Saturday, December 31, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Not long before Christmas I wrote a letter to my son detailing who I was and how I’d come to give him up for adoption. I enclosed a faded color snapshot of his biological father and me dressed in our pastel evening finery at our senior prom. I tried to imagine what my son would think when he saw those two innocent smiles. Would he realize that he was in the photo too? Christmas was just a couple of weeks away, so I wrapped the letter around the photo and put the packet in a red envelope, hoping to pass it off as a Christmas card. If he doesn’t write me back in a couple of weeks, I thought, I’ll call him.
The mail fell in heaps through the slot in our front door during the week before Christmas. I’d hear our dog bark, and I’d race to the entry hall to contemplate the holiday envelopes strewn on the rug. Examining each hand-addressed envelope, I hoped for a return address from Arizona, but there was nothing. At the meetings I’d heard adoptees say that reuniting with a birthparent could make the adoptive parents feel abandoned or threatened. I told myself my son was just taking it slow out of consideration for his family, but even ten days later there was no response.
When I first received information about my son, I learned some basic details. I knew that he lived at home with his parents, that he had a sister, that he worked as an information operator for the phone company. The searcher had given me my son's phone number and had pointed out that the line was separate from his parents’ line. As I began working up the nerve to call him, I wanted to find out if my son shared his phone line with his sister. One afternoon shortly after New Year’s, while my daughters were napping, I sat on my bedroom floor with the telephone in my lap. Since I had his sister’s name, I would call information to get her number and see if it was the same as his. I dialed information for Mesa, Arizona with my pencil at the ready. “Hello, this is Cory. May I help you?” said the operator. I gasped and slammed down the phone and lay on the cool oak floor of my bedroom. Was it possible that I had just spoken to my son?
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Like the gifts stacked in our living room, disguised beneath ribbons and wrapping paper, my secret remains hidden.
In the kitchen our table nearly sags with plenty. A ham decorated with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries, an array of side dishes, baskets of rolls, towers of bread, a three-tiered tray layered with homemade cookies, fudge, and divinity. I want to stuff myself with all of it.
My father is tipsy when he arrives. He considers it his duty to spread Yuletide cheer among his employees before sending them home to enjoy the holiday. Now he's handing out drinks to our guests-- scalding Tom and Jerrys served with a ladle from a polka-dotted bowl, highballs in tall narrow glasses. Ice cubes tinkle like sleigh bells; steam rises from cups like breath made visible. We stuff ourselves, get giddy on sugar, and then find our places in the living room. Gifts are handed out. One by one at first, and then the whole operation snowballs into Christmas-y chaos until there’s a pile of wrapping paper as tall as my little brothers.
This is my last Christmas before I go off to college. My parents give me a portable sewing machine so compact it looks like a toy, a Webster’s collegiate dictionary, and a thesaurus. Santa surprises me with a popcorn popper, a new bathrobe, and new pajamas so I can look presentable in dormitory hallways. None of us has any idea what college life will be like, but we assume these are the things I will need.
College. Will I really give my baby to strangers and go off to start a new life? Or should I imagine myself married, posing in front of next year's tree with a baby cuddled in my arms?
After we’ve done the dishes my boyfriend comes over, and we present each other with cassette tape recorders and packages of tapes. Our colleges will be three hundred miles apart, and he has the idea it will be more interesting to send each other tapes instead of letters. I toy with the idea of recording a tape for him that tells him I’m pregnant.
(I never work up the nerve.)
At midnight we attend Mass. The late night and the ham and the candy have made me queasy. Morning sickness can attack anytime if I eat the wrong thing or smell something strong. I still have a dose or two of the green medicine, but I’m saving it for school. The good thing is that I’ve lost several pounds, and my Christmas dress, a double-breasted navy knit with gold buttons, looks great. The bad thing is that when the incense rises and swirls toward me, I think I’m going to faint. Luckily, we’re seated off one of the side aisles near an exit, and occasionally an icy gust sends fresh air through the crack between the heavy double doors and saves me.
During Mass I pray to the Virgin Mary. I pray to God. I pray to Saint Catherine. I took Catherine as my confirmation name because it’s my mother’s middle name and because I like Catherine’s story. She was a virgin and a martyr, and when she was put to death milk flowed from her veins instead of blood.
Friday, December 16, 2011
My essay about saying goodbye to my newborn son, "Holding Him Softly," is in it.
Here are a few snippets of reviews about the collection: (and if you like the book, you might consider reviewing it on Amazon.)
Tender perspectives helping readers with their own goodbyes. If you have ever had to deal with loss, read this book. It will make you feel better. -- Christina Johns, Midwest Book Review, Oct. 18, 2010
The stories are about love, really, not sadness. Despite all the sadness and grief that come with saying goodbye, there is love and joy and comedy on the Other Side. -- Gretchen Little, Squidoo.com Lens, Oct. 29, 2010
This book gets to the heart of what I teach in my class on death and dying - that life is filled with loss of all kinds and we can learn from each one and ultimately experience life more fully. The stories in this book do a wonderful job of showing that out of loss there are new beginnings. I recommend it for any teacher of death and dying classes. I also recommend it for anyone who is struggling with a loss - no matter what kind. -- Professor Jann Adams, Department of Psychology, College of Idaho, Aug. 25, 2011
Life is full of goodbyes. Some are painful, but some are downright humorous. Saying Goodbye is an anthology of short (true) stories about people saying goodbye to a variety of people, places and things. The authors vary as much as their subjects, and this collection does a nice job of showcasing how different people have so many different experiences with saying farewell. -- Book Nook Club, Nov. 5, 2010
This is a great book. There are many anthologies out there, lots with great short stories, but Saying Goodbye is about much more. It's about memories. There are heartfelt memories, humourous memories, some extremely personal memories. Some really made me smile. Others brought tears to my eyes. -- UK author Melanie Sherratt, High Heels and Book Deals, Nov. 22, 2010