Tag Archives: reunion

What’s Normal Now

Otters by steve einhorn©2008Cathy and I have been through countless ups and downs, close times and gaps in the flux and flow of our active twenty-five year relationship in reunion. When we first met she was eighteen years old and I was thirty-seven. What was normal then was to meet as two people apart from each other. I was a younger mother than the one who had raised her, and she was eight years older than the daughter I was in the process of raising. We were awkward at first – what had been normal now felt out of place. We had unexpected pieces in each other’s puzzles – some that fit and some with uneven edges. We were more different than the same. With time and experience, we came to embrace the differences as beautiful characteristics that made us uniquely ourselves and our fear of being different leveled out. We have learned enough about each other to accept who we are and now it feels normal to be comfortable with each other – in both the confident and insecure moments. This is a big change from the beginning, and signifies that the healing we have hoped for is happening. It doesn’t ‘make it all better’ but it helps a lot.

At first we were shy and skittish. Now the mix of our similarities and differences have combined into a unique blend that is our love for each other. Our comprehension is growing and our love is deepening. Our hearts grow stronger, less afraid. What used to be abstract love hidden in dreams and tucked inside our muscle and bone, is now awake, alive and courses through our lives in real time, face to face. Our families accept us and circle us with support as we have accepted each other. We are a beautiful family. My grandchildren are growing up knowing that this is love.
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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.

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Is Ignorance Bliss?

SophieAndersonTakethefairfaceofWoman_72This week, my daughter brought her family to the Museum of Natural History – a block away from my in-laws’ apartment in New York City – and on Long Beach Island at the Jersey shore where I spent many summers growing up, and in recent years with my husband’s family. Reflections of those places sparkle like sunlight on water and warm me with bits of light that merge in and out my memories of being there.

I was surprised to hear she was in New York City. She had texted that she was going east to visit her old friend, Olga. I didn’t realize that her kids and husband had gone too. Then when I saw the new pictures she posted today on Facebook sitting in a restaurant looking all summery, I began to recognize the other people in the picture as her in-laws and relatives surrounding her at the table. They are all there together. Everyone is smiling and looks relaxed – they are a happy family on vacation, just the way it should be.

Ignorance is bliss. Knowing more feels complicated. No blame for that. My role carries a weird element. It must have been too hard for her to tell me it was a family affair. I’m glad her family is celebrating together.

Inside the paradox of being an outsider as birthmother in Cathy’s world, we share a lot – more than most people in our situation. Even if the circumstances were more normal, this would have been her family by marriage. It must have been awkward for her to try to tell me about a natural family vacation when it is so far afield of what we do easily. She has matured into a middle-aged adult with children of her own and motherhood has galvanized her sense of family in deep and natural ways. It’s clear in the pictures that everybody is loved and cared for all around. That is all that matters. Life is good.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Part 2 – Another Side of Mother’s Day

Kathleen~Cathleen

Kathleen~Cathleen

They say that if you smile you’re brain thinks your happy. I love to quote that when I’m working with a group of nervous adults trying play ukulele and sing together for the first time. It sounds like a joke, and it is a playful comment, but there is something underneath those words that resonates for me. I smile often naturally and consider myself a happy person but I do think it also works the other way around. Laughter Yoga blazes neural trails to stimulate laughter on the premise that where there is laughter, there is joy. Alternately, where there is joy, smiles come easily.

When I was getting ready to write my last post in honor of Mother’s Day and the third anniversary of the parallel blogs of Kathleen (aka mothertone), Cathleen (reunioneyes) with my daughter, my original thought was going to write about the lighter side of being Cathy’s original mother.

That angle was deferred when Cathy asked if we could go into “the gritty side” of Mother’s Day instead. Her writing was taking her into that arena and she wanted to follow its thread from her side. I didn’t tell her that I had been thinking about the opposite approach, “the lighter side of” – to gently poke some fun at the irony of being human in reunion.

I like to follow her direction whenever she takes the lead. It’s part of our dance. I wait for a sign or a word that gives me the high sign as to where we might wander next. Sometimes I come up with an idea for a turn here or there, but most of the time, as far as I can, I wait and defer to her whim. It makes me happy to discover how she’s thinking and what she wants. If it’s something I can do for her, it makes me glad to do it. It was her idea to write the book, Kathleen~Cathleen, and I agreed to the idea to please her. It gave us something unique to do together. It was our personal project.

Ten years later, I find I’ve turned a floodlight onto the raw compost of my past and exposed subdural contents of my psyche and our relationship that even some of those closest to me haven’t seen or known about, and it’s out there in front of whomever comes across our blogs to read. That is outside behavior for me, and way outside of my normal container that has kept my privacy private, my secrets secret and my insecurities secure.

Nevertheless, it’s an exercise in trust between us. Hopefully, it will have the power to strengthen my daughter’s dubious faith in my commitment to her. Even though she hasn’t read what I’ve written yet, the act of writing it opens it up, and by stepping beyond the boundaries of the unknown, sets me on a mythic journey to become completely vulnerable on her behalf. It is the stuff of fairy tales.

The irony is that she knows my words are written and out there but hasn’t read them. My confessions will have weathered under the eyes of many before she reads it for the first time – and that’s the way she wanted it. This was the device we used to spit it all out untethered. So the truth is hanging on the clotheslines from her backyard in Portland and mine in Seattle. The neighbors can see our faded garments that remain hanging in our imagination. It won’t be long now before we are folding each other’s laundry – the way family members do – and that our worn pieces will be in each other’s hands to see for ourselves what they are made of and be real.

Meanwhile, the lighter side of the pair of us being who we are is what makes this all possible. The fact that we do connect – on the phone, in emails – and when we do, we feel quite at home. Even though every layer of our connection is out of synch with the social norms of our culture, there is a very nice place where we come together now, a place we have built on our own, and when we connect there we are engaged. We smile, we laugh, we quizzically explore the thoughts and impulses that herd our conversations. We are warm. We get each other. We are still careful but at home. Our connection holds promise.

Maybe someday our connection will be as deep as our disconnection has been. All or nothing, all and nothing – we are both. Closing the distance between the two, we continue to hike up and down every trail and cross the vast terrain between us as mother and daughter. Every step brings us closer. When we meet, we are together. When we smile, we are happy.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Aside

I told her what I had told almost no one. It was important to me that she knew the truth. I revealed myself in that first conversation with my story of reunion and reconciliation. Continue reading

The Adoptee’s Right to Search

rose

The four sisters sat at a sidewalk café to take in the Floridian breeze over drinks and dinner. Even with the contrast in our looks, anybody walking by would have known we were sisters and our laughter broadcasted our comfortable repoire. We had converged from the west and east coast for the weekend near Fort Myers to celebrate our father’s 90th birthday. The day had been spent with our parents in their assisted-living facility and now we relaxed under the setting sun and soaked each other in, hungry for the chance to commune and confide.

We are different from each other but close. No matter what, our truest selves come out when we are together, for better or worse. We cherish time together as sisters.

I am the oldest sister after three sons. Mary came after me, between the next two brothers; Deborah followed and finally, the baby of the family, Gina.

Mary and I shared a room growing up and Deborah and Gina were roommates. Our family moved several times over the years and our memories are highly contrasted by timing and context. While I have fond memories of my grandmother’s aromatic cooking and cheerful Yankee humor, my youngest sisters remember a scary alcoholic with burnt food in the kitchen and mounds of cigarette butts in ashtrays by the roaring television.

Our memories and points of view are tightly rooted in the timing and evolution of our growing family. My parents waxed into their prime during my youth while my youngest siblings felt their stamina wane at the tail end of the large family we inhabited.  As a teenager, I was grounded regularly for coming home late after midnight. When the younger siblings came in after curfew, it was barely noticed. We lived in different chapters in the family story.

When the status of Kathleen~Cathleen, the working title of the book my first daughter and I have been writing for the past eight years, came up in the conversation, I told them about the “Lost Daughters” blog that my daughter had participated in recently that had resulted in a controversial dialogue that was still under debate weeks later.

The nature of the debate started with the pros and cons of open adoption and evolved into the adoptee’s right to search and access their original birth certificate and information that would reveal the identity of the original mother and birth family.

One of my younger sisters smacked her lips and without hesitation said that the records should remain closed; the birthmother had no right to intrude on the privacy of the child they had given up nor the adoptive family and the information could be harmful to the child. The other youngest sister defended the right of the child to be protected from the birth mother’s identity and possibly unseemly circumstances. “What if she was a prostitute or worse?” “Why should the innocent child suffer information that would just make them feel bad about themselves or their situation if they knew the truth?” and “What about the woman’s right to privacy when she has signed a legal agreement stating that she doesn’t want to be discovered by the child?” “The woman should be protected, too.”

My relinquished daughter and I have been in reunion for almost twenty-four years. I was eighteen when I became pregnant with her in 1970Abortion was barely legal and was still considered a crime. My siblings were still children themselves back then and had no idea that I was “in trouble.”

Then Cathy and I came together in 1989 and my siblings were included in the revelation and celebration that unfolded with the truth. Cathy was welcomed into the family by my most  and the anomalies of her previously invisible existence became part of the family story. My siblings seemed happy that Cathy was part of the family now. As Cathy and I learned how to be together and grew closer, my family seemed supportive and open. In retrospect, my idealism and optimism may have been hard at work. Suddenly I wasn’t sure of anything.

The same sister who welcomed Cathy into her first family gathering at her house pursed her lips tightly and was indignant at the suggestion that an adoptee might have a inalienable right to search and access their birth records. Not only did she reject the idea of the right of an adoptee to search for their birth mother but, in her view, chances were high that the child was better off not knowing. If a mother could give her child away, then there was a reason for it. That woman had made her decision and it may be that this mother should not be allowed access to the child. That child now belonged to other people and they deserved better consideration.

I froze and curled my toes into my sandals as I grappled for words. We had been having such a nice time and then, all of sudden, I was a birthmother trapped in the worst of stereotypes, an unworthy mother with all the scars left by feeling judged as “bad”. Even as witnesses to my own experience, I didn’t hear any compassion in the tone. The adoptee was a commodity, up for grabs in their eyes and the birthmother was just out of luck. I felt sick.

My closest sister watched silently from across the table and didn’t speak as the youngest sisters tossed their argument back and forth. I told them that a legal agreement signed by a young mother does not mean that she doesn’t think of her child every day and might wish to change her mind and be allowed the chance to meet and know her child in an appropriate way. If that child wants to know where they come from and the mother agrees to it, why should anyone interfere or refuse them their right to reunite?

“What if the adoptee wants to establish themselves as an heir entitled to inheritance from their birth parent?” Now the adoptee was presented as a threat to the biological family assets.  “What if the family prohibits the mother from acknowledging the child because of the shame of the circumstances and the culture of the family?”

It’s complicated and it only gets more complicated: in-vitro births, surrogates, alien children from other countries and cultures. What is the answer when there are so many questions?

Underneath I pondered the real question. If a birthmother feels safe because of the privacy veil, it may give her the strength to follow through with the birth. If the child’s birth means a vulnerable future of exposure and shame, that child might not have a chance of birth at all. How much can a woman be expected to bear at a young age before it becomes too much to handle. Confusion in an unwanted pregnancy is a binding dilemma, whatever the answer is. Whether it’s abortion or relinquishmet, you can’t take it back.

But the child born from that decision bears the cost of her heritage. A parent’s decision to relinquish responsibility for the child is a decision of the parent, not the child. Should the child be punished and withheld the right to know? Does an adoptee have the right to their past, positive or negative? I believe people are defined by the generations who came before them, and that generations ahead of them experience the impact of the life they live. More than environment and circumstance, they are defined by their actions and the actions that brought them to bear. To disallow anyone the right to know their origins is to cast them as second-class citizens by the default of adoption. Is that right? If there is hope that the child may seek when they come of age, is there more chance that the child will not be born at all?

There may be harder decisions but I don’t know what they are. Circumventing access to birth records denies a basic human right for that information. There are many reasons for adoption after birth, but in my mind, none of them preclude the child’s right, when they are ready, to know who they are and where they came from. Even if its uncomfortable, there is no substitute for the truth. Hidden or revealed, the truth remains. To impact the true identity of a human being by untying all that connects them to the past condemns them to illusion. I believe that all human beings deserve to know their truth. It may be hard but it’s right. What happens then can go anywhere. That is the moment when the child becomes the author of her story.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Anxiety in Reunion

Sandhill Cranes (kate power ©2012)…story & lyrics at end of blog… My eyes fall on the Buddist Chant CD lying in front of the boombox on the kitchen counter. A cache of vitamins, Wellness formula and a small bottle of Elm Bach Remedy drops “to restore optimism when overwhelmed by effects of responsibility and change” are lined up in a row on the shelf. I squeeze a dropper of the Elm into a tall glass of filtered water, slip the CD in to play at a comfortable volume and set the timer on the oven for forty minutes. If I exercise early, my mind will calm down so I can navigate from a grounded perspective. I prepare the lifeboat of my body to travel into the plans and the inevitable unexpected turns of the day before me.

Under the calm of my face, a small wave of anxiety falls and rises to slap the sides of my boat, still on course from last night’s dreams. My body rolls down into a spinal curl, down and up again. My mind steps from the dream boat onto sand. My body adjusts to the weight of the motion and lands. My toes find the back of the mat and I roll to the floor, my hands splayed below my shoulders to push off into pushups. My breath calibrates to the movement and galvanizes my mind in sync to the rhythm. I can measure my strength by sets. I’m stronger than I was a year ago. Residual scenarios spin free from the open can of my dreams that beckoned new beginnings from old places filled with family, friends and new strangers and spill into the awakening consciousness of my morning mind. I let my body begin its work to strive toward the day ahead as the evidence of dreams roll into the corners of my room.

The face of Red-Spider Woman, Grandmother Margaret Behan, one of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, comes into focus. Her wizened face beamed to hear my Sandhill Cranes song; Father Sky, Mother Earth, Sister River and Brother Trees. It spoke to her and her face was alight with love, I felt its warmth. I watched her hear the song with her heart. Her grandfather had sung a song for her conception. Song brought her to life and she is tied to its music. She understands deeply, as grandmothers do, and responded to my earlier questions of attachment to loved ones who no longer ask for me and told me to let it go.

“They have already let you go,” she says with a gentle expression as befits her beautiful grandmotherly face. Her words ring true and tears drop bittersweet as they swell under my skin, over my heart and through eyes of the child in me who still begs to be loved.

I am afraid to let go. The feeling is so strong, the need to let my loved ones know that I love them, that I have not forgotten them. Years ago, in my strike for independence as a youth, I neglected them to emancipate. Then I remembered who I was, who they were and the place where I came from and scrambled back to the ledge, looking for the path that leads up the sides of the crooked, rocky mountain back to the love that gave me to the world. I search in dreams. I have forgotten the way, or they have forgotten the weight of the love they felt and I have floated away, out of sight and mind, back into the ether of beyond memory where everything without body or heart attached to it is nothing – gone.

I feel lonely in this thought and my mind scurries to the beautiful smile I remember on my mother’s face when she was a young woman and delighted to see me, her baby. I laugh at myself. I am a grandmother three times over now. I am still such a baby. I try to be kind to myself and breathe again to keep the rhythm of my motion centered so I don’t hurt myself as I roll, feet overhead and back again. Breathe.

I remember the sumptuous summer that Cathy and I wrote together in the basement studio of my Portland house. It was a delicious time for us. We were under protected time with the door closed to the outside world as we wrote for hours several days a week all summer long. I still feel warmth from the gift of that time. We had such purpose in our autonomous co-venture. We are the irony we write of and we have come to love each other in new ways in the work we continue to do to provide the world with our story.

A poignant moment that summer happened as we debriefed the work we had just finished for the day. As Cathy talked about our next practical steps, I had a sudden rush of fear and sadness that chased her words out of my ears as they hammered and pounded with the pulse of urgent dismay and my eyes filled with tears.

“What’s the matter, Kate?” Cathy asked, her face suddenly concerned.

I could feel my eyes stretch wide in an attempt to contain the feelings overwhelming me. My mouth opened and I cried out in a small, high voice as tears broke free.

“What if we finish all this and we finally get to read each other’s sides and I find out in the end that I am a roaring disappointment. What if you don’t even like me? What if you really can’t stand me and I didn’t even know it. What if I was too stupid to see the truth. What if all this work to tell ‘our truth’ just turns out to be everything I ever feared? What if I’m just a loser in your eyes. What if I’m the jerk I think I am? What if I’m not anything you had hoped for and in the end I lose you again, only this time it’s because you know better and you just choose to let me go? What if I’m just not good for you after all?”

My voice choked on the last words as my heart broke in my words and I just cried. Embarrassed, my eyes lifted to find hers looking back at me with tenderness.

“But Kate, I love you. We’ve been through it all. We know what our story is. I love you. It’s going to be all right. You don’t need to worry. I’m here. I love you.”

I looked back at her, “Really?”

“Really.”

“I love you, Cathy.”
“I love you, too.”

The chanting voices of Tibetan nuns fade with the memory as the timer beeps. My body has done its work, recalibrated and aligned with the ground beneath me. My mind is awake with daybreak. I thank God for another day, for feet that walk and hands that play. I am ready.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
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The story and lyrics to…

Sandhill Cranes
Kate Power©2012

The story, gathering and journey of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, combined with sandhill cranes in migration at the mesa up in Paonia in the Colorado Rockies, inspired this song. There was just enough battery for this take, set up in a small sea cave in Otis, Oregon last Saturday, September 22, 2012. My husband and I faced each other and with just enough room for our hands to play our ukuleles, I sang into the tiny recorder. You can hear the ocean outside the cave in the quiet in the beginning and at the end.

“Sandhill Cranes” is dedicated to The Global Grandmothers in thanks for their courage & loving prayers.

Sandhill cranes gather in the field;
Lift in the wind, turn and reel.
I can tell the sound by the way it feels;
It fills me with wonder and delight,
Light, light.
It fills me with wonder and delight

Hey, heya, heya-ho,
Grandmother show me what I need to know.
Hey, heya, heya-ho,
Grandfather show me where I need to go.
Hey hey heya heya
Father Sky, watch me from on high
Hey hey heya heya
Mother Earth, carry me below
Hey hey heya heya
Sister River, run beside my side
Hey hey heya heya
Brother Trees, reach and rise.

Sing in antiphon! Fill up the air,
One starts to go and they follow him everywhere.
I would go with them if I wasn’t planted here
With my feet on the ground I walk and go;
Go, go.
With my feet on the ground I walk and go.

Recorded 9/22/12 , Sea Cave, Otis, Oregon
Kate & Steve
kate power/voice, six-string tenor uke
steve einhorn, uke

Cathy’s Portland

Destiny by John Waterhouse

    At my invitation, Cathy arrived in Portland, from the home of her upbringing in New Jersey, on the 4th of July, 1993. My arrival to Portland had been sixteen years earlier to the day, July 4, 1977. We were both Jersey girls who had come of age in “metropolitan New York” and sought the new world in the Pacific Northwest – me, to find the last of the new frontier to plant my roots and grow my family; she, to rub elbows with her birth genes and to see who this first mother of hers truly was.

    To this twenty-two year-old college graduate fresh from home, Portland was an exotic difference. Being my adopted hometown, Portland was a multi-faceted jewel for me to introduce her to. It was a gift to guide her to the people and pieces I loved most about Portland life. My daughter and I were almost strangers then. She came to find me out.

    Now, almost twenty years later Cathy has created deep roots in her Portland home ten blocks from where I used to live. She has a house, a husband and two beautiful sons, six and four years old. I am a proud grandmother and my husband cherishes his grandsons in his role as “Uncle Grandpa”. I have lived north in Olympia for the past two years now and accepted a new job last week that will move me to Seattle.

    Cathy and I have gone from the bare beginnings of our mother-daughter reunion into a deeper kinship than either of us ever imagined. We struggled to find this peaceful place between us. The urgency of our parallel youth has ripened and mellowed with age. We are close now and it is natural for us to talk about anything. We risked everything to have this and it was worth it. For that, I am grateful.

    Looking back on the youngster who came out on the Green Tortoise to check me out, I now find a mature woman with a strong sense of self and her place in the world. It makes me proud to watch her navigate through the challenges, even though I know I am one of them. Her take on life is different from mine and I cherish that too.

    After all these years we now find comfort in our time together. We have come to terms with the deficits of relinquishment and we have accepted our journey our way. She loves her life in Portland and I love that she has claimed Portland and me for her own.

    When I forget how remarkable that is, I recall how vast the gap between us was in those first years. Portland was a beautiful place for our relationship to grow. The kindnesses that my Portland community extended to both of us made it possible for us to proceed as though we were normal and gave us room to breathe through the barriers and harsher realities of our loss and reclamation of each other.

    Cathy came to town looking for answers. I did the best I knew how and I know that there were times when that wasn’t enough. Still, we made it through all the days, weeks, months and years. Now we are familiar enough with each other to lean on one another in ways that weren’t possible before we knew who we were reckoning with. Cathy is a stunning human being. Her differences from me are as interesting as the similarities. She’s as strong as I am, maybe stronger. I love who she is. She is unique. I suppose I am too.

    I feel her love for me grow from a place of suspicion and distrust to one of acceptance and understanding. Even though she knows that I’m not what she expected, she has accepted the mother I am and the mother I am not. We have created a place together that is current, honest, warm and open. Our relationship is real. The fantasies of who she might be in my mind or what I might have done differently in hers have faded as our true faces turn to greet each other by heart.

    We delineated the journey in this book we’ve been co-writing these past eight years. We haven’t shared our sides yet but I’m not afraid – no matter what her truth is. To share our truth with the world is an offertory of trust. Her arrival to Portland was a turning point and we never looked back. There are no regrets for coming together. I have watched her evolve from an innocent, immature young adult into a seasoned woman who knows her mind and whose compassion has grown with every corner we’ve broached together.

    I’m proud of my first daughter’s courage to say yes and come to the place of discovery and her first mother in Portland. Now it’s she who is the Portlander and I, her first mother, recognizable without disguise, who lives in her orbit – a satellite in her world and easily found. She has only to reach to find me there.

    The bonds of this love belong to us in its unique color, depth and texture, and springs from a life force that grew from my heart to hers when she was conceived and, given the space and connection it craved continues to grow from the roots in her heart to mine and back again. This is the natural course of love, as it ever was and always will be, in all its flaws and perfection between this mother and child.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.

Indigenous

The Lady of Shallot by John WaterhouseDaybreak lashes and flashes, wet and stormy this morning on Spray Beach. I woke at five o’clock and slipped out of bed to tiptoe down to the kitchen and coffee. Fifteen members of my husband’s tribe (and mine by marriage these eighteen years) are spread asleep in every room and nook but this. I pull up to a small round table tucked under a porthole on the third floor as lightning cracks every few seconds and thunder thrums the wooden floor under my bare feet. The only other sound is the cast of rain against the house and the soft snores of dreamers who remind me that I’m not alone, just awake.

My family used to gather this way in beach houses every summer. The family tradition grew into the ten of us, stuffed into the station wagon to drive to our summer destination of sand, saltwater and sun. My Boston parents were both raised by the ocean and we could feel the pull of their excitement as they returned with their brood to their salty origins. We saw the secret smile they shared in their eyes, like silkies itchy to shed skin that held them back and swim free.

Our father would join us on weekends and our mother ran the house in between breaks of quiet with a book on the beach as we ran wild. We chased briny adventures to the rush and ebb of the tides and only stopped for meals, sunburnt under Noxema in our damp suits and bare feet. Dinners were served on long tables cobbled together that often accommodated relatives dropping off cousins who stayed for days and sometimes even weeks, and we happily absorbed them into the dance of our family at play. Platters of spaghetti, lobster, clams, mussels and the catch of the day still get my juices flowing as the memory floods me with the childhood happiness I felt to feast with my family this way.

A relative newcomer to my husband’s family tradition, I am grateful for the retreat amongst family. I come as an in-law and know the difference between blood and marriage. My heart goes out to one of my stepsons who has joined us from his new job teaching in China. He has never experienced being an outsider; a minority cast in another race, language and country; he is stared at on the street for being different and the lonely role of his new solitude has dislodged his sense of connection. He soaks his family in, even me, and absorbs us with the reverence of communion as he watches and feels us surround him and bring him into the cluster of kin he craves, home from his isolation overseas. I am grateful to be part of his solace and understand what it means to be outside. He knows.

I am reminded of my first daughter’s bravery when she came to my mother’s 80th birthday and family reunion eight summers ago. My daughter had been raised with one older brother, also adopted (and who had since died) and no relatives in her generation from her adoptive family line. For her to enter any family scenario of mine was high contrast to her life experience. I am one of a family of ten. All of my Boston-Irish relatives had large families and most of my siblings have produced children and a substantial thicket of cousins. It’s easier for a large family, raised on the organic network of bloodline, to absorb one more without a second thought – than it is for a solitary person to walk into a large clan by blood and feel like one of them.

I was proud as I watched my daughter’s grace under fire but didn’t quite understand until later just how hard that day was for her. Her life had been so different from mine and bloodline without connection didn’t cross the gap. She had to hold her own inside her skin and take in the culture of my family as though one of them, while for her it was as foreign as China to be immersed in. She looked like us but inside she was someone else. My family couldn’t and didn’t see the difference. Her points of reference were from other places. She had come from other people and none of them were us. They were another family and she belonged to them as much as they belonged to her.

Our ancestors and heredity travel in the blood we share alongside her birthfather’s side. Where they deliver her remains to be seen but when she comes to my door, wherever that is, she will be welcomed home.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes. Reunhref=”http://reunioneyes.blogspot.com/2012/08/indigeny.html” target=”_blank”>ReunionEyes.

Writing Apart

When we write together, Cathy is there across the table from me and responsive. We get to joke and puzzle for answers to the odd and interesting questions that arise between us. She calls me by my name and it feels normal that we are together. We enjoy each other while we work and write. She accepts my affection with smiles.

When we write apart, Cathy is invisible and remote. I can’t see her or hear her. Long awaited emails she sends me don’t usually include my name and never, ever sign off with any words of affection.

The ghost I was in my invisible role as first mother before we met again comes back to haunt me with the truth of what is felt but can’t be seen.

I fight the ghost back by making phone calls, sending affectionate emails, wondering about my grandsons and asking about how my daughter is faring in her life. My visibility wins over the ghost but does not penetrate the object of my heart.

Cathy does not hear me when I am away. My words roll off her like water trickling down the side of a rock. Even when I lived ten blocks from her house, I was a world apart.

Perhaps to her it feels close, even in all this distance, as I travel leagues between us.

My job is to love her unconditionally. Her job is to be a child in the world on her path of discovery and fulfillment for the potential of her life.

So I pray…and write…and hope… that it won’t be long before we get to write across the table again.

Then I can call her name and she will lift her eyes to mine in answer.

There is no ghost when we are together.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.

Family Tree

Portland Rose on Mason Street
(“bring me a rose” kate power & steve einhorn, recorded by billy oskay, big red studio, corbett, oregon. song by ernie sheldon.)

I woke up this morning to a pair of evening grosbeaks out our window. They have spent the day crossing the backyard between the feeder and the tall grove of bamboo by the shed. Grosbeaks mark an annual highlight in bird migration here in the northwest; marmalade thrushes with black and white markings and beaks like parrots that talk in a foreign tongue, ambassadors of summer ahead.

As the pace ramps up a notch, all but working on the draft is on hold. The arrival of this pair of birds is a gift; fleeting, natural, beautiful and right on time to the tick of an ancient biological clock.

Our family buzzes with activity – two college graduations – Ben and Abby, Quinn and Reed’s birthdays, Abby moved to new digs and Lucy’s first week back at her old school, Eli prepares for China and Cathy digs into a writing class while we scramble for time to work on the book together. My children and grandchildren have each just finished a cycle and begun the next. The seasons turn.

This comes to me as a sign of hope, life and small miracles – like the birds. Like a rose in wintertime.

I am a root in the family tree. Years have added girth and dimension under the bark that wraps its sturdy skin around layers of history and genetics mixed in our own alchemy of sap that rises and falls through thick and thin. It’s more than blood. It’s life. Each branch grows in its own direction and draws from the roots skyward.

I am one root among many beneath branches that crown the ancestral tree and reflex with instinctive gratitude in return for family in bloom above ground.

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To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.