Hi folks, just when you think there is nothing new under the sun...there is! I have--maybe had is the operative word here-- a good friend named Yvonne. She is 77, comes from an aristocratic French/American family, educated both here and there, and there have been times when she called me her "youngest sister" and I called her "the sister I never had." She is a neighbor who lives three doors down from us. We do all kinds of favors for each other.
But there was always one huge gulf between us: adoption. Yvonne never met an adoption that wasn't happy. Though she knew my granddaughter--who even stayed in her house with my nieces (when ours was overwhelmed with relatives) she always needed to make clear to me that she always sided with the adoptive parents and that...she was not in favor of reunions, searching, every adoptee she knew fit in just perfect with her adoptive family, you name it. I always managed to change the subject ASAP, and I knew she was a woman of adamant opinions that offered little room for negotiation.
When Juno came out, I gave her Birthmark to read, thinking that she might at least see my point of view. She did, for about fifteen minutes, apparently. She does know one adoptee who searched, found and became good friends with her mother. According to Yvonne, that is all right. That is the only thing that is all right. But birth mothers' searching: Non, nyet, no, nien!
Sunday, I stopped by her house for a late afternoon visit. On her coffee table is a new book from the point of view of the adoptive father, The Brotherhood of Joseph (the original Biblical adopter), by Brooks Hansen, the son of her old boarding school chum and who lives, as fate would have it, only a few blocks away from us both. You get the picture. Aristocratic also--Brooks? He couldn't have kids with wife (don't know the ages at which they got around to thinking about that) so they adopted a child from Siberia, and a second from Kazakhstan. Which Mirah Riben devotes a small section to in The Stork Market.
Here is a snippet of the description on amazon:
Brooks Hansen vividly captures the emotional turmoil he and his wife, Elizabeth, endured as they tried to concieve, (sic) the years their lives were put on hold, and the excruciating sense of loss. He writes too of the couple’s journey through the bewildering world of adoption—a path to parenthood fraught with financial, legal, and emotional risks of its own.
I first heard of the first adoption at dinner one night at Yvonne's house and when she was getting dessert from the kitchen, and the adoptive grandfather said his son and wife were adopting from Russia so they wouldn't have to deal with "that birthmother business"--he had no idea he was speaking to one--I thought, what the hell, I'm going to burst his smug bubble, and told him...I'm a birthmother, my daughter has lived with us for summers, worked downtown at the ice cream place one summer, her parents have been great, etc.
Well, frankly that's just what we want to avoid, he said just as Yvonne returned with an apple tart and we changed the subject.
Anyway, maybe Yvonne is in her cups a bit last Sunday--she has poured herself a second tumbler of red wine with ice--but this time she will not quit. Showed me Brooks's book on her coffee table, that maybe it's something I ought to check into later when I have the time (she knows I am writing a memoir about my daughter Jane), and somehow and before I know it, she is yelling at me that ... women like me are wrong, we have no understanding of what it really means to be a mother, we are not mothers...the only feelings that count are those of the adoptive parents, WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO INTERFERE, because...we are nothing more than "reproductive agents." We can only give up our children for whatever reasons and pray for them. That is it. Searching? On our own? NEVER.
I argued for a few more moments but tears just started spurting out of me and I said, I can't talk to you about this. As I ran out for the door, she was grabbing my arm, saying, but I love you, dear, let's have dinner this week.
I was sorry that her opinions were so cemented in hardness. I was sad this friendship had come to this. But there is a point at which we can not be doormats to outmoded opinions.
to be continued....