I am writing a book from a subjective point of view.
The editing process will sand away the raw edges, provide depth and context, and the bits that don’t make it into the book will pop up here, on my blog.
Writing is brain surgery, all of it is struggling with sweeping extremes of emotion in digging out these memories to put to ink.
My life story begins with the adoption, but proceeds beyond that to the abuse, and negligence, of parenting in the seventies and eighties. I halfheartedly believe that my adoptive parents were well-intention-ed – just deeply misguided and continuing into toxic abusive responses when I struggle to engage with them on their attitudes towards myself and others.
I feel that the abuses inherent in the systems of adoption are to blame for the lack of oversight, the emotional manipulation – it takes a township to hush up a pregnancy.
I do not know the specifics of my real mother’s experience. This is not a book about that – I am not here to tell her story. But I must necessarily provide some context for my story, where it began and diverged from hers. Do I know her? I am not sure.
It is essential for me that I complete this manuscript in a kind of search for her and the appeasement of that search, that perhaps the journey to meet her is the punctuation of this process. It is difficult to approach these thoughts in my mind head-on, to keep them in memory (and avoid the thoughts of kittens, satellites, toothache, memory of hummingbirds, nectarines) overpower and derail my desire to push together some narrative identity anchored in the world, in a place – among other flesh and blood, kith and kin.
I feel strongly that it is a hunger in the skin – deeper than my conscious mind – a twitchy need, that drives me… a sensation, like too much coffee late in the day,, that creeps out when I am alone, and silent.
I wrote this piece intending to explain how difficult it is to speak of adoption in an evenhanded way – I understand that it draws well-intentioned people to find safe homes for infants and kids, that the homes are often better than an alternative state care. It is made more distressing by the undue burdens of identity crisis placed on the individuals through the confounding nature of state by state law implementations regarding adoption.
As an institution, it provides cover for all manner of abuse, and often bizarre legal quandaries experienced decades after the adoption occurred. At the moment, the most disturbing of these is the deportation of trans-national adoptees, brought over as infants into American families, then deported late in life because the adoptive parents never did federal paperwork to finalize citizenship. Adoption as a response to abortion: those kids who live as testimonials to their parents supposedly selfless and godly decisions to not abort, and what it is to carry the thought of being a result – rather than a child. Adoption as transracial, as transnational, and the strange relationships with family secrets, with performance of normality, the confounding nature of existence when even the reality your understand feels constructed.
It is difficult to have empathy for adopters and yet still see adoption at its worst as a perpetuation of genocidal intent. It is most difficult to explain my disaffection for the sect of evangelical Christianity that I left, feeling it to be a kind of cult and (years later) recognizing it as the veil that kept the abuse I’d suffered as a child from the perception of the legal authorities that might have intervened and removed me from the family to which I had been assigned. The school I went to also incorporated corporal punishment, something I now believe is physical child abuse, but at the time was accepted practice.
Even now, when I write about the ‘spankings’ that were part of daily life in my childhood, I remember the strikes and my skin on the backs of my thighs light up with twitchy tenderness. My skin remembers the beating.
All my hours were accounted for in chores and labor, or in education. It was most intense the two years I was home-schooled, wherein I learned how to cheat my way through workbooks quickly to leech out what little free reading time I could get. I felt even as a child that my purpose in the family was to be a servant, a worker, always available. I was fired from my first job at the age of ten, when my adoptive father said he would no longer pay me to be the janitor at his business. That I was a bad janitor, and wasn’t doing a good enough job cleaning his toilet and windows at the aircraft hanger where he owned and operated “Xecutive Airmotive.”
Of course being valued for only certain traits, and struggling to hide traits that I knew were unwanted, was part of the psychological scaring that prevents me from assailing headlong into the problems knotted in my psyche. Plots of films like “Flirting With Disaster” (1997), “The Truman Show” (1998), or the melodramatic arcs of “This Is Us” (2017) are ways to get into the emotional ambiguities of adoption experience without going into the specific memories, that are often overwhelmingly painful to relive.
I am equally likely to be caught up in tears while watching “Muppets From Space” (1999) as I am any of the other productions I mentioned, and as of this writing I haven’t made it past the pilot episode of “This Is Us,” possibly making me a bad adoptee.
Much of my book will be me dealing with the notion of being a “bad adoptee.”