Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

Image      I’ve had some awesome birthdays, I’ve had some stinky birthdays.  Mostly, because of where my birthday falls on the calendar, I’ve had more than my fair share of beautiful birthdays, weather-wise.  Late September can almost always be counted upon to be lovely, as close to perfect as it gets, here in the Northeast.  It tends to be sunny with temperatures in the upper 60’s to mid 70’s.  Softball weather, I used to call it, back before I wrecked my Achilles tendon and could actually play.

The only thing I remember about my 4th birthday is how I somehow misbehaved at my little party and my mother, chasing me up the stairs trying to gently swat my butt with a metal slotted spoon because she couldn’t find the wooden one she usually used, more as a scare tactic than an actual weapon of punishment.  I can still feel the tiny taps through my frilly dress as she herded me to my room, no doubt for a short time out.  She was a single mother at the time, stressed about money, working full time, trying to raise three girls with little help.  Still, she never resorted to serious corporal punishment, even though there were times, I’m sure, that she wanted to.

On my ninth birthday, I think my grandfather finally had me figured out.  He was terminally ill with lung cancer, but living with us and experiencing some good moments as far as his strength was concerned.  He drove his long black Cadillac to the store while I was at school and after dinner that evening he presented me with one birthday gift I will remember as long as I live.  I opened the box and found a football, complete with hand pump so it could always be properly inflated, and a red football helmet that I put on instantly and wanted to wear forever.  It was 1967.  He died just a few short months later.

The celebration of my 23rd birthday started in the wee hours of the morning, after I had finished spinning disco and early new wave dance music for the tourists at the New Orleans Hilton, in a nightclub on the 29th floor where, through the windows that circled the place, I had a nearly 360 degree view of the twinkling Crescent City and the mighty Mississippi.  Back then vinyl was king and I was mixing Disco Inferno into Instant Replay into Get Up And Boogie into Walk Right Now Into Super Freak into Shame into Call Me into Private Idaho into Whip It, six nights a week.  The bar closed at 3.  A bartender from South Carolina named Kimmer took me to some gay bars and I, to this day a lightweight drinker, got plastered on Long Island Iced Teas.  When we parked outside the second bar it was after 5am and the signs all said No Parking 9am-4pm.  I thought for sure we’d be okay because, even when you’re celebrating your 23rd birthday and you don’t have to be in at work again until 9 that night, there’s no way you’ll still be in that bar drinking by the time the parking spot becomes illegal, right?   Well, we walked out of the bar at 9:05 to find my car, my sweet 1970 Plymouth Duster, already attached to the tow truck.  I remember pleading with the operator, saying something idiotic like, “You can’t tow my car, it’s my birthday!”  The burly guy in work gloves just laughed and went on with his task.  Kimmer and I got the car back hours later, from the impound lot.  And when I think back on it now, I’m glad my car got towed.  We were both too drunk to drive.

My 40th birthday was the worst of my life.  I was almost 5 months pregnant with Bea and experiencing some of the most intense uterine fibroid pain of my entire pregnancy.  To top it off, I had to spend almost the entire day at a hospital in Brooklyn, waiting while my ex underwent surgery and then couldn’t stop puking in recovery.  It rained all day, of course, which was so unusual because for my entire life up to that point I only had memories of glorious and sunny birthdays.

For eleven years now, though, the best part of my birthday has been sharing the day with my twins.  They were born in Viet Nam on the day that I turned 44.  “You say it’s your birthday.  It’s my birthday too, yeah,” I sing to them every September 30th, to their giggles and delight.  I have mostly convinced them that I no longer care about my birthday and that the day belongs to them.  I mean, it’s bad enough that they have to share it with each other.  Might as well take myself out of the equation so they can each have the most special day possible.  They’re turning 11 today.  I think once they get older they will more easily embrace the idea of the three of us sharing the day.

And now, it’s not even just the three of us.  Turns out little Leroy, Bea’s micro-teacup Yorkie, was also born on September 30th.  Crazy, I know.  And even though he’s in LA with Bea as she chases her dream of being a rock star, I find myself wishing I could give him a hug and a treat and a little kiss on the top of his hairy little head.  He’d be with Bea, of course, and oh how I wish, every day, but especially today, that I could hug her, too.

Happy birthday, Georgia.  Happy birthday, Esther.  Happy first birthday, little Leroy.  And yes, happy birthday me.

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2/13/2003
I basically had no Wednesday.  That’s what happens when you cross the International Date Line from east to west.  You lose a day.  But you get it back on the way home.  Girls, I am in Viet Nam.  I have not met you yet because you are still in the orphanage in HCMC and I, along with my friend Becky, who is here on business and brought me as her companion traveler, am in Hanoi.

Yours is a very beautiful country.  The people are stunning.  The flowers are amazing.  The architecture in the old section of the capital city is ornate and the smells of food cooking on the street are pungent and strong.  I can’t wait to move south, closer and closer to you, and get to see some of the other wonders Viet Nam holds.  On the way in from the airport I saw people and oxen working in the rice fields.  The country is very poor.  Many people have a difficult time feeding their children.

Tomorrow we fly to Da Nang, right near China Beach.  Becky has business there, too, so we are slowly but surely working our way south to you.

2/15/2003
I just took a quick dip in the South China Sea.  It was luscious.  But I didn’t actually swim because I have been warned about the unbelievable undertow here.  I could feel it while I was standing out there, waist-deep in the warm, salty water.  I have been looking for sea glass to add to the collection at home, but I don’t think I’ll find any.  The beach here is too sandy and pristine.  Usually, rocky beaches yield the best sea glass.  We’ll get some this summer when we go to Cape Cod.

Right now I am sitting in the shade on a sprawling beach, listening to the multitude of waves break onto each other and then onto the glistening sand.  They start way out in the water and roll swiftly in, one after another.  At any given time there can be five or six lined up and inching toward the shore.  The Monkey Mountains jut out into the sea to the north and on the opposite side of them is the bay and the harbor.  The Cham Islands erupt out of the water straight ahead.  To the south there is nothing but beach and palm trees.  It’s exquisite.  I will do my best to take you here someday when you are old enough to appreciate it and commit it to memory.

I spoke with your big sister Bea last night on Becky’s work phone.  It was Friday morning for her and she was just getting up to get ready for preschool.  She asked me if I was with her babies.  That’s how she thinks of you; as “my babies.”  She absolutely cannot wait to officially be your big sister.  I think she’s in for a surprise when she sees all the attention you’ll need, but she has promised to help take care of you.  She’ll quickly realize that everyone who loves her has enough room in his or her heart to love her sisters, too, without loving little Bea any less than they already do.

2/18/2003
Hello, sweet little lovies!  Becky and I went to the orphanage today to get you.  First a nurse handed me you, Georgia and I cuddled with you for a few minutes, delighted to finally hold you in my arms.  Then I gave you to Becky and they handed me Esther.  I was told that you had been bottle-prop fed while there and only a very suspect formula of mostly corn syrup and water so you made no eye contact, even though you’re 4 1/2 months old.  Don’t worry.  We’ll slowly introduce the good stuff right away and I will hold you and sing to you and there will be a light in your eyes in no time.  We gave out the appropriate gifts and thanked everyone we needed to thank and headed back to the apartment in a taxi.  No car seats.  Yikes!  Your little car seats are back in Brooklyn, just waiting for you.

So, you’re my little ones now.  You are both so beautiful and small.  Your features are fine and delicate.  Your cries are tentative and weak.  Wait till we get you home and fatten you up!  Nonna Mary next door will start making pasta and peas for you as soon as you’re old enough.

2/19/2003
The official behind the dirty desk, in the dingy office, said, “Thank you very much.  That is all.”  First I had to show him my passport and sign my name 6 times.  Then we left.  As far as Viet Nam is concerned, you are both my girls.

Overnight was tiring but not impossible.  I didn’t want to wake Becky because she had an important meeting this morning, so I did it all myself.  Georgia, you have a clock in your tummy!  Every three hours, you need to chow down.  It made it easy, actually, because while you were eating, right on schedule, you would inevitably wake your sister and then she would want to eat.  Overnight I fed you both twice by myself, at 1 and 4am.  We were like a well-oiled machine.  Eat, burp, poop, change diaper, back to sleep, eat, burp, poop, change diaper, back to sleep.  The whole dance took a little more than an hour each time.  Who said tomboys couldn’t be good moms?  Nonsense!

Tomorrow, we’ll hand in the paperwork to get your passports.  Officially, it’s supposed to take 10 days, but there are “channels” through which you can get it done more quickly.  We may be done with all of this by Monday or Tuesday!

2/20/2003
Georgia, you chow-hound!  You just love to eat.  Esther, you like to eat, but your real talent at this point is sleeping.  You’re both such good girls.  And you are starting to become more alert already!

We have applied for your passports.  Mr. Ka, the man who is holding my hand through this whole process, took the paper I was given at the Ministry of Justice and handed it to another man who swept it away on a motorbike.  The slip of paper said your passports would be ready in 10 days, but thanks to the mystery man and a fair amount of American cash, they will be ready tomorrow.  This is how things work here.  The black market is king.  Nepotism rules.  I’m sure there are laws written down somewhere but everyone plays by their own set of guidelines and hopes not to be the token bust on any given day.

3/1/2003
Well, we’re almost home!  We just flew over the Mississippi River, after spending last night in Hanoi and then flying today through Hong Kong and Vancouver.  We’re listening to Aaron Copland on the Business Class headsets.  What could be more American than that?  It’s a great country, girls.  Sure, the government is arrogant, the huge corporations make all the decisions, based on the bottom line, and they exploit people all over the world as cheap labor so they can keep a stranglehold on most of the wealth.  There are men like Dick Cheney who feel they are entitled to a larger slice of the pie than almost everybody else.  Lots of people have guns, we keep growing tobacco even though smoking it kills thousands of people every year, there’s rampant racism, sexism, age-ism, elite-ism.  There are LGBT-haters and nasty creeps who rob old ladies in apartment building lobbies.  There’s pollution and corruption and greed.  But you can be anything you want here, including someone who works to make it better, for the needy, for the disabled, for the poorly-treated, for the underdog.  You can try to change what you don’t like about the country, which will be not only your right but your responsibility as citizens.  You will also learn to deal with the stuff that seems like it will never change and go about living your peaceful lives, making choices and doing your best.  I hope you’re glad someday that I took you to this incredible place.  People keep telling me that you girls are very lucky to have been adopted, but I’m the one who feels lucky, so lucky to have you in my life.  You don’t ever have to be grateful.  Just be honest with me and I’ll be honest with you.  I’m glad you’re here.  I hope when you grow up you will be, too.  I love you, sweeties.  Let’s go home.

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