When my dad died nearly 20 years ago, I couldn’t bear to get rid of the things from his house. The fine furniture he tried to refinish at retirement. The white leather golf bag stuffed with every club conceivable. The framed photo of him and Mom from the bank where he worked for a lifetime.
Bob’s parents were very generous and let me house all of the furniture in their barn.
One time, my sister-in-law Mary was looking and found a dolly from my childhood. She was somewhere in my grief pile in the barn. I imagine her turquoise dress was covered with barn dust and bird droppings.
To Mary, she saw something else as she secretly took dooly home and went to a doll doctor, got her fixed, and then made a dress for her.
One Christmas, we opened the front door and there was Mary and daughter Julia with dolly all restored and dressed in a new red-checkered dress and red-polkadot ribbon. Her cheeks were as rosy as ever.
Suddenly, an object from my grief pile connected me to the warm memories of growing up at 609 S. Oakland Street, St. John’s, Michigan. The Christmas trees with snowball colored lights and gobs of foil icecicles adorning the branches.
Something lost became found and restored.
Restored by someone I love.
My reaction to grief has always been to get everything out of my sight that reminds me of painful loss.
After all, when I can’t see it, the grief will go away, right?
I will always miss Dad.
He is the one God chose to be my dad from eternity past.
Was he perfect?
No….none can claim that.
After the last few months of searching for my biological father and finding such negative results, I am even more thankful that my life has been touched by adoption.
Grief and loss are what God delights to redeem.
He has done that for me multiple times, but today He did it with my childhood dolly dressed in a red-checkered dress, rosy cheeks, and black painted-on patten leather shoes.
What precious thing can you pull from your grief barn this Thanksgiving and Christmas?
I doubt its a dolly like mine, but something absolutely unique. That’s how God works.
Who would ever think that a birth mother’s or adoptee’s hair style would have anything to do with their adoption reunion? After all, hairstyle is a personal choice, right?
There is an interesting twist to my reunion with my birth mother and our reunion that I’d like to share with you. Then you can decide!
The first and only time we met for reunion in Ketchum, Idaho, I couldn’t believe my eyes as my shaking knees deplaned the banana-shaped plane.
My mother was wearing riding pants, cowboy boots, fringed leather jacket, a cowboy hat, and bleached-blonde pageboy hairstyle. I surmised she ran with the beautiful people, aka rich, in Ketchum, decorating everything from homes to casinos in Reno.
Holy cow! I’d never seen anybody look that that…and Bob and I were going to spend a week with her?
The first thing she saw about me was white stretch pants, an appliquéd sweater, and knee-high nylons under my conservative flats. My hair was black with a conservative short cut.
It was a long, challenging week with my birth mother. She kept me at arm’s length and let her elite friends fend for her. What started out as a fairy reunion ended in gut-wrenching rejection a week later.
When I boarded the plane on the return flight, her blonde hair fell in soft curls as she told me, “I always wanted to be tall like you.”
Upon returning home, when placing a thank you call to her, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she wanted no more contact.
Needless to say, it was traumatic, but the interesting exclamation mark she put at the end of her rejection was, “And, I even cut my hair one inch long, like yours.”
Isn’t that interesting?
She rejected me, yet she held to me with the haircut.
It seemed a bit push-pull.
It was maddening to hear Christians tell me I should forgive her. Forgiveness is complex and sometimes takes years. It did for me.
Many years passed.
The only other contact we had was when I suffered a grand Mal seizure. We called for family history. Refusing to give any, she put another hairstyle exclamation point at the end of the conversation. “By the way, I’ve grown my hair and let it grow grey.”
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. She had mental problems, and yes, she did. Probably, a personality disorder.
Frankly, at that point, I could have cared less.
As the years passed, I forgave her for pre-birth trauma, birth relinquishment trauma, and reunion rejection trauma.
This may sound selfish, but I forgave her for my own wellbeing. Forgiveness unleashed me from the nasty things she said and did.
A few years ago, surprisingly, I dreamed about her living in a fancy condo in who knows where…maybe heaven? Adoptee fantasy? She was pouring tea for me in the fanciest of teacups and she looked incredibly beautiful, with flowing blonde hair. And, then she walked into another room, and I awakened.
My heart turned to positive thoughts about her.
Just lately, I’ve decided to go blonde. I’ve come to the conclusion as an adopted person with a complicated identity that I can come to terms with whose kid I am by picking the things I like about both bio and adoptive parents and make them my own.
And, so, I not only went blonde, but I went long. I found a certain satisfaction and happiness in the fact that I looked like her. In fact, I loved it.
One of our daughters who I love to pieces recently said, “Mom, with your hair long, it blocks your beautiful face.”
Yes…she’s really something. I took her sweet remarks in stride, determined to keep my hair long. But, last week, I cut my hair short again…with blonde highlights.
Now, you psychology gurus out there, what deep psychological phenomenon does that represent? Does it mean I’ve accepted my birth mother (not her nasty behavior) and then flown the nest, like a baby eagle? Have I finally individuated from the things about her that just weren’t “me?” Or, does it mean I’m rejecting her? Deep stuff, eh?
Anyway, I think it so interesting that my mother cut her long hair to one inch right after reunion. Was she trying to stay connected to me? And, what about me wanting go blonde, and feeling good about it, late in life?
It leads me to the definition I created about adoptees years ago. “An adoptee is a unique combination of nature and nature with awesome potential.” Don’t try to figure us out by our hairstyles, or determine our feelings about our birth mothers.
Just let us be ourselves, and we will love you for that.
* * * * Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
By Carrie Goldman, November 17, 2017 at 5:30 am, Chicago.com.