four young women, Fang Jenni Lee, Jenna Cook, Ann Boccuti and Haley Butler. I longed for this sense of belonging as I write here.

In the last six months, I have awakened. My adoption sensitivities are keener. I am thankful and rejoice in being a part of this large community of adoptees.

Knowlton continues to post videos that reinforce the feelings I have had for many years, yet suppressed in my loneliness. I see hope in the future for other young adoptees, and Lili Johnson, one of the first Chinese adoptees, gives me hope when she says,

“As an adoptee, I have no ambition to seek resolution. I am not looking to make sense of myself. I’m not looking to have a right answer or a wrong answer. … I’m not looking for like diagrams or any like pictures of what being adopted is, what it means, what people should do, what’s the right way, what’s the wrong way because there isn’t one.”

Hear the call that asks you to think of adoptees with varying degrees of feelings and experiences. Think of us as your neighbors, your friends, your classmates, or simply the person you pass on the street. Just like you, we have our families, our stories, our varied backgrounds. Rather than separate us as different or odd, celebrate us as interesting.

Johnson also says it so very well:

“I get confused thinking about, you know, is being different good? Should we emphasize difference? … Or should we say ‘You’re American just like everyone else.’”

You can see Lili’s full interview here:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/35427472″>Lili at NYU</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/somewherebetween”>Linda Knowlton</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>