fluttering fingers and moonlight twirls…

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I didn’t mean to see her so big.
Went looking for an address so i could send a letter that was for our eyes only
and, like a dream, I found her instead.
I wanted to make sure she’d heard me….to walk all the way to the edge
and lean over the side to make certain that she’d received my heart unedited.
But there she is and I cannot look away.
It’s like discovering this incredible Christmas present in the closet when I go looking for the lights.
I know it hasn’t been offered yet,  but my eyes can’t keep from dancing:)

I scroll through more images,  like I’m hearing her echo under years of rubble.
and my heart thumps wild hope as I dig.
The rest of the world goes quiet as I unwrap gifts – a local talkshow interview
and then another,  and I’m hearing at last the music of her voice.
The moving water of my children all together laughing is my favorite sound;
now hers is flowing across my ears and I throw back my head and join every glad noise
in the universe, belting out thanks for the wild beauty of this thing.

There is a timbre that siblings share,  like the voice of rippling waters.
The river just got wider and my heart stretches with the sound.

I watch her mannerisms, mesmerized,  matching every nod and tilt and gesture,
all so famliar – I know this rhythm.
I need to grab somebody’s arm and say,  “look!” – to share the wow of this discovery
but my feet are planted where they stand,
wilding over the beauty – her intelligence and humor and heart..
What she’s building in this world is just so cool and I’m grooving to her words,
powerful and clear,  even as she explains,  “I’m adopted,”
and I take in the way a shadow passes over the light in her eyes when she says it,
the way mine do when I’m feeling hard or pain
and my hand floats unthinking to the face on screen.  Am I seeing anger?
Is that grief?  Shame?  Or do I only imagine – just my fear on the screen.
Oh baby girl.
“Please talk to me,” I ache.

053

Facebook.
Do I even dare?
I’m standing in front of her profile picture
and the long road I’ve traveled seems to end right here.
I squeeze my eyes to hush the “don’t you even.”
My fingers flutter above the friend request key.
No.  Stop.  Too much.  Is it?  It’s an invitation,  right?  Or is it barging in.
Will she welcome this discovery or feel it intrusive?
I don’t know.
I don’t know so hard it hurts.

Instead,  I keep my hand over my heart
and let my eyes wander through her posts and pictures and perspectives,
savoring each one as I go,  like picking up feathers and leaves in the park.
I’d choose to hang out with this woman.
Like all of my kids,  this is someone I enjoy.
I can’t dig any deeper and not say something…..it feels stalker-ish.
And disingenuous.  I need to brave up and tell her.

I hit the message box on her profile and the daunting blank canvas pops up on my screen.
What do I even say?   
I want Amanda to know that I found her and I’m here,
– just a few pecks of the keys away – want to connect?
And if she doesn’t want,  or doesn’t want now,  I promise not to push.
If I don’t hear back,  I won’t withdraw my love.  I’m in either way.
I tug the message into words and my finger stalls on “send,”
my heart a jumble of joy and yes and please and oh shit.
I can’t do this.  Yes you can.  Go.  Just go – I mash the button quick to send.

When at last I get around to checking addresses that night,  I’m spent,
so it doesn’t bowl me over right away the several years she spent living in my city,
leaving just before we arrived.
Tomorrow I’ll go see,  I sigh as I finally nod off,  drained by the electricity of the day.
Like a kid after too much Christmas.
A few hours later,  I pop up with a start – Instagram!  I totally forgot to check….
I trot down the hall to my computer and  there she is again -too beautiful for words.
I linger for a while,  so punch drunk in love that I can hardly send my silly self back to bed.

One more quick check – facebook, did she answer back?
Not yet.  Okay.  It’s okay.  She’s on the west coast right now – time difference and all that.
I sit for a minute and hold the sheer awesomeness of even knowing this now,
my soul twirling grateful in the moonlight.
I’m guessing tomorrow,  then.  When she’s had time to digest.
And as sleep sweeps me up at last,   I’m smiling still.

big rock love
“When you get right down to it,  Lily,  that is the only purpose grand enough
for a human life.  Not just to love,  but to persist in love.”
– Sue Monk Kidd
(The Secret Life of Bees)

 I’m seven weeks into this Summer series and I love that you’re here.
Thanks for hearing and holding the pain of my story with such balmy care;
If it doesn’t shine through the ripples yet,  I’ll write it more clear around the bend,
the peace that’s holding me and the squeeze of Love’s hand.

 

 

Love letters and the long way home….

024
Shame is a psychopath with a fake badge.

Guilt – it has some value.
Guilt says,  “hey,  that was a bad call.  So not you.  Go apologize.”
It’s crisp.  Clear. Put things right because you’re not gonna want to haul this around.
“Acknowledge. Own. Forgive. Learn. Grow,” Guilt counsels.  Go clean off and get back in the game.

Shame doesn’t care about you or what you carry.
It serves no redemptive purpose;  it’s there to punish you for being.
And it will use whatever raw materials it can sieze from your untidy life
to assault your sense of worth with trumped up charges about your circumstances
until it hijacks what it’s after:  your identity.

I send Allison several letters and packages that first year and don’t hear back.
Edith assures me that this happens sometimes.  A testing period.  To see if I’ll stay or leave again.
This idea stings deep,   not because I don’t understand,
but because it escalates the beatings my heart’s been taking for years,
blungeoned by a single blunt word:  Abandonment.
There.  I said it.
I remember the first time it was used to describe what I’d done.

It was the Summer after.
I’d turned in an article to a little publication and was eager to read my words in print.
I wanted so badly to write and this editor had contacted me,  interested in teen pregnancy stories.
I froze as she skimmed through my copy and slowly stabbed,  “wait, you gave your baby away?”
I could barely remain inside my skin while she red-penned my heart in disapproving silence.
I’d felt fried in hot oil by “your baby deserves better than you,”
and now here was the  flip-side:  “who abandons her child?”
A shame sandwich.
The girl I used to be gets snuffed out in the squeeze.

027

In the years that followed I would put away my typewriter and pens and wordy dreams
and decide I didn’t fit with the fresh faced girls at the beautiful college campus where I’d won a second chance
with an essay and a visit to the dean to explain why my high school transcripts
bled with red pen as well.
I found my place instead in the world of nature and greenhouses and flowers and fields,
places that didn’t look too hard beyond the dirt and clay of me.
I would build a life with my limp and keep to the edges,
always a little on the outside.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Now It’s March 2010 and I’m driving to Greensboro through the slushy white of a rare late snowfall.
I hold on my lap a birthday gift for Allison that I’ll deliver to Edith in person this time.
I need to walk through those doors and put my eyes on the voice at the other end of the line,
on the one who reads and approves and mails off my packages to Amanda.
This is the voice that has assured me that she still welcomes my offerings,
doesn’t find them intrusive – I’ve asked and Edith says keep writing.
She relays Allison’s gentle words of thanks.
She is still not ready to respond.

I’m learning to keep my palms up and the openness hurts like a wound un-bandaged
but something free is happening in these wild and vulnerable places,
coming back to life as I unpack my love for her and these shards of my soul shut down.
Each time I dive down to find another pearl to send her,
I recover a part of myself as I pick up my pens again and really,  really write.

And as I pull into Greensboro,  I’m looking for something that I can’t define.

Edith meets us in the parlor and and I find myself searching her face for traces of Rose’s.
I ache to see it.  A picture?  Something in her file?
It’s been over two years and I haven’t heard back.
I wonder what I thought I might discover by coming
and pull some air back into the hollow of a powerful heartache
as I realize I won’t find it here today.
I’m still knocking.

I want to come inside.

048

“You thought you’d left it all behind
You thought you’d up and gone
But all you did was figure out
How to take the long way home.”
– Roseanne Cash

I won’t leave you here,  I promise.
Thanks for coming along for the ride;  this summer series is setting something loose in me.

Cheesecake with cherries and I won’t go away….

119
I want a quick time-out to say plain what this story is not.
I’m not moralizing;  don’t have an agenda.
If I ever carry a sign,  it would be to champion hope
.
Women face impossible decisions and need a tender grace,
not oversimplified,  whitewashed shoulds.
I’m pro-life.  Pro-choice.  Pro-solution.  Pro-people.

There isn’t a whisp of politics about any of this;
I’m just telling my story with tender care to offer some hope and healing.
Yup.  That’s all.  Back to the story;)

Now they’ve gone silent.
I email the address they’ve given,  eager to know how she is.
I don’t hear back.  For days I reach and get no reply.
A week passes and something rumbles hard inside – an ancient, angry ache.
I make a bold phone call and finally get a person who will take the time.
Her name is Edith and  her voice is soft as I tell her,  gentle but firm,  that I won’t go away.
She hears me and my voice grows taller.  They have their politics and I will respect
but I want them to know that I’m here.  For her.  In whatever way she welcomes.
She  is no longer a child and I won’t go away.  Not unless Allison says.

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I have written her the first letter and Edith suggests that she wants to write back.
My heart can barely hold still when a week before Christmas they call to say that her letter to me has been mailed.
It arrives on December 23 – I’ve popped out for awhile and my husband phones to say that it’s on the kitchen table.
I get lost on the short trip home,  driving the wrong way up a one way street and stand up a lunch date
who will later forgive me and offer the name of a good counselor:)

She is beautiful.  More deeply,  genuinely beautiful than I can describe.
Her words paint  pictures that I’ve longed to see…..her childhood,  her passions,  her heart.
I wallow in the moment and linger between the lines,  finding grace in nooks and crannies.
Edith tells me that Allison has said of my letter,  “She writes like I think,” and  I’m bowled over by hers.
She is so my girl:)
My heart swells with love and thanks and I’m eager to reply.
Christmas comes and goes like a dream and I send off a second letter,
this one typed up quick and scuttled off like a text.
I’ve loved these first shy lines to each other and I scurry to show that I’m in.
I’m in,  Dear Allison.  So very.

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I await her response and Valentine’s candy appears on the store shelves.
I scoop up some chocolate  for her as I do for each of my lovies….will send some sweets her way
and it wows my heart  that I get to do this now!  It’s crazy joy:)
I don’t tell many just yet; these are tender beginnings and I sense the need to walk in whisper.
And I feel keen their shadow,  like a monitor standing over my shoulder
and I hope to wriggle free and reach out to my daughter on my own terms.
But I’m full up with gratitude and delicious hope and another month passes.
Her birthday is approaching;  I’m actually going to get to send
a birthday package for her 30th.  For the first time ever – my heart is turning sommersaults.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I’ve celebrated each of her birthdays.  Always with roses.  Rose – it’s the secret name I gave her.
And with cheesecake topped with shiny red cherry pie filling from a can.
It’s what I craved when I carried her and I imagine somehow that she loves it,  too.
I realize I’m new to her but she has been with me for all her days,
present in my heart at each family pray,  forever on my mind.
At night,  when my husband and I say our love over each of our kids,  she has been included in mine.
In a way I cannot understand,  we feel her.

When my daughter Hannah was 4,  she’d come to me and asked, “where is my sister?”
She’d sensed her, in the sweet intuitive way of a finely tuned child.
I’d gone pale and completely botched the moment; it was piss-poor parenting
and fresh fuel for the shame that often struck me dumb or babbling.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I try to side-step this same shame that hunts me now as I wrap my heart around her coming birthday
and wonder what I could ever give that would be enough for the first gift she’ll ever receive from me.
I’m haunted by all that I’ve missed  and feeling it sorely.
I’ve been 30 years warned to stay away. Leave her to those she deserves.
I feel like I’m high atop a building and walking a line;  one slip and I may lose her again.

126
“I overheard the man whisper, ‘I am a lover not a fighter,’
and to myself I thought,  I am in fact both.
For is it love at all
if it’s not worth fighting for?”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

I’m posting this Summer series bite by bite
and I realize I ricochet all over and around with this story
but it feels real this way
and I want to tell it true.
I appreciate your kindness and your company along.
Just so much:)

 

The story of “they”……

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My childhood ended the night my water broke on a cold hospital floor.
Mortified, I quickly apologized to the nurse who walked in
and questioned,   eyes still on her chart,
“You’re still giving this baby up?”
It was brisk business.

“Yes,”  the word comes from the far back of my throat and I’m embarassed by the sound.
She raises a syringe to my arm and rubs vigorous with wet cotton
that smells like my pediatritian’s office.
“This will help dry up your milk.”
Dry up.  I know these words.  They mean don’t feel so hard.  Don’t say too much.
Stay small.  And sweet.  And agreeable.  A shot to help me be agreeable.
Let’s all just get through this as pleasantly as possible,  they seem to say.
But this doesn’t feel like Becky and Patty anymore.

I’d moved in across the street from their families
the Summer before second grade and we’d quickly become friends.
Becky showed me the picture of her home-going
one hot afternoon while we played inside with paperdolls.
There were two smiling parents standing on a white covered porch,   a baby safeheld in their arms.
“So you’re adopted,”  my mind wrapped around the idea as I took in the happy of her room.
“Yes,  and Patty next door,  too.”   Patty,  whose Mom’s quick smile filled the kitchen while she fried bologna slices and offered more tea.
I loved their home.  And the way my name sounded when her Dad said it warm,
like I was more than a guest at their house.
It hasn’t been so terribly long ago since he drove us to matinees and little league.

I can see their houses from the window when I hear the results of my pregnancy test.

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The weeks that follow are a hard tumble on some heavy rocks and I agonize.
This is an impossible decision.  I don’t see a  win-win……there just isn’t one for me.
I call them – the place where Becky and Patty’s parents smiled.  I picture again their birthday parties
and scavenger hunts, shiny roller skates and the tree house that their Dad’s together built.
They of the porch sound kind on the phone and will become a strong voice in my ear
as my belly grows.
They are the matronly ones that knock on my door for the nine months before she is gone
and each week the last several of my pregnancy.  The ones sent to support my choice for adoption
with words like “unfit” and “unwed” – the ones who assure that everyone isn’t meant to be a mother.

They have come to harvest my baby.  At least that’s what I feel,  but I don’t say the words.
My own voice goes clinched like a fist holding on because I’ve made up my mind
and I hate them for trying to take what I’ve already decided to give.
A new family is going to be born and I won’t be a part.
I am the outsider;  they coach me on my role.
It’s my job to disappear.  They will not offer me a shot for this.

It’s a difficult delivery and I spend hours in recovery before I’m wheeled back into the room where they will come with the papers.
I cannot stop crying and send them away.  I read the impatient fear in their eyes and feel the push,
the press, the please don’t screw this up.
I can feel how anxious they are to not disappoint parents. Her parents.
But I can’t sign right now.  Come back tomorrow.  It’s not going to happen like this.
I won’t be stripped of her.  I call Brother B.

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This grandfatherly man is my pastor.  I haven’t known him long but right now he is my lifeline and I need him to come.
He does and pulls on gloves and gown and,  with him,  they roll her little bed out into the hall and let me take her.
B is patient as I push her cart,  carrying her with my eyes,  to the sterile room where I offer her my finger and she holds on tight.
He begins to pray out loud and I dig down deep to say my heart to the One who I believe is listening with love.
“I’m not giving her away.  I’m not,  dammit.  And they’re not taking her.  I give her to you.  Take care of her,  please.”
And so it is done.

I don’t meet their eyes when I finally sign.   I don’t answer later when they call to see how I am.
How do they think I am?  I’m bereft and between.  I’m counting days,  suspended;  I have 28 of them to change my mind
and I will myself through each one.
I want her waiting to be over…..for her parents to have and hold her wholeheartedly.
For her to belong.  I busy myself against the pain.
I have become in every way un-fit.  I don’t fit anywhere,  an outsider.
I avoid old friends.  I’m a face person and I read too much on theirs.
And I see babies everywhere.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
Now,  29 years later,  they are calling again and they want information fast.
My head  swims and I buckle just a little with each wave,  but I’ll ride them in time and with joy.
I’ve been on the out and life has tossed me a line,  offering to pass her a note inside.
They’ve let me send an e-mail.  Medical advice.  But she needs more from me.  I know it.
She needs to know my whys.

“I want to write her a letter.”

I’ve held my love up quiet for three decades,
waiting for a door and it has opened.
I will be censored, every line scanned for approval,  but I’m free at last to write
and I begin to push my pen and shave off tender portions of me
to offer Dear Allison.

field melt

(So much back story,  I know.  But I can’t tell it any other way.  I’ll wrap ’round and ’round
the staircase until it’s told,  this Summer series.  Hold my hand if you get dizzy;  we’ll steady each other:)
Thanks for being along.)

“But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the greatest losses in your life?
Is that good news,  or bad news,  or both?  The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will get over
crushing losses means that our emotional GPS never finds true north,  as it is based on maps that never mention
the most important places we have been to.  Pretending that things are neatly boxed up and put away
robs us of great riches.”
– Anne Lamott

To write through the window…………

046
The windows are open to a warm October afternoon
as the phone rings and I’m startled  by the sound of the roar in my head
as my eyes land on the caller ID and see my hand  lift the receiver.
Children’s Home Society of N.C.
I answer in slow motion,
feeling the turn of the earth as a season changes.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
She’d just turned 18 the last time I’d spoken with the adoption agency that had placed my child
and I was the one calling.
At last she was “of age” and I could finally offer what I’d held heart-tight
for her until then,
could say my love and I’m sorry and how are you and I’m here.

No,  I’d been told.  The records are sealed.  Permanently.
The heavy weight of the words I’d signed in my childhood landed hard,
a door politely slammed on my heart.

But I may,  they’d offered,
in the pleasant way of a helpful customer service rep,
send a note to be sealed in her file.

I wrote my heart out that day,
raw already from wrestling to prepare my other kids for this,
hoping I’d told them well,  that they might comprehend the impossible,
not be singed by the shame that had branded me –
wanting them to feel secure and understand my heart,
to feel her wanted-ness and their own.
I was afraid of hurting someone.  Of hurting everyone.

And aching for connection so that she could finally hold the whole of her story,  beloved.
That she feel the light that I kept burning for her…..for the all of her,
her life and parents and story and song.  For her own unique way.
I’d trembled over what may need to be faced,
but strong love overrode the fear
and reached out anyway,
smacking hard into a door,
closed and sealed.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~

But the windows are open this day in October;
we are all eleven years older
and I answer and turn sharp onto the road that I travel today.

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“I’m calling because of the note you left in her file.”
It had been a persuasive invitation to come get me if ever they please could see a reason.
They had seen one.
“We’ve waived a court order because of your note; she is sick and needs her medical history.”
It was urgent;  would I please comply.
Yes,  yes,  my maternity lunges forward,  and suddenly I am fully a mother,
rushing toward her crying child.

Listening intently to the description the woman from the agency gives of her symptoms,
I recognized them as familiar struggles to my mother,  my sister and I.
“Tell her,”  I plunge in,  and my words flow quick and steady like a ticker tape,
my voice barely supporting the pounding of my heart.

“Will you let me write her,”  I ask.

The next day the voice calls back, warmer this time, to take the information I’ve gathered.
“We’re going to let you send us an e-mail.
We’ll cut and paste and remove all identifying information
and pass it along to Allison.”

Allison.  I’m hearing her name and it’s music and mountains
and everything I’ve missed.
I hold it like a gift that I’ve been given.

And so I’m swept once more to the wide nursery window where I’d last stood 29 years ago
watching someone else hold and rock and feed my baby girl
while I pressed my face against the cold hard of the glass,
tracing her tiny features with my eyes until I could know
and store them away.

This is how it came to be that, eight Octobers ago,  I again pressed my heart up firm against the glass
and began to write through the window….

window box

I’m taking this Summer to share a story long in the living
because it’s shame and hope and grace and love and we all dance with these,
and it’s only in the lonesome that the shame gets it’s teeth.
I’ve written a smidge of back story….you can find it here.
I’ll fill in the spaces as the courage comes.

Be back with a fresh one next week.  Thanks for sharing the road
and for your patience as I wobble through:)

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story.
It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t stand being shared.
Shame loves secrecy.  When we bury our story,  the shame metastisizes.”
– Brene Brown