Category: Ethiopian Adoptions

On the Magic of Clean Pages

 

Time is a definable point, which we note from our cell phones, computer screens, wrist watches, and for some of us, through our children. Over the past year I’ve been engrossed with the outside world through the march of time, with Julia and I leaving our old Pre K school and entering the next one, a K-12th grade institution for the long haul, with monitoring the election, the debates, and then mourning the aftermath.

The last post I wrote back in last Spring, the one I never posted here, regarded Julia’s view of transgendered folks along and the anti-transgendered laws in North Carolina, a funny story that happened to us having brunch. When it came together back in March or April of 2016, the essay seemed funny and wise. In the next moment, within a few days, as the political rhetoric rose, and the insults piled up, my post seemed quaint considering what was at stake in the world. Now with the transfer of power,  America has bigger issues to weather than what facilities people are permitted to publicly pee in.

So I’ve spent months away from the interior world of my blog. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed sharing some of the crazy things that Julia has seeded into the world. I  regretted not writing about my new mommy gaffs at our new school. But the competition was so stiff, my blog fell off.

But it does not mean I haven’t been hard at work on other projects. I’ve had two essays accepted into notable literary journals, as well as a piece published in an anthology that centers on writers views of psychotherapy: https://www.amazon.com/How-Does-That-Make-Feel/dp/1580056245

Still my blog stayed dark.

It’s happened before. During the summer months when I spend more time shuttling Julia from camp to camp, I stop. Then reawakened in September when the school bells start up. But this September new worries had nudged in, set down big stakes.

Words seemed to matter so much more. But they weren’t words I’d crafted. But certainly they mattered. And the truth, well like my blog, that’s taken a hit, too.

I thought about that after the election, as we headed to the holidays, especially while watching the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. I love the film so much I own a copy of the DVD. But I didn’t have a chance to see it at home, way too much to do, in way to short a timeline. So when a work friend announced they’d booked a large conference room to gather a group for a Friday potluck lunch to watch this gem, I was honored to join them.

I know the film so well, I could act it out with hand puppets. But this year as I watched George Bailey’s life unfold for him with a new view. And it I received one too.

Deep down, after the election, I feared that I might have made a huge mistake. I brought my daughter to from Africa to America. To a new land. Now I feared for what this country could become, for how it would treat a brown skin girl, especially one that could be considered an immigrant. My greatest prayer has always been to live long enough to raise my daughter into womanhood. But what kind of America would comprise her world? One that disenfranchised her American dream?

But that afternoon, I sat in the cave of the conference room, silvery gray images flashing on the screen, along side 20 or 25 or so other people gathered around the long wooden conference room table, I saw my life, anew. George Bailey had just fished Clarence the Angel out of the icy water, saving himself. But he just didn’t know it yet. And as Clarence peeled back the layers of George’s life, showing him the value that could not be seen under the weight of his responsibilities or the pressures  of outside forces working against George, he realized, on the bridge, in his tears, that no matter what he faced, it is a wonderful life. And in that momment  I found that I, too, remembered the same.

I turned my face towards the white wall, hiding my tears from my co-workers, supressing sobs. I realized that no matter who sits in the White House, Julia and I have a wonderful life. A good life. One made of a family of two,  with Lego’s and a My Little Pony and Cheerios, seeding the living room carpet, a bathroom sink that greets my some of my mornings with a line up of her freshly shampooed dolls, the shocking joy of listening to her read a sign or a book, featuring words I wasn’t aware that she knew; Julia’s extraordinary sense of humor. Yes. Right in the here and now, It is a Wonderful Life.

*

Twenty or so years ago, after the sudden death of the man I loved from pneumonia at the age of 26, when I returned to work after dark mourning, someone pressed the above Op-Ed piece from The New York Times into my hands.

The original, writen to mark the New Year, has fallen apart, But this aged photocopy holds a place of honor in my office. On Friday morning I realized the clipping cast a new relevance. We have 342 days left to 2017. All of them blank pages. And the essay so wonderfully points out, “there’s no way to know what will appear on them eventually. No way at all.”

“May you live in interesting times,” the English translation of a purported Chinese quote goes. As it’s often been noted, one can never tell if it’s a blessing or a curse. Let’s see together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Balloon Tale

Time flies. And then there are days that seem jet propelled. And in months that I haven’t written I’ve: visited ten independent New York City schools, attended 30 related events‑open houses, parent interviews, child interviews…opps I mean play dates, diversity nights, curriculum nights—mixed in with Christmas shopping, then the holidays with friends and family, and fought to assembled a two thousand piece, three-foot-tall My Pretty Pony Castle that Santa brought, and won.

( Okay, I was Santa, and it wasn’t that bad, in fact it’s pretty cute.)

CASTLE_SHOT
My Little Pony Castle

http://www.amazon.com/My-Little-Pony-Canterlot-Playset/dp/B00SOG4Q6G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459965785&sr=8-1&keywords=my+little+pony+canterlot+castle

Cooking Christmas dinner for my family, hosting the Holmes Family Annual Jenga Tournament on New Years Eve, MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, and tax filing. So the time and attention that frequent went to my blog, went to, say, my life.

Then came 100 day at Julia’s school.

A day I’ll never forget. Not because I’m a closet arithmomaniac, but for the creation Julia and I made for the event.

“Remember Mommy we have to make our 100 project,” Julia reminded me at breakfast, in celebration of 100 days of school.

“I do. I’ll have Natasha pick up the materials to make our project.” Then I grabbed my purse, plucked out my wallet and pealed out twenty bucks then slid the bill on to the dinning room table‑‑for the purchase of a Mylar balloon and a bag of 100 count cotton balls.

We would make the sky.

The only hard part of the day I anticipated was ditching my annual co-op board meeting so I’d have the mental bandwidth to work with Julia. The meeting is held in the building’s lobby. And there’s one way into the building, through said lobby. So one has to do the walk of shame past the board members and the other owners, just to get home, to your child, to your second job.

The hardest part of being a single parent is my inability to divide myself. And while I wanted to attend the annual meeting which covers a deep dive into the building’s finances: how many gallons of heating oil the boiler burned this winter, healthcare costs of the doormen, future projects and more all that data would have to wait for me to receive the published report.

I had a date with my daughter.

I came in the house ready to dive in. As Natasha gathered her coat and purse, she said, “I purchased quick dry glue to make it easier,” then she headed to the front door.

I couldn’t image why she’d bought glue since we had glue in the house. About twenty cotton balls in, I understood. Cotton is surprisingly unwieldy. After an hour of teamwork, and the support of a glass of Cabernet for mommy, the blue sky with clouds was really taking shape. Another half an hour, Team Holmes had completed the job. By then Julia’s bedtime had arrived. Pajamas on, teeth brushed, when I went to tuck her in, I found her room empty.

“Where are you?” I called out.

I heard her patter down the hallway and pop into her room, all smiles. “I was saying good night to the sky.”

The next morning Julia shook me from sleep with a latest balloon report, “I checked on the balloon sky,” she said. “It’s dry!”

Quick dry glue indeed.

We had breakfast and dressed, then I searched for a large enough plastic bag to transport our work of art to school.

“No! I want to carry it,” Julia said, hugging the cloud to her tiny chest.

“It would be easier to carry in a bag.”

“No, Mommy, pleaseeeeee.”

Minutes later Julia was clutching the balloon like a baby seal walking out of the elevator into the lobby.

“Oooohhh, I like your balloon,” Carlos the doorman crooned.

“Mommy and me made the sky!” Julia announced.

Then we walked out of the building and into the bitter cold March morning. Our twelve minute walk to the subway station on Broadway wasn’t looking so fun.

“Let’s take a cab,” I said.

Seven minutes later we prepared to exit the cab in front of the school. The building is very close to the Hudson River so it’s always quite windy, even on mild days, a fact that I forgot although the taxi was being pushed and shoved by an invisible gale.

I passed the driver a twenty then instructed Julia to “get out and go to the curb,” while I waited for my change. And few seconds later I heard the sound of screams blasting against the taxi’s windows. Julia. I leapt from the cab and found her hopping up and down on the cement in a frenzy. No blood in sight. But silvery tears streaked her brown face, as she pointed down the block, at the sight, the Sky Balloon, tumbling and falling down west 120th street in the gale.

I’ve seen some shocking things of late: The rise of Donald Trump in his own global reality TV show, Pluto’s demotions from a planet into a plutoid, and Bruce transforming into Caitlyn the Vanity Fair Magazine pin-up girl, but seeing my child’s 100 day project manhandled by the wind, hemorrhaging cotton balls across the sidewalk, my daughter sobbing, crushed me beyond belief.

“Grab it!” I yelled.

Julia and I took off after the blue balloon tumbling across the grey cement. For a good fifteen feet I scrambled to collect the white wounds as the battering winds shoved The Sky towards Claremont Avenue, towards the destruction that passing car tires would levy.  Fear clutched my throat. I quickened my pace. Julia would not recover from seeing the death of her Sky. I had to stop it. I sprinted harder. But The Sky was too fast for me.

I spotted a man standing at the corner waiting for the walk signal, about twenty feet ahead. “Hey, HEY!” I yelled. “Grab that balloooooonn!!!!”

The man snagged the sky like a soccer ball, scooping it into his arms. I ran up to him and had to fight the urge to thrown my arms about him.

“Thanks so much!”

The man nodded, smiled then moved away. I sensed he was a parent, he knew the baby bomb was about to go off.

“It’s ruined!” Julia moaned, her face reddened and wet. “I’m the only one who won’t have a project!”

“No! I brought the glue! I can put them back on!”

“But it won’t be 100 cotton balls,” she sobbed.

I reached into the pocket of my jacket, and pulled out a wad of white.

“No, I got them all,” I lied, eyeing a few victims trapped in the near by storm drain.

Ten minutes later, after I dried Julia’s face and dropped her at the gym with her class, I was hard at work reapplying lost bits of cloud, using the top of her clubby as a work station. Passing parents eyed me curiously. I hardly noticed, my mind focused on the thoughts running like bulls through my mind. One in particular stood out, the most important balloon lesson of all: There will always be something, a lost balloon, a lost job, seemingly lost chances. There will always be something that threatens to upset the day, the child, the mom. Such is the life of a parent, especially a single parent. All I can do is make sure I have glue, and good prayers.

IMG_0959.JPG
The Sky Balloon finally at rest.

Twenty minutes later, I slid into The Big Sing, a monthly event the school holds, just in time to applaud the last two songs the children sang with my sticky, shiny, gluey hands. When the Head of School announced it was time for the grown ups to leave, and the children started singing and the “Goodbye Grown-Ups!” song, I made my way through the throng of people over to where Julia’s class sat.

“Have a great day, your project is on top of your cubby.”

“Why I didn’t see you here before?” Julia asked.

(Well her last name is Holmes, but still I found the question surprising.)

“I was upstairs fixing The Sky for you.”

“The whole time?”

“Yes, the whole time…Can’t be in two places at once, Jules.”

She thought about it for a moment.

“Well I guess putting the sky back together is more important than The Big Sing.”

I wanted to tell her that she would use that observation to put many things back together during her life, that she would use her spiritual glue to repair broken dreams and smashed goals. That she would one day again watch another beloved tumble way from her, trampling heart, and would have to decide whether to chase it down. Or let set it free. That wild winds would blow her good away, along with her faith in right and proper outcomes. And that she would have to make a choice every single time. Let it go. Or get out her bottle of glue and remake the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing the Morning Mix

“Mommy, is it time to get up yet?” Julia yodeled from her room.

“No,” I yelled and lowered my sleeping mask back into position. The sky had just began its morning blush over the grey shadow of trees in the park. But I knew it was brutally early without checking the time. Julia wakes up the birds up that wake up the rest of us.

After thirty minutes more of listening to her sing and converse with herself, I pealed back the silky mask and rechecked the horizon. It held a slit of sunlight. The air pushing through the window smelled like hope. The clock read 6:33.

I jumped out of bed, and headed into Julia’s room. “Pick up your room and get dressed, We’re going running.”

“Whatttttttt? I’m not going to school?”

“Sure, after we run.”

I jumped into my clothes and then jumped her into hers.

“But I’m hungry Mommy,” she said as I slid the first sneaker onto her foot.

“I’ll get you a banana. Eat it on the way,” I said determined as MacArthur was to take Normandy.

One of the great challenges to motherhood has been maintain my running. All my life I’ve lived to run, high school track and 5Ks and 8Ks in adulthood. When one of my best friends, Beryl, gave me a Bob’s Revolution Jogging Stroller for my baby shower, I choked back tears when the beast arrived in the mail.

” Of course I bought that for you, ” she said, “you’re one of my oldest friends.”

The beast cost $450 bucks. The stroller known among the mommy set as the SUV of strollers was one large, expensive piece of equipment, one that I didn’t mind taking up room in the apartment.

And that stroller saved me mentally, for the first few years. But by the age of three, when Julia would announce “ Mommy why did you stop running?” every time I took a break on a rocky hill, or at a red light, or when I paused to change the song on my iPod, she sounded more and more like Coach Smith, my high school track taskmaster. So, I decided it was time to let go of the stroller. Besides, at 42 pounds it was getting to be a tight fit for Julia.

After that I ran sporadically and hated myself for it. I grabbed a sitter here and there and did a half-ass job of maintaining my running through the fall. Then the Snownado of 2015 hit the eastern seaboard.Then my life revolved around red wine, pasta Bolognese, and Babar books. During the last weeks March and the first signs of Spring were even more welcoming, more alluring. By mid April just the sight of a jogger either brought envy to my heart, or tears to my eyes.

“ Just take her with you,” Beryl said at dinner a week later. “I used to go ice skating with my mom and I loved it.”

“ I really prefer to run alone,” I said, “ but I guess running with Julia is better than not running at all. Two weeks ago, she and I did a loop of the bridle path in Central Park, me on my legs, she on her scooter. But because of the rocky parts and inclines she produced more tears than scooting time.”

“Try it again,” she said.” Without the scooter.”

I ached to run. So on Thursday April 30th I decided to put an end to the ache.

*

Julia and I exited our building. The air was cool and silky. I love the smell of sunlight in the morning. I’d forgotten how beautiful the world looks before you start hustling through your day. We crossed the street and strolled into Central Park. Julia munched her starter breakfast, while looking around puzzled at the emptiness of the typically bustling playground we favored, at the massive number of adults running and biking.

“Why are there so many grown ups in the park and no kids?” she asked.

“This is the time adults play, before work.”

An overhead view of the Central Park Reservoir which hosts a 1.6 mile dirt running track.
An overhead view of the Central Park Reservoir, which hosts a 1.6 mile dirt running track.

And with that, she finished off her banana and tossed the peal in the trash receptacle. We headed up the bridle path toward the loop of the reservoir. A quarter of the way around the 1.6 miles, Julia, a child who runs like freed slave every time she hits New York City pavement, lodged her first complaint.

“Mommy. my legs are tired,” she moaned.

“Okay, let’s take a rest and headed into walking,” I answered somewhat annoyed.

When I started jogging again. She seemed pleased. Then Julia kicked up her heels and zoomed past me. Surprisingly. I liked it.

A mid thirties woman jogging towards us looked down at Julia and then yelled out, “She’s fast!”

“Did you hear that Mommy?!” Julia said. “She said I was fast! Then she kicked into another gear.

I studied Julia striding beside and in front of me, her long yet tiny legs,  her Ethiopian-ness in full view. Images of the last top ten finishers of the NYC Marathon, a healthy mix of Ethiopians present danced in my head. For a moment I could see my daugher crossing the finish line, the tape breaking across her chest, me there, waiting and cheering, bathed in tears. She would take a bow, a victory lap then head back to her studies at Yale Medical School.

The dream set, I got back to the job at hand. That morning my goal was to get back to a sport I love, at the time of day I love, by any means necessary. What I had not planned on was the pride I’d feel watching my daughter run in the sun beside me, and how each moment she passed me, her legs pumping away, her heels high, that joy grew and speed, and broke, to begin again. How I’d wear the glowing smiles that other runners cast other at us like garland throughout the day. That I would watch my daughter dash under the sun, taking the bend of the track just above the dark stones where the white cranes nest during their season, and box turtles sun themselves, and think this is how a love affair begins.

 

 

Finally, Happy Single Parents’ Day to Me

That single moms were sinful was the underlying message I absorbed while growing up in my two-parent, middle-class home in Detroit. There were two things my parents couldn’t abide — bad grades and illicit pregnancy.

When I was sixteen, my mom and dad sat me down and explained their preferred version of birth control. “We don’t want you to have sex,” they said. “We don’t believe in abortion. If you go and get pregnant, you’ll be staying home to take care of it. That would mean no college.”

It worked.

After graduation, I headed off to Parsons School of Design in Manhattan and then into the working world. I made friends and forged a career in advertising. Along the way, I collected classic children’s books, baby quilts, and knitwear scored at yard sales in the Hamptons, but I never had a child. In my thirties, when a girlfriend hosted a baby shower and decorated her apartment with photos of newborns from her mom’s pediatric unit, I tucked away dozens in my purse.

I discovered I was pregnant at 39. After my first trimester, I shared the news with friends. Then the pregnancy failed, taking my three-year relationship with it. I’d put off telling my mom out of fear. I arrived home two days before Christmas, walked into her kitchen, and blurted out,

“I was pregnant and lost the baby.” I collapsed into a heap of tears. After a long silence, my mom said, “I’m so sorry.” I knew she was. I spent the holidays in a cocoon of her care.

My dad, eight years dead, didn’t get a say.

I survived, along with my baby lust. A few years later I met another man. After failing to conceive, we began discussing adoption and researching options. Then our four-year relationship collapsed.

Eight months later, my phone rang. “We’re calling everyone who signed into the meeting as a single,” the social worker said. “There are rumors that Ethiopia will close to singles.”

“When?” I asked.

“Don’t know. But if you start the process now, there’s a good chance you’ll be grandfathered into the existing agreement.”

To quote the writer Toni Morrison, “Freeing yourself was one thing; taking ownership of that self was another.” While I’d begun the paperwork to become a single mom, taking ownership and freeing that self from shame was quite another thing. While many historical figures were raised by single parents‑‑ Presidents Obama and Clinton among them – and the 2010 U.S. census estimated that 11.7 million single parents were living with their children, I couldn’t fully face taking on that label.

“You can have the life you want,” my fifty-something Jewish analyst said. “Just not in the order society tells you it’ll come.”

Even my mom now held a more pragmatic view: “You may start out with a man, but it doesn’t mean you’ll end up with them. So if you want a baby, go get one.”

Discovering that Morrison had raised two sons and made a career by getting to her computer by 4 a.m. to create works that led to her winning the Nobel Prize, helped me believe I could have a creative life while raising a healthy, happy child.

I’ve learned to ignore the scrutiny of strangers focused on my left hand, checking for a gold band, as hold my daughters’ hand with my right. And I mostly dismiss my own self-judgmental inner voice that tells me I could die without ever marrying. I know that if I’d remained childless, I would’ve ultimately died from bitterness.

Through the adoption of my Ethiopian daughter, I’ve formed a community with other single parents, two-parent families, and same-sex families. What I didn’t expect was the big wide love I participate in every day and the gratitude I feel just by being Julia’s mom. Sure, my daughter could use a dad. But after months of government red tape, it wasn’t a certainty that she’d have a mom.

 *

“Happy Single Parent Day early,” my friend Charlie said over a glass of red wine.

“That’s a joke, right?”

“No, it’s a real day. March 21,” he said.

That evening I searched for and was surprised to learn that Single Parents’ Day had been in existence since 1984, launched in an article by Janice Moglen, a divorced mother of two who hoped that it would share the same recognition as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

So how does one observe Single Parents’ Day?  For me, it’ll be the same way I manage every other day, by chasing my kid, cleaning up spills, and shuttling her to swim class. Folding laundry. Reading stories. Slaying dragons hiding in closets.

Wondering what to give a Single Parent on this remarkable day? How about offering to babysit for a few hours so they can get catch a nap?

Wherever Two or More Are Gathered

Two years ago, when an Ethiopian judge asked how I proposed to take care of a baby alone I repeated, after my panic subsided, an old African proverb:“It takes a village to raise a child; and back home in New York City I have a small village.”

My words came back to me, with the news that Julia will attend the same preschool as the son of  another Single Baby Mama cohort. And amazingly, another S.B.M.’s son will join our 3’s group.

So as I clutched the acceptance letter in my hands in front of the wall of mailboxes and read the crisp, page-length text, two, three, four times, as the words washed into relief, washed deeper into me, as my jaw stopped its throb and ache from the lock of stress, a new thought bloomed and brightened in my brain; we Single Baby Mamas will now connect and share the realities of our lives and our children’s lives, daily.

The next day, as we three moms stood on the chilled Central Park playground watching our kids zigzag around the wild zone of free play, I announced, “I’m just so happy Julia got into a good school.”
“I hope you’ll all love the school as much we do,” Single Baby Mama #2 said.
“It’s great that they’ll all be together,” #3 added.
Single Baby Mama #2 smiled. “It maybe selfish,” she said, “but I’m glad there’ll be around single moms there. Usually I’m the only one.”

I’d experience the same unruly feelings for the first time a summer ago, after I bolted from the house with my then one-year-old, through the 100-degree July heat, rushed down and then up the steps of the subway and through the doors of a birthday party for a three-year-old only to discover I was the only mate-less parent in attendance.

As the birthday celebration worn on to its inevitable conclusion, as Julia stuffed chunks of chocolate cake into her mouth, I worked to remember that I nearly didn’t get a child to experience this awkward, odd feeling.

Sometimes the logic holds.

I want Julia to have the best of everything, and yes that includes a father.  God required two adults to come together and make a baby for a reason, I believe. However, for now, the best will consist of a great school, a great home and good mom. And I have a great example to follow. One of Julia’s God Mothers (yes she has two God Mommys Eula and Kim between their survival spirit and unsinkable faith my daughter will be well armed in the world. The search for a God Father continues.)

Still, in this case I am the one learning by Kim’s example.

Over the years I’ve watched Kim, for the most part, raise a wonderful daughter, Jenny, my God Daughter, on her own. Kim never complained, never doubted, at least outwardly. She has supported Jenny as she has grown into a lovely, smart, accomplished young woman; a woman we are all very proud of. And just when you thought the universe had done enough for Kim, a loving, smart accomplished man arrived into her life, a funny, handsome doctor no less, creating a miraculous second act in her life. Kim’s wonderful husband came with a young son in tow from his first marriage. Kim’s bond with the boy, and he with her, is so strong, so seamless, it would seem to strangers their union was formed in blood.

A few weeks back The New York Times ran a piece about a village of women in rural Vietnam, who, lacking marriageable men in their community, or had husbands who did not returning after the war, set out to create, birth and rear children on their own, at great risk to society and economic pressures. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/world/asia/in-vietnam-some-chose-to-be-single-mothers.html.

During the dark years of waiting for Julia’s arrival I asked the adoption agency for the names of other single moms and dads to be.  To me, this small community of women is vital. We don’t just survive, we thrive. And, so do our children.

Now looking at the wind worn wrinkled face of an older woman in the Loi providence from the curve of the newsprint, her red sweater clad grandson curled in her arms, I realized, over my morning cappuccino that I was face to face with an older, long-lost sister.

Happy Second Anniversary

J+J_Traditional
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” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/world/us-adoptions-from-abroad-decline-sharply.html? _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?

The Big Oh

One of the many things that I love about my church, and believe me, the itemizing would grow to quite a length: cool, goal-minded parishioners; gales of laughter complimentary with every sermon; families of every possible combination in attendance, what I like best: Unity’s talent for making the ordinary, far from ordinary. An enlightened fact I remembered just last Sunday—Fathers Day.

E-Card image from http://www.jacquielawson.com

As usual, I arrived with Julia strapped into her stroller, and me power-walk- pushing the contraption to the elevator, through the lobby of Symphony Space, aching to get a dose of Unity of New York’s positive energy, and, lately, serving of the central AC.
Getting both the wee lass, and myself to church—looking good and smelling good—is such an Iron Woman event, I cross the threshold as if my feet were jet propelled.
Midway across the lobby, just beyond of the last of the three ticket windows, the baritone voice of the security guard boomed out behind me.” Happy Father’s Day!” he bellowed. I turned and smiled at him delivering a gentle look that said, “Man, you need a day off. Or at least, at bare minimum, stay out of the sun.”
He offered up one of those sly smiles that I know African-American men of a certain age traffic in; men who probably knew of Selma, Alabama and Sam Cooke., intimately. With a kind of X-ray, grandfatherly stare, his head cocked to one side, to the right, then his cocoa colored hand jutting out in front of his chest, elbow bent slightly as his index finger jabbed the air in my general direction.

“ I see you,” he boasted. “Every Sunday. I see how you come in here. I see that you’re doing this alone. That’s why I said. Happy Fathers Day ’cause I know you’re doing two jobs.”
And just like that I went from mommy in need of spiritual food to mommy in need of a hanky. My vision, wet and wobbly, swim-goggled angled. Just like that a casual acquaintance showed myself to me.
So often single moms don’t see ourselves, because we are busy. Busy sorting socks, making food, making a living, making the morning 9:55 downtown B train, I just hadn’t stopped to think about that angle of things.
Unity Church gives me pause to think. But that day the guard at Unity, the deft-master seer, provided a reflection for me to ponder.

Later, during the service, Rev. Paul asked for “all the dads to stand up.” Brown, pink and yellow men, shiny-bald, pot-bellied, be-speckled and tanned, salt and peppered haired brown-skinned, got to their feet. Each man poked up through the seated crowd like stone pillars. A wave of applause rolled out and over the auditorium. Ushers rushed up and down the aisles to hand each of them, a single red carnation. I recalled hooting like I was at the rodeo. Julia looked up at me, with the puzzled glare of “what the heck happened to my mom?”

“Okay, now all the single mom’s out there, please stand.”

My eyes burned with tears. Again.

“You didn’t know you were doing two jobs?” my boss Phil said, when I related the tale to him, after wishing him a belated Happy Fathers Day, the following day.
“Never really thought about,” I said. “ I was so busy trying to get the title of mother. And, even that, at times it was looking shaky.”
Phil nodded, silently recalling, I could see from the haze on his face, Christmas past circa 2010, when I walked the halls of the office, waiting for word if the little girl I’d adopted in the Ethiopian courts two months earlier, would be taken away before she reached America knowing full well she had already put down stakes in my heart. Phil, from experience and wisdom had helped me walk through the land of international adoption, until I boarded a plane for Ethiopia in February, 2011, to bring my daughter home.

It seems, I believe, most men think women like me move through the world under the odd impression that men are obsolete. With sperm banks and fertility doctors at the ready, the only reason women like me need men for is sex. And according to the July issue of O Magazine, (page 120,lower center of the page, yup, right there ) apparently there are some quite wonderful boudoir aids made by a Swedish company, Lelo, which can be found at http://www.lelo.com/ capable of helping unmarried women, single baby mothers, women in between lovers, women who love women, and what have you, “achieve the same health benefits” on their own as with a partner, after they’ve shut down their BB’s for the night and the tots have been toddled off to bed.
But actually it’s because of the men like my dad, and male teachers I have studied under, and the bosses I’ve written for, men like Neil Leinwohl and Graham Woodall that encouraged me to do more, to be more, to have courage is one of the many reasons why I went out for this life, the life I wanted, without a mate. At the moment.
At one point in my life I wanted nothing more than to be a mom.

Today, I am mom.

And, at times, a dad.

I wear the title proud like a man. But at times, I cry just at the thought of it just like a little girl.