As readers of FMF know, my surrendered daughter Megan and I have had our differences, and we have not been in touch since August. However, several weeks ago, her oldest daughter, Rachael, emailed and asked if she could come for a visit over President's Day Weekend. You can imagine how thrilled I was! Yes!
I first met Rachael, now a college sophomore, when she was nine, a day after I reunited with her mother after a separation of 31 years. Rachael does not consider me her grandmother, however. In answering the question "Who Am I" on her blog, she described her mother's adoptive family as her maternal line, omitting her mother's biological family entirely.
Megan, a devout Mormon, believes that her adoption was God's plan; her adoptive family, the family to which she is sealed for eternity, is her only family. After a public disagreement over whether adoptees had the right to their original birth certificates, Megan (who had searched for me) emailed me and asked me not to send birthday gifts to her four children. (A Daughter's Change of Heart)
So you can imagine my surprise when I heard that Rachael who attends Brigham Young University wanted to visit. I waited anxiously for Rachael at the airport and when I saw her I tried to hug her but she turned away. (I'm actually not a huggy person. The first time I met Megan, I tried to hug her in an awkward sort of way and she turned from me. At our next meeting, I kept my hands at my sides and she reached out to give me a hug.)
Rachael and I came back to my place for pizza and lots of conversation. Rachael told me about her work on an Indian reservation last summer, her roommates, her classes, her ham radio club, what her brothers and sister were involved in. All the things that interest grandmothers.
Saturday, we toured an exhibit about 18th century French art and Mme. Pompadour at the Portland Art Museum. We lunched at a Portland institution, Dan & Louis' Oyster Bar. Trying to sound casual, I mentioned that I had not sent birthday and Christmas presents because her mother had asked me not to. Rachael said she hadn't noticed. Hmmm.
I asked Rachael if her if she had told her mother she was coming. She said she had mentioned it just before she left. She did not seem to be aware -- or at least concerned -- that there were issues between her mother and me.
Over the weekend we soaked in the hot tub at my condo, and had dinner with my husband, Jay. Sunday Rachael went skiing -- her first time -- with my husband, our raised daughter Amy, Amy's son Chris and Amy’s husband Geoff.
Dinner at Amy's (take out Indian food). Back at the condo, we watched part of Edith Wharton's "Age of Innocence" (the Martin Scorsese film) and agreed it was slow. Monday, swimming and a trip to Powell's Bookstore, the largest independent bookstore in the country and another Portland Institution.
Rachael is shy, yet self-contained; like me she wears no makeup and dresses casually. Like her mother and my raised daughters, she is willing to try new things – calamari (aka squid) for example. She seems unconcerned with where I fit into her family or how she fits into mine--maybe that's why it all felt so natural. There was no questioning as in, What am I doing here? There was no reason for naval-gazing about anything because the whole weekend felt so natural and normal, as if we were a typical family, who had not been separated by adoption. We talked about literature, travel, history, even religion and politics. She asked if she could have one of my Hillary buttons for her paternal grandfather who collects campaign buttons. She likes Hillary although none of her friends do.
There were some differences of course, particularly religious beliefs. Differences exist in all genetic families. My raised daughter Lucy loves the Clinque counter at Nordstrom's and raised daughters Julie and Amy prefer action thrillers to dramas which Lucy and I enjoy. Overall, however, our similarities, Rachael's and mine, in style, likes, and personalities outweighed the differences by a long shot. Rachael's visit seemed so normal because it was so natural.
When we were in the hot tub, another resident asked if I was Rachael's mother; "No," I said, "grandmother." I looked for Rachael's reaction but she showed none. Amy introduced her children to Rachael as "Your cousin, Rachael" (sounds like a Daphne Du Maurier book?). Again no response. A note about Amy. When she and Megan met back in 1998, they were wearing the same Birkenstocks and had the same hair style. They sat in the same position and had the same "what's this to me?" look.
When Rachael left, she said she would keep in touch. I haven’t heard from her but kids today are not schooled in manners. Both Rachael and Geoff, Amy’s husband have Facebook pages. Geoff received an email telling him that Rachael would like to be his friend.
I’ll email Rachael in a few days. Perhaps I may even venture into new territory and sign up for a Facebook page.