by Betty Lifton
This is a novel that is rocking my world right now.
I am thinking back to a Me when I was 16 - the age of the story's heroine. This heroine (Lori) is struggling with piecing together her identity as an adopted person with no information on her birth parents. It makes me want to cry, how her fantasies of what her "real parents" (ouch) were like seem to overtake her world and negate her life story with her adoptive parents, and, conversely, how not having any information about her biological parents negates her life story as a part of her birth parents. This book is a testimony to open adoption, from my point of view, although the purpose of the book seems to be to chronicle the adoption experience from the perspective of the adopted person.
Sometimes I think that, out of fear and feelings of inadequacy, hearing another person's perspective on an issue (e.g. adoption) makes me feel defensive about my own experience. I need to let this person tell her story from her perspective without considering mine. It's her experience, and she feels it like she feels it. I don't get to say, "You're wrong - adoptive parents are not like that" just because I am not like that. Her adoptive parents were. It's her story and I am the spectator. (I have not gotten to hear the adoptive parents perspectives yet in this story.) (And, by the way, I learned how to punctuate parenthetical sentences last week.)
So who was I at 16? A mess, as I remember it. I turned 16 officially 20 years and one day ago. I remember my birthday - going to swim practice at an ungodly hour, going with my dad to get my driver's licence, driving around all day and then taking my friends Johnna, Sue, Sandy, and Jenni out to dinner at Aunt Maude's in Ames, Iowa. I wore a white skirt and a blue and white flecked sweater. I think I even still have the earrings I wore. Looking back, I obviously remember a lot of details. Not only what I was wearing, but how the weather and the summer felt, how I was probably romanticizing about boys, making out, and falling in love. (This book is bringing back all of these weird memories. To my loving husband, I don't usually sit around pondering these memories, and I promise to return the book on Monday!)
I'm still me. The actors and the scenes have changed, but I am the same, somewhere deep down. I was not adopted, so the Me I was then was the whole picture up until that point. My picture is different now, but I'm Still Me. I can see how, regardless of how wonderful a person's adoptive parents are or are not, that missing that information is like missing your basic self - how your body will age, what kinds of illnesses you might be prone to, and even what kinds of prenatal experiences you had. Who gave you birth and why your adoptive parents are raising you. As I said, I wasn't adopted, so I'm surely leaving out some important elements here, so please forgive my limited perspective (as mentioned in paragraph 3).
At 16 I surely wouldn't have conceived that this is how my life would be now (funny choice of word - conceived). Being previously divorced, childless, and infertile was not the romantic picture that a 16-year-old would have painted - not this one, at least. But I'm still me. I wouldn't have pictured myself at 36 as an overeducated hausfrau sitting around blogging on her laptop computer, reading youth fiction that was written before I even was 16, about a young woman who was adopted, as I wait for a mother to choose me to raise her baby and to trust that I will always maintain contact with her for our child's sake and my own. But, I'm still me.
Read this book. If you are a prospective adoptive parent, be prepared to read a lot about "real parents" or "natural mother," and be prepared to feel somewhat like you are being portrayed as an ignorant couple trying to cover up your child's past. If you are an adopted person who has really never thought much about your past (is that really possible?) be prepared for some wild fantasies you may never have considered. If you are a birth parent, you'll be a part of those fantasies, good, bad, or bizarre. I know you are not a space alien, rest assured.
The question remains - when we have a baby and I have been up endless nights in a row caring for her or him, will you think that I was taken over by a crazy person? If so, just remember - it's me, Amy T.