I even have a superstition that has grown on me
as the result of invisible hands
coming all the time..
Namely, that if you follow your bliss
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while,
waiting for you.
And the life that you ought to be living,
is the one you ARE living.
-joseph campbell

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Believing in Love

Spring is all around us now, reminding us how it was never really gone at all, just hidden away, for a time, unable to show it's face in the shadow of winter's force and power. But given a chance, Spring will begin again.

During this time when what has been hidden and thought to be lost returns, fresh and more beautiful than we remembered, I find myself thinking of the other people who have loved my daughters. Other people. Other Springs. Other countries. Other lives.

There is some disagreement in the adoption community about whether or not we should tell our daughters from China they were loved by their birth parents. I think the West romanticizes love too much. I think we put love in a box. I don't think we really know what love is. Most of us have never have our love for anyone put to the kind of test which would cause us to expand our definition of the word.

Cami, at age 4 and a half, is already asking about her birth mother. "Why didn't she keep me"? There are many things I cannot tell her for sure about her mother, but I can tell her that she carried her, warm and safe, in her womb for 9 months. Because Cami was a healthy baby, other than her cleft, her birth mother probably ate very well and stayed healthy, likely out of concern for the baby within.

I can also tell Cami she was loved in China by the women who kept this tiny cleft baby alive, and not just alive, but thriving, in a bleak, despairingly poor orphanage. Yes, she was loved. I believe in this kind of love without hesitation.

Delilah's story is different. She lived two years with a foster family. We visited them when we went to China to adopt her, and their love, devotion, care, and grief shook the foundations of everything I previously believed about adoption. I can tell Delilah she was loved. We looked into the eyes of the family who loved her. We saw them fall to the ground in grief. We held their hands. And ultimately, we took their baby across the ocean. We took the best they had. And I am haunted by the brutality of that event. Damages done. We were unknowingly part of a disaster of kharmic proportion. In the name of Love.

And now, I find all these people living in my head. The unknown mothers, the nannies, the foster family. The names don't come close to describing what they did and who they are to us, even now and for all time forward. They became part of us when the small child connected to them joined our family.

During these days of early Spring, I hear their voices and I see their eyes, their veined hands and bowed heads, bending over, tending to a child, my child, and then looking up with surprise, to find the child has gone.

I just read a novel by Lorrie Moore, called "A Gate at the Stairs". It is the story of a college girl who was hired as a nanny by a family preparing to adopt. Ultimately, the child cannot remain with the family and the nanny is no longer needed either. But the connection with the child will stay with her and she speaks eloquently of the connection between all the people who love a child:

"A little later in life, when this time seemed distant and shrunken, and every friendship from it had dwindled, I would encounter many women with stories sadder than Sarah's (foster mother)......Still, it wasn't, strictly speaking, Sarah's story. In the end I felt it belonged as much or more to Mary-Emma, whom, I realized, I had never stopped unconsciously to seek, riveted by little girls who would be her age in stores and malls and parks........

Mary Emma, a little girl with four women wondering after her, looking for her, sort of, without her even knowing. That was love of the most useless kind, unless you believed in love's power to waft in from a burning sky to the unseen grass it had designated as its beloved, unless you believed in the prayers of faraway nuns, unless you believed in miracles and magic, rapture and dice and Sufic chants and charms behind curtains and skillful clouds at smoky, unfathomable distances.

When I imagined all of these women with their hearts seeking and beaming their futile, worthless love through the air toward Mary-Emma, I pictured them all in a line, part search party, part refugee camp, and in my mind I set them on a path that went over hill and over dale and even on into meadows and trees.

Of course I was with them. "