Monthly Archives: November 2013

Adoptee Gives Thanks During Thanksgiving

pumpkin pieI always made the pumpkin pie. My mom never made a pumpkin pie. But she taught me how to make a great turkey. (I don’t eat turkey anymore, but I still have my memories.)

The first time I ever helped Mom make a turkey, she told me to go ahead and clean the bird. She kept busy doing other work, making stuffing, preparing the vegetables, making the sweet potatoes, while I went into the kitchen, alone, to prepare the bird. At twelve years old, this was a milestone. Being trusted with the bird.

I went into the kitchen, carefully removed the packaging from the frozen turkey, pulled out the neck and the “guts” like I’d seen Mom do many times,  and I washed it. Thoroughly. When I told Mom the bird was ready, Mom told me how to season it. Her secret ingredients were soy sauce and paprika. My dad being Hungarian, Mom used paprika a lot.

The turkey came out beautiful. Mom proudly carried it to the table where Dad was prepared to carve it. Oh, how Norman Rockwell. Everyone watched as my Dad, the butcher, went to work. Until he stopped. It was at this moment that I learned an important lesson. There are two cavities in the bird. Mom pulled out the giant plastic bag from the turkey’s tush and began to laugh. Everyone laughed. They didn’t laugh at me, they laughed with me.

The year after my dad passed away, my mom came to my house for Thanksgiving for the first time. She cooked and carried a turkey on the airplane. Way before 9/11. Both Mom and Dad are gone now. And my birthmother passed away before I ever met her. I like to think she would have also had a good laugh when she found a plastic bag in the Thanksgiving turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Enjoy your loved ones while you have them. By birth, or adoption, family is important.

I can’t wait to see my out of town family soon.

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National Adoption Awareness Month

As we begin November, National Adoption Awareness month, I’d like to take a moment to point out something that may not be obvious to everyone.

Yes, adoption is a wonderful thing when it creates a family where there wasn’t one before. A childless couple can share their love with a baby, toddler, or older child who might have otherwise  been homeless.

A child gets a loving family. People to take care of them and meet all their needs, physical and emotional.

I also want to point out that this is the ideal situation. As every family has its own issues, so does an adoptive family. A teen in rebellion may yell, “I did not ask to be born.” An adoptive child might yell, “I did not ask to be adopted.”

This doesn’t mean the adoption failed, or the adoptive parents are bad. This is a normal part of growing up.

Adoptive parents must learn to accept the adoptee as an individual. An individual with a different heritage. This child won’t be a “mini me”. This child will have their own unique characteristics which must be embraced, cherished.

Also, the adoptive parent needs to know that the adoptee has a unique history. A history that is different than your own. They might ask about their ethnicity, as well they should. Their heritage and their medical background are very important. Please, answer their questions as best as you can. If you don’t know an answer, try to find one. Learn about your adopted child. Cherish them for the unique individual they are.

Remember, this child also has a first family. A birth mother/father who might or might not want to know about their child. Who might someday want to be a part of their life. The child might want to know about their birthparents. That’s normal. Let the child ask these questions. Help them find answers. If your adopted child is brought up in a loving environment, there should be nothing to fear. Every child wants to know who they are. Where they came from. Let them ask the questions. Answer their questions with respect for the child and for the child’s first family.

What else should we remember during National Adoption Awareness Month and during the rest of the year?

An Adoptee Asks, Where Did I Come From?

Mom never understood why I asked about my birth. Why should she? Most people spend little time thinking about the circumstances of their birth. They take it for granted. But when you’re adopted, you’re constantly reminded. From the first time I was asked, “What was life like in the orphanage?” to my third grade teacher introducing us to the idea of genetics, I thought about how I came to be. Our assignment, to make a family tree and put a star by everyone on the tree who had our eye color, seemed like a waste of time for me. My parents just picked me up at the hospital, I thought. I don’t have anyone’s eyes.

As I grew older, each time I went to a new doctor, they’d ask for my medical history. My answer, “I don’t have one, I’m adopted,” ended that line of questioning. For me, it didn’t matter that my father died of heart failure. That my mother succumbed to cancer. They don’t care if anyone in my family has had diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease. I have no medical history. I’m always starting with a fresh slate.

Mom never understood why I asked about my birth. Why should she? Most people spend little time thinking about the circumstances of their birth. They take it for granted. But when you’re adopted, you’re constantly reminded. From the first time I was asked, “What was life like in the orphanage?” to my third grade teacher introducing us to the idea of genetics, I thought about how I came to be. Our assignment, to make a family tree and put a star by everyone on the tree who had our eye color, seemed like a waste of time for me. My parents just picked me up at the hospital, I thought. I don’t have anyone’s eyes.

As I grew older, each time I went to a new doctor, they’d ask for my medical history. My answer, “I don’t have one, I’m adopted,” ended that line of questioning. For me, it didn’t matter that my father died of heart failure. That my mother succumbed to cancer. They don’t care if anyone in my family has had diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease. I have no medical history. I’m always starting with a fresh slate.

As a child I couldn’t put into words why I was curious about the events that occurred on those days, months, before Mom and Dad mailed out the engraved birth announcements proclaiming: baby girl, 6 pounds.

All I knew about being adopted was my parents weren’t involved in my actual conception and birth. But what about the rest of the story? Where were they when they got the call? Did they pick me up from the hospital? What hospital? Did they want a girl? Were they disappointed I wasn’t a boy? Did they meet my birth mother before she died? Was she pretty? Did a social worker hand me to them? Were they excited? Everyone has a story, don’t they? There’s nothing wrong with wanting my own story.  “You were adopted. We picked you.” That’s not enough information.

Looking back now, I can see where I went wrong. I wasn’t specific enough in my questioning. Instead of asking Mom the general, open ended, question, “Do you know anything about my birth?” I should have sat both my parents down, shone a light in their eyes and said, “What happened on the night of August 30? And please, do not leave out any of the details.”

In the beginning, I guess I just wanted to know if I had actually spent time at an orphanage. So the answer, “We brought you home from the hospital”, was enough. As I got older, I wondered if my parents had tried to start a family for years, planning and praying for a child, saddened to learn they were infertile. It upset me how whenever I’d ask Mom about my birth, she never used the words “love” or “longing” in her: “You were adopted. We picked you,” answer. I wanted to find out if my dad would have had better answers for me but I knew not to bother him. Mom was the one who made decisions, answered questions. Dad, always tired, or busy, was to be left alone. I understood that.

I’m sure my questions must have seemed insensitive to Mom’s feelings. How could I have been so ungrateful for everything she’d done for me? I should have said, “I love you and I’m so glad you are my mother,” before adding, “but I just want to know a little more about the woman who gave me up and why you adopted me. Please help me fill in the blanks.” How should I, as a ten year old, have explained to the woman who cooked my dinner, washed my clothes and schlepped me to piano lessons, why I wanted to know something about another woman who was able to get pregnant when she was not? Having unanswered questions didn’t get easier as I got older. Why couldn’t I have just let it alone?

No, I had the right to ask. All children ask, Why is the sky is blue? Why shouldn’t I touch a hot stove? And definitely, Where did I come from? Always feeling I was missing some important information, I wouldn’t let go.

This is an excerpt from my memoir, Call Me Ella, available on Amazon.