Month: February 2013

Shot through the Heart

I thought after viewing the morning news at the dawn of last Wednesday my next post would focused around Steve Martin was becoming a first time Dad at the age of 67 and the second coming, so to speak, of Alex Baldwin’s fatherhood as he and his third wife await their new baby.

I though I would craft prose around the disparity between the treatment of over forty moms verses dads, how society gives older fathers nearly visible high fives, and few snickers behind their backs at their news of “a bun in the oven,” while many first time over 40 Moms, receive wide eye stares, and looks reserved for Hollywood alien spacecraft landing on suburban lawns. Two years ago, a Whole Foods cashier not once but twice, integrated me during the same transaction about my claim of motherhood to Julia.
“ You sure you’re not her grandma?” The girl with the Kool-Aid colored red hair and pink slacked lips, asked.

I thought I would write about the documentary I’d seen a few months back featuring an Indian woman who finally achieved motherhood, at the age of seventy year-old, through an egg donor program and a willing doctor.

I thought I’d write of her glowing pride, as she held her baby, while her wrinkled, brown-skinned husband nearly levitating off the floor. “Now we are no longer ashamed, now we have a child,” he said, the curse of childlessness had ended. I knew for sure I wanted to write about the broken pride I held for this Indian couple, half a world away.

Then I clicked on an email around, noon and I found out Julia did not get in my first choice school for her, St. Hilda’s.
Even before Julia came home, even before the miscarriage that led to the journey of adoption, riddled with stories of bribes and terrors, I braced myself for the private school process in New York City. Five years earlier a Wall Street executive, Jack Grubman was brought down, not by the Feds or a money mismanagement scandal, but from his attempt to bribe his way into an Upper East Side pre school.

Every nursery school ,that I know of, our home is private, requiring an application and “play date test.” So if I must pay, why not give Julia the best, what I considered the best, what I had seen as the best. For the past five years I’ve watched two extraordinary boys at my church grow into talented, smart young men before my eyes, through the efforts of their parents, and St. Hilda’s. I wanted St. Hilda’s before I wanted Julia.

But the email said “ We sincerely regret”

I had prayed. “that we were unable to offer your child”

I had affirmed. “a place in our school.”

I read the e-mail, and let out an audible gasp reserved for witnesses to a pedestrian mowed down by a drunk driver.

I haven’t felt this low since my adoption of Julia was almost annulled.


“You know, after everything you and Julia have been through the past three years, this is just a blip on the screen,” my brother Jeffery said. “ Sure, schools matter but the parents matters more.”
I stood staring at the sea of Manhattan traffic trying to figure out just when my baby brother had become so brilliant, so statesman like. Gandhi of Michigan.


I walked into my home Wednesday night, and before I removed my coat, I removed a bottle of wine from the sideboard.
“St. Hilda’s said no,” I told my nanny’s curious eyes, the answer to the why’s and what for’s of my actions, my opening and pouring a beaker of wine within minutes of entering the house was unseen in the year that she has worked for our family.

“But we had the second playdate!” she yelped.

“Yeah, that seemed a good sign.”


“I’m in shock, did they say why?” My mom asked.

“They never say why,” I explained. “It’s like a mob hit., two to the chest, one to the head. And adios.”


Julia’s not quite three years old; plenty of time for disappointments, more than enough time to learn life uses them as paving stones. This I know. But this was a new variety of a disappointment. Disappointments of mine, I can weather. Disappointments for my girl, my Julia, well, talk to me in a month.


“I’ll see what I can find out about other pre-schools,” Ronda offered, later that night.

“Sure,” I said, and took another gulp of wine. The Cabernet burned its way down my throat. This is not a wine consumption enjoyment moment. This was self-medication.
“A blip on the screen.” Really?


The next morning, remembered the date, February 14th. A shot to the heart and your to blame, your give love a bad name.

Happy Second Anniversary

Our first official mother/daughter portrait after
the good-bye ceremony

Monday, February 4th, marked the two-year anniversary of Julia’s homecoming. I hadn’t plan any sort of celebration, only to get through my busy day, my piles of writing work, return home and make our dinner. Halfway through the turkey stew with mashed potatoes (served on Julia’s lepoard shaped plate) she started to chortle in an interesting way, taking me through her big life events of the last few days, “ I saw Aunt Carla,” and “ And I fall down.”

I glanced at her over my bowl of rigatoni. ” Yes, Aunt Carla came to stay with you while mommy went to a party Sunday night. And yes, on Friday, the wind knocked you down, such a mean wind. But you needed to be in your stroller, like Angie asked you…”

When she repeated the phrases, I decided to record this moment for posterity.

I retrieved my flip cam from my desk and clicked it on. And out came a spontaneous anniversary party, for the two.

Video images of Julia’s first wobbly steps across our red, blue and emerald patterned Turkish carpet, more shaky moves across the sand colored wall-to-wall variety found in Redford, Michigan.

“Grandma! Grandma! ”Julia said, her eyes focused on the tiny screen, she the audience and the star of her show in Grandma’s home. And in her life.

I studied her miniature hand set upon mine, just over my right thumb, her long fingers curved around my knuckle, less an act of intimacy, more to the point, to ensure mommy did not move the video camera away from her view. That’s how my right lobe saw the moment; my left witnessed our rich connection, how we walked together, hand in metaphorical hand, and continued to do so, into new lands.

I’ve heard it asked at weddings of a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man, entering into formal union, do you “take this person, in sickness and in health…until death do you part?”

So far, I’ve never had the privilege of saying those words to a man, before my family and friends, before God.

But I have to Julia.JENINE_1shoulder

A few week back The New York Times reported U.S. adoptions had “plunged to its lowest level in more than a decade” _r=0

The reasons are varied, from orphans used as political pawns, to countries tightening rules, an act that delayed my adoption by nearly two months, four days before my brother and I were set to travel to bring Julia home. Now, it seems the delays are permanent.
“At some point the countries become ashamed that they can’t take care of their own,” my local adoption social worker told me a few years back. Or, regretfully, maybe the reason is less shamed filled. “Why should these orphan children have a chance our own kids don’t have?” another adoptive mom told me an Ethiopian representative had declared to her.

Watching Julia, watching our lives together brighten, shape, and come into sharper focus, I thought of the lost boys, the forgotten girls, gifts allowed to fall to the ground, like loose oranges, once vibrant and juicy,now fading with each new day. Steve Jobs, Edward Albee, Andrew Jackson. Alexander Hamilton. George Washington Carver, Herbert Hoover, Oracles’ Larry Ellison, Bach, Tolstoy, Byron, and Dave Thomas, the creator of the fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s—were all orphaned children. Who is left in orphanages surrounded by dull walls and row after row of metal cribs who could change the world?