Thursday, April 26, 2012

stealing glances~

The first relationship you ever have with someone is with your mother.
Good or bad, you can't get around it. You can't choose your mother and, in many ways, your mother can't choose you. Because sometimes, you happen by accident. Some people are happy accidents, some...not so much. 
The first person you see, I mean really see is your mother. Sure, you might see a doctor's face first, a midwife's, your father's. But due to the fact that you know your mother's voice like you know the comfort and warmth of her body, the first face you see is hers. You don't even see the difference between yourselves. To your tiny self when you are born, you are your mother and your mother is you. 
The first time I really saw my mother though, was 30 years after she gave birth to me, hemorrhaged and for some reason still confusing to me, was put in a medically induced coma. Meanwhile, I was in the NICU because I wasn't breathing very well while her milk dried up. We got a nice start, she and I. 
The second time I saw my mother I was standing in the waiting area of the Philadelphia airport, ironically listening to U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" over the speakers. People have to go through this absolutely ridiculous series of doors in order to exit the gate area while the rest of us stand there looking like...people trying to pick up loved ones. As opposed to terrorists. Whatever that means. 

First, a young man carrying a very large statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe came out. Followed by several Asians. Then an old man with cowboy boots who actually looked like he really did reside in the South. Women with expensive handbags applying lipgloss as they walked. Disheveled college students on Easter break. People wearing grody flipflops. Businessmen. Lots and lots and lots of perfectly pressed businessmen. 
Then, this very thin woman wearing a Jim Morrison t-shirt with a black vest and flared jeans stepped out. She looked...overwhelmed. She looked different than I pictured her. Tauter. Smaller. Because of course, your mother is always larger than life. 
I delayed a moment and watched her, curiously. Maybe this only happened because I was actually trying to say something but nothing came out. 
M...m...Mary?
She stopped dead in her tracks, took one look at me and said, 
I didn't want to be late. 
Nope. You came right when you were supposed to.

I could feel myself sweating the entire hour drive home to the ocean. I wasn't nervous per say, but I think that's why I was sweating. My body needed some way out. 
We kept stealing glances at each other. I looked at her profile a lot while I was driving. I saw her watching my hands on the steering wheel. When we got home and she met Matthew and our little boy, she was staring at my face, not theirs. Something about the shape of her jaw seemed familiar...
She barely ate any lasagna, but I wasn't hurt. I knew why. 
When bedtime came, we shuffled from one foot to the other, obviously still eager to talk, but neither of us wanting to make the other one too tired. Damn, politeness. And so, we eased our way into talking until midnight. I honestly don't remember everything we talked about. It came so easily. We made tea, sat on the red couch, drank each other in some more, our cups left cold on the table. She mentioned again the guilt. All that guilt. But the mention of it didn't make me feel bad for her. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel expected to reach over and soothe someone. Maybe because I was the sole person at the end of her long train of guilt, carrying it for her all these years. Just because she didn't see me back there didn't mean I wasn't there all along. So I just watched her. She wasn't wincing---she was remembering; her eyes far away. She recognized me and I could only watch her. I needed time. She, on the other hand, knew me as old photos in the flesh now, the embodiment of what felt like a permanent loss, a fragile state of affairs offering a second chance
She gave me a huge hug before bed, the silence of night enveloping us in the dim kitchen. I listened to her footsteps as she went upstairs, pinching myself that she was really here. It all felt so comfortable, so easy. Were we just on our best behavior? 
I needed some air. Badly. 
So I got a spoonful of peanut butter and went outside on the front steps to sit. I could hear the ocean in the near distance. It sounded like breathing and soon, my own breath came more calmly, more deeply, more centered. I felt aware again and like myself, rather than like myself watching myself in a film. 
It was 2 a.m when I finally fell asleep, curled around my warm 14 month old, reaching over his toddler body to touch Matthew's peaceful face. I felt safe. I felt connected. I felt like a family. 
The first relationship you have with someone is with your mother. Most people's relationship with their mother is complicated; maybe something to do with just how close the two of you are even when you don't want to be---but especially when you want to be. When you want to be so badly.

Friday, April 20, 2012

starry matter~

I'm sitting under the bright kitchen light (the one I especially hate), staring out the window at the fog. We get a lot of fog here. Maybe it's affecting me, because I still don't know where to start telling my story. Oh, I thought I did before in all those blog posts. No, that's not my story. The story comes after that, I now realize. So, I'll start with a different story, because that's what I do best.
In the last couple of years, after my type 1 diabetes diagnosis in particular, I have come to believe that I truly was born under a lucky star.
I know, that sounds super cheesy and cliché, but hear me out.
[Here is where I want you to open a new tab and listen to this song for me. And carefully so. The random guy who made a video with it did a nice job, too.]
It is the first band whose CD I ever bought ("the innocence mission"). They're from Amish country (but not Amish) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and this song is from their lullaby album. Their music brought me a lot of hope when I was an olive-skinned, lanky, boyish looking 14 year old girl growing up in Pennsylvania myself. With every album they produced after that first one I bought in 1995, they have continued to bring me hope.

somewhere a star shines for everyone
somewhere one's shining for me
no matter how rich or poor you are
if you are born with the lucky star

somewhere a star shines for everyone
no matter who you believe

somewhere a star shines for me.

Now, some might say that sounds a little naive and egotistical to say. But the truth is, I really believe it now. I know too much now. Too many corners backed into. Too many near-misses. And too many losses.

But I made it. And my life is so rich and full of so much love now that I sometimes don't know what to do with myself. Corny, again, I know. But it's the truth. I'm not trying to tell you that now I know God exists. No, I don't really think that Someone was watching over me. No, I don't really understand how so much happened and I came out of it in one piece---inside or out. But I did. And I shined. For the first time in my life, I'm not going to be self-deprecating.
And I know it was my star. My little, lucky star.
There was one I'd look at in particular every night from my window before bed. She sat right above the old cherry blossom tree's top left branch, creating an even deeper shadow in the midnight backdrop. Did I wish on it? Of course I did. And all I ever wanted was...the answer to that all-encompassing word: everything.
But now I know that all those years of worrying and anxiety and trying to be perfect and please every damn person I met...it was all because I just wanted to fill that hole in my heart. That big, fucking, gaping hole that she left.

And somehow, some way, this great and glorious globe heard me. The ocean swelled up and enveloped me and took everything because she knew I was genuine and gave it back to me tenfold.
I don't know why this great earth gave me such a lucky star, brightening itself as an internal guide, pulling my self-worth up at the most important times, bringing me to people and places when I needed them most. But she did. And it turns out, I didn't want everything. I just wanted to matter. I wanted to stop feeling like I was taking up space that wasn't mine.
And so I want my first post about all this to just say thank you. For the tiniest spark that always lit my path the entire way, sometimes in the dark, all alone: in a neonatal crib, toxic strangers' arms, with the only mother, the legal mother, near the wrong boyfriends', the lost girlfriends, and the houses that never felt like home.
Somewhere a star shines for me. And she burns brightly--brighter than she ever did, because now I see why she shined.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

processing~

I have so much to process and think about. It might be a few days or a few weeks, I'm not exactly sure when I can write about it. It might be one blog post or many, as before. All I know is that I'm not yet ready to sit down and type. It's all there, but currently feels like I keep watching a really good indie film in my head over and over so much that it has the potential to come out sounding Lifetime movie-level-cheesy. So I can't possibly write with that sort of reel going round and round like that. I still need some time to digest all of this. Especially as a writer, though, I need to digest it---in order for it to make sense---to both me and you. But I promise, it's coming. Also, thank you from the bottom of my heart [I really mean that!] to everyone who's given me their love and supportive commentary throughout this incredible journey. You made me feel brave. You made me feel like my story mattered.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

on blocking~

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

Dear M,

The last time we spoke and I was looking at your face, I don't remember it. I was there. But I was, for the most part, completely unaware. You sent me a picture this spring of the first photos you had taken of me out of the hospital. I'm about 5 months old, sitting up, laughing---probably looking at some silly stuffed animal the photographer is holding. The photo is dated January 26, 1981. My adoption papers say that I was placed at the agency on the 29th. What happened during those 3 days, M? You told me on the phone last summer that you never planned on giving me up. So what happened? I know you told me already, we've had many a phone call in the months since Kathy the Social Worker reunited us. But really, what went wrong?
I'm still processing all of this. In some ways, I think I'm just starting to. For the first time in a long time, I easily tear up. It actually feels good to feel so...raw. I'm relieved that I can cry. I'm relieved that if I need to when I see you, my heart won't simply remain lodged in my throat. I'm putting it all out there for you, M. I'm trying my hardest not to block you. I can feel myself being a bit protective of my heart; I don't want to be burned again. From the looks of that baby picture you sent me, it looks like I got sideswiped a good one. I had no idea what was coming down the pike.
And so everything changed. Not all for the worse, most certainly not. I have no regrets, but that's because I live my life in a circle. We all do. So do you; especially you, M. We're circling back around to each other this Saturday. Finally.
You're 50 now. I'm 31. I imagine how the day will go---only up until the moment I see you. After that, it's the first day of the rest of my life. Outside of having my son, this is the most outrageously emotional endeavor I've ever endeavored. Even more than falling in love. Actually, on second thought, this really is the most outrageously emotional endeavor I've ever endeavored upon.
On Saturday I'm going to bake lasagna from scratch with my best-friend-like-a-brother's recipe (nutmeg, being the secret ingredient, I found out.) I'm going to carefully pin my hair up so that it's not in my face. I'm going to put on my polka dot dress and get into my car and drive past the ocean on Ventnor Avenue and then go to the Philadelphia Airport. I'll stand on the hard concrete floors, amidst fast-moving travelers and feel like I'm in a dream, trying to run while swimming. When I see your face, I won't look away. We'll walk up to each other and as everyone is walking past us, around us, surrounding us, there will be this moment. Where we are each other's only space. Where everything strikes sparks; the moment before we touch. It will be like light passing through a window and while we may not notice it as it's happening, for that one moment, on the vigil of Easter, we will coincidentally, rebirth.

I missed you, Mary.

Monday, April 2, 2012

doing the polka~

I'm going to admit to something I don't normally do.
It's corny and shallow and not very me because over the years I've come to be that girl who just kind of threw on whatever (most certainly not sweats though, um, ew). I like to dress in a fun but comfortable way; and never really got into a certain style, I guess.
However....for the first time in my life (I mean, really, this is no joke) I'm freaking out about what to wear.
Ridiculous, I know. For god's sake, the first time I went on a date with Matthew, I didn't even realize we were on a date. Go ahead and laugh. It's not the first time I've been told I was naïve. Obviously, it was a little late that time to be worrying about what I was wearing (I'd just finished gardening before that epic date, by the way. le sigh).

But this feels big. There's a part of me that just wants to do what I always do: wear my trusty converse and a pair of fun jeans, a nerdy Em-sweater, throw my hair into a messy bun and roll with whatever punches come my way that day.
There's another part of me, though, that's bubbling to the surface: the daughterly part. The reunited family part. This girl's screaming at me to wear a dress! finally figure out how to use a blow-dryer! and whatever you do, don't you dare wear your bright green tights to meet your birthmom at the airport!
So I have this polka dot dress I found at Target on clearance a few years ago that I've yet to wear for several reasons. It even still has the tags on it. It's very retro; an extra-small, fits my small frame perfectly. It has cap sleeves and flowy fabric, but isn't particularly dressy. Well, it could be. If I don't wear my bright green tights. :)
It's not like I want to go all-out and dress up like some nervous nutjob about to meet her mother for the first time. Oh my gosh, wait a minute.

Do you see my predicament? The fact of the matter is that I'm freaking out about everything else and this is all just me trying to find my way back to some semblance of sanity and order. Polka dots seem like a nice way to attempt this. They're ordered, but not. Kinda like chaotic order. Some things make sense about what you're seeing when you look at polka dots and some things don't. Maybe that's why we like them.
I also know that me, the person who could win an Oscar for Most Vociferous Talker in a Short Film can clam up (yes! you read that right!) when I find myself in situations with people who are overwhelming me. Some people just take the reins, start steering. Not me. I can feel myself start to go numb. My mind literally goes blank and I can't even think of one.damn.question to ask. It's not out of lack of interest or being rude. It's just that I'm so overwhelmed. I'd imagine it's not hard for you to understand why this particular situation just might end up causing that.
So I'm trying to somehow make up for that. Show up looking nice. So she doesn't think I just got done gardening and ran over to the airport all nonchalant, like I'd happened to just take a look at my watch and go, "Oh, ya! Today's the day for that, isn't it?" Well, looking nice and what my genius friend told me to do: um, simply tell her that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and might need some time to pull myself together (genius, I tell ya! Whod've thought to do that?!)
So you're looking at the dress. Too much? Too little? Too dotty? Too indicative of my state of mind this week?
I meet my birthmother for the first time (well, the first time I can remember) on Saturday. April 7th, 2012. It's been 30 years, M.
Maybe I secretly want to wear polka dots so you can find me easily in the crowd. They might make it easier for us not to lose each other again.