Guy on the Train: London 1980

English: Gower Street sign, Camden, London WC1

English: Gower Street sign, Camden, London WC1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily Prompt: Come Fly with Me

Share a story about the furthest you’ve ever traveled from home.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/daily-prompt-travels-2/

The guy on the train.

I had been schooled: “In America, people say ‘come on over’ or ‘I’ll meet you next week’, but they don’t mean it.”

Even the book “Let’s Go–England” (a 70’s copy found in a Laundromat) told me that if  invited somewhat casually, with no follow up plan, to a location, it would be considered rude not to show up.  This would be the farthest from home I had ever traveled, and the last thing I wanted to be was rude.

The other thing that I failed to learn by reading the travel books was the train ticket advice…you will need your ticket to get off the train. Simple enough, right? It wasn’t as if I was accustomed to train travel (at least not yet, anyway), so I didn’t have any bad habits to break.

On a train from Gatwick  (ultimate destination, Gower Street via the Goodge street station) I had the weariness and exhilaration that accompanies the completion of a long trek.  I wouldn’t have needed this next-to-final leg of the journey had I flown into Heathrow, but I saved hundreds of dollars, and I met ‘the poet.’

He sits across from me and says ‘hello’ with an English accent so thick I had no idea what in God’s name he was saying. Since the plane was full of Americans, this was my first sip of the UK and I intended to drink deeply.

It was all that I expected. It sounded beautiful and I listened intently, picking up a bit here and there. He seemed fascinated that I was American, and I was fascinated at his fascination, among other things.

He told me he was a poet and I said I kinda was too.  We dug through our belongings. In a moment he came up with a journal out of a worn, cotton messenger bag. I pawed through  my luggage to get mine. I was also packing a Martin guitar in a massive hard shell case, an over-sized soft sided suitcase that said “parental property” all over it, and a purse. Nothing had wheels and I checked my passport (purse) and guitar every eight minutes.

We shared a few poems, and had that non-verbal agreement that writers sometimes have: Yes, these are poems.  It is so embarrassing when someone hands you something that doesn’t seem like a poem to you. I was glad I didn’t have to manufacture some kind of reaction, I was way too tired for that. I had been awake for 19 hours, in the air for 9 of them, and I was having alcohol while severely dehydrated. I wasn’t buzzed, drunk or stoned. I was crazy, but I didn’t yet know it.

The ride was less than an hour and we exchanged numbers, mine, the student number for the house at 35 Gower street.  I spoke to him on the phone a few times but this caused some issues with a boyfriend or two…ahh, the jealousies of youth!

When the train stopped, I went to hop out and the conductor asked for my ticket.  I was wearing my cape and had no pockets, and I was so struck by the ride and my new poet friend that I was flustered and near tears while searching my purse and the bag that held the poems.

A hand reached out behind me holding a pale yellow ticket. The sans-serif font explained my destination to the conductor and to the world. It was as if I was freed from incarceration, the endorphin release brought the tears the rest of the way.

The hand belonged, of course, to my new literary cohort, who had come to the front of the train to see what the commotion was about. We had already said our goodbyes, simple and sincere. Now came an awkward moment and a final glance that I was sure revealed my craziness in full bloom. The last look I saw from him can only be described by the word poignant. I probably looked a little desperate, that would be the kindest word for the moment.

Map of Gower Street

Map of Gower Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We had a few phone times, me on the Gower street phone where the whole house could hear even the slightest whisper; he on a pay phone in a little red booth that I got to see in a Polaroid photo he later sent me.

He sent me a few love poems but it was not “like that”; he wanted to share critiques and, while we were close in age, I believe he felt a little fatherly towards me, writing-wise. If this girl couldn’t get off the train by herself…

After a few phone calls and failed meeting attempts and new, exciting adventures supplanting this one, we stopped talking.  But he that was the boy who helped me validate myself me as a writer, by way of my first European peer review.

Weeks after we met I realized he must have paid a hefty few pounds for me to exit the train (what the delay hoopla was about). In a pocket in my sweater was the pale yellow ticket with the sans-serif font.

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Original mother’s right to privacy-a crumbling wall? Is that bad?

Open Records emblem used in Adoptee Rights Pro...

Open Records emblem used in Adoptee Rights Protest, New Orleans, 2008, artist: D. Martin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IT STARTED IN EARNEST WITH ONE BLOG:

It  began with the blog: Adoption Restoration. Brought to my attention due to some common Facebook “likes,”  I traveled along with Deanna Shrodes and her brand new fist –full-of-followers. I liked that the author was a co-pastor, with her husband, of a large church in Tampa, just across the Gandy bridge from my Eckerd college home,
St. Petersburg, Florida.

In the next few weeks, I read the 16 part series Deanna wrote about her own experience,  and I found myself thinking “this woman is either my soul mate or a nut.”

It was during this period I was startled by the news that six states now allow adult adoptees to obtain their judgement of adoption. I did not know exactly what a “judgement of adoption” meant, but I knew if my state allowed it, I needed to see it. Although I had been writing about my own adoption for about a year, I was blissfully naive about current law, the direction the law was heading, and the struggle many adoptees and original (birth) mothers face.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway and The American Adoption Congress – Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon have open adoption records. This means that an adoptee can receive copies of their adoption file without restriction once the adoptee turns 18. All that is required is the filing of a simple application. There are other states that allow an adoptee to have access to some information and documentation, but with restrictions. -Carrie Craft-about.com.

I had an experience with a sealed record once before.   My sister (read about her here) offered to show me her daughter’s “record.”  My heart did a little skip-beat. I guess it was my own youth responsible for my reaction, thinking for a moment that I was about to get some insight into my beautiful, smart niece with the lovely voice; and vicariously, some insight into myself.  All the words were blacked out except “Dutch.”  Dutch! I didn’t care about the blacked out words, this one single word, with heritage attached, was very exciting to me. I was about 22.

ABOUT A MONTH AGO…

I see an article explaining my entitlement to a copy of “my” judgement of adoption.” I call the number listed and a very helpful woman with a kind voice answered my initial questions. I told her I was sensitive to the birth parents right to privacy, which she referred to as “a crumbling wall.”

“I checked our databases and it appears that our agency provided a report to the court for you adoption but did not actually process your adoption.  Therefore, you are not eligible for our Registry as we do not have additional information about your adoption.  Contacting the Monmouth County Surrogate is your best option to see if you are able to obtain more information about your adoption.  There are additional registry and search resources available online if you would like to look into them…some include www.adoption.com, www.adoptiondatabase.org and www.gsadoptionregistry.com.” -Elizabeth Carr, Adoption Registry Unit-State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families-Division of Child Protection and Permanency

A couple of phone calls and weeks later (this stuff takes nothing but patience), a clerk from the county surrogate’s office, Jackie, explained to me that in NJ, one could pay $15 to get a petition to “break seal” but that essentially, the law is the law. In the kindest possible way, she was saying “Save your money, honey.”

The questioning reporter that is in me (one of the 25 jobs) kicked in. I sensed that my time on the phone was running short. I asked “Is my record, my sealed record, in the building you are in?” I explained that I wanted to perhaps take a photo of the building, zoom into the into the room…into the filing cabinet.

“Yes it is.”

I wanted to get as close to the information as legally possible, to understand the boundaries.  Most of all, I wanted to understand.

(To be continued…)

What Baby Veronica has to do with you and me.

My cousin and me.

My cousin and me, just because..

ABOUT ME

My birth mother’s right to privacy was all I ever thought about.

  • Not because my parents told me I was chosen. (They did).
  • Not because I wasn’t curious about my “roots.”  (I was).

For me, it was something more primal. I knew there were two children before me (my sisters), and a baby that lived less than two days.

I knew in my heart that I didn’t replace that baby, but oh how I wanted to!

A couple of times, I  jumped out of my self-indulgent fantasy-land to consider the thoughts, motivations and feeling of others.  As early as first grade, my friend Karen gave me thoughts about my Original mother, discussed here:http://wp.me/p2GNGE-cb

Although I didn’t yet  have the experience and  language skills to express this thought, I already knew I had the power to hurt George and Bernice, and that was the last thing I ever wanted to do.

I wanted to be the best, most obedient, cooperative child in the world, early on, so that they’d keep me, later;  so that I could fill the void created by their lost child. I wanted to fill a void that I thought GOD HIMSELF created! Good thing I didn’t also suffer from delusions of grandeur!

Years later I would read about the Baby Scoop Era and became paranoid. I believed that my original mother was somewhere out there, hurting, and that I was the only person who held the key to end her suffering.

See what happened here? I went from ending her suffering by NOT (bothering her, outing her, searching for her, acknowledging her existence ) to being pretty sure that I was the one person in the universe that could provide her with some healing.

What does this have to do with baby Veronica?

Because it matters what YOU think, and it matters what I think. But who will know if we don’t talk about it?

I have read the court documents and there are too many things that just don’t match up for me to see this biological father not having his kid.

As a community, we spend much time rehashing the past. It is time we make some idealistic goals and laws that have to do with the way it is today and move forward.

Every adoptive parent fears that someone will walk in the door and steal their baby. Is it because a faulty broken system made it their baby in the first place?

Does this mean that I think there should be no adoption? Of course not. Does it mean that I think “tough luck” to the infertile couple waiting for a baby to put into their new, shiny nursery? Don’t be silly.

Babies are not commodities and should not be bought, sold or legislated as such.   Technology changing mores, add to this picture but do not complete the picture.  The  industry that is adoption grows exponentially as we are unwilling or unable to stop it, partly because we are  unable to see it for what it has become.

MORE ABOUT ME

I write generally non-controversial self deprecating reminiscence and avoid political confrontation. (But hey, government! What’s up?). I like to post pictures of kittens and strange pairings of animals. I feel compelled to speak because the world is a changing place, and the time is ripe for  compassion and reason to be part of the remodel.

BACK TO VERONICA, NO LONGER A BABY

I tend to think that no matter what media/court records we are privy to, we never have enough facts to weigh in on situations.  I play devil’s advocate a lot. I like it if I can make you think/rethink you opinions. But what do I think about baby Veronica?

I think she is being stolen. Do the people that have her love her? Can they provide “the best” home?  I am sure they love her. But there is something a little off I in their story/behavior. And I think we need to rethink what “the best home” means.

In America, it seems that “the best home” means 2 children with 2 heterosexual parents, a minivan with a “My Kid Is An Honor Student” bumper-sticker and a ‘soccer-mom’ doing the driving. Again I find myself saying “Don’t be silly.” What is your idea of “the best home?” Hopefully it is your own home, and we are all trying to do the very best we can.

HOW CAN I HELP?

  • Work to improve the lives of all children. By doing so, you will touch the lives of adoptees!
  • Learn the laws in your state. For example,  my state just did this: http://www.nj-care.org/  An admittedly biased link, I chose it because it is a local example portraying a step in the proper direction.  Agree or not, contact your representatives and see how they vote.
  • Compare laws with other states. See if they are superior. Strive for best practices.

I hear people often lamenting that they don’t have the time, or money, to make a difference. Here is an opportunity where you really can, even if you have never thought about the subject before. Start by Googling “what happens to adoptee records in my state 2013.” Read it and see if it seems right to get involved.

Links related to this subject:

Oh and if you haven’t, please read my post about the puzzle cube, originally posted here:

http://dontwelookalike.com/2013/06/10/suggesting-a-new-image-for-adoption/  It was inspired by a family of bloggers who share a wide variety of thoughts and opinions on the topics of open and closed adoptions.  Thanks!

Ahhh joo mo nee! I am your Aunt!

English: typical epicanthic fold, at a Korean boy

English: typical epicanthic fold, at a Korean boy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After several childless years and numerous invasive tests, I was finally going to get a new nephew! (I mean, the tests were on my sister, the process invaded the whole family). He was three when he came to America from Korea via Holt International. His new, deeply Christian, deeply Catholic mom navigated through the labyrinth of questions, several rounds of them, designed to weed out (from the faith-based organization) adoptions that would award children to heathens, homosexuals and whores. Their literature didn’t say it, it was easy to read between the lines.

Once we had a date, there was an agonizing six-month period, where we had his picture hung on all our refrigerators and little else to do but wait and pray. We might have been heathens but we weren’t superstitious! During this time, I cross stitched a pillow with his Korean name on it, shaped like a boy doll.  I also bought a giant, colorful picture book about where adopted babies come from, geared for a very young child. My new nephew would never receive these controversial gifts. The book I understood, but the doll would be a sensitive point for a long time.

Part of what went on during the half-year wait for his arrival was that I decided to learn Korean. I wanted to be the favorite Aunt, and thought this leg-up on communication would seal the deal. The cassette tape I had to learn with had the phrase “I am your Aunt.” It didn’t matter that I took 6 years of French and could only ask “where is the bathroom?”  Foreign languages were not my thing, but I was going to tell this baby I was his Aunt! I listened to the tape faithfully, daily, but never learned or retained another phrase.

When the phone call came, there was little time to make the final arrangements. There was a baby shower and a lot of speculation regarding the dietary requirements of Asian three-year olds. Another sore point: I didn’t get to go to the airport. Of course I realize now that they didn’t want an overwhelming throng there, but I was sad to miss, not my nephews’ arrival so much as my sister’s reaction to it. You don’t get many opportunities in your life to see someone get the thing they want most.

I couldn’t go see him the day he arrived (overwhelming throng avoidance, again) but the next day I went. There was a big home-made banner (before the age of store-bought storks) the size of their house. Despite having studied his picture for so long, he was about a zillion times bigger than I expected!. He had one of those annoying flute things where you pull the wand out as you blow. My sister took it away from him, and put it out of reach on the refrigerator. He let out a yell to have it back, but not before he glimpsed at his own picture and smiled.

He was a happy little three year old, a good little kid. The only time I remember him crying is when I would ask him, (in increasingly louder tones, so he could understand me), “Ahhh joo mo nee?”

My first published poem or, don’t judge a contest by its money.

There was a college poetry contest. Submit up to 3 poems. First prize: $100. Two more $25 prizes. Your poem printed in the spring literary magazine. Having switched majors for the third time (Education, Psychology, Creative Writing) I desperately needed this win. I craved acceptance from the other writers, real writers whose rucksacks were two years heavier than mine, containing the hard copies that proved they were writers. We didn’t have hard drives, the five and a quarter inch floppy was just a vision, and everyone carried everything they ever wrote, with them, everywhere they ever went. You could have a fire, you know.  

I had been writing since second grade, where I received accolades for my poem “Johnny Tremain”  Johnny Tremain was a figure in American History and my gritty poem about his severely burned hand got an “A”. I enjoyed the praise of my teacher. After we read our poems she gave us cookies.

Another incidence of praise: Seventh grade, first day, the dreaded Miss Gaskins explained her grading system . ”All papers will get a number, from one to eight. But be aware, I don’t give eights.” (This was great preparation for corporate performance reviews, where there is always a top number to strive for but the number has never appeared on anyone’s performance review that you’ve ever known). I got one of her precious eights, and to me it equaled the Pulitzer.

The contest money would be fun to have, but I wanted to see my name in print on the shiny glossy page of the literary mag. My peers would cheer!  My high school chess friends, all halfway through their engineering majors by now, would cheer! My parents….well…they would never read this poem!  In their view, poetry was nice, but wasn’t I going teach? It didn’t help that this particular poem was rated M for mature audiences.

As The Albert Howard Carter III Memorial Poetry Contest deadline loomed near, I readied my two poems, plus a third, a lengthy, full-page poem that lived in my notebook and in my chest.  Everyone was talking about the Roe Vs Wade decision, and I thought a timely poem that included birth control as its main theme would certainly get my writing enough attention to catch me up to those in junior class.

When the announcement came that I won second place, I was elated. I quickly adjusted my expectations – I was going to see my poem in print! And not just mimeographed!  Peter Meinke  would be proud of me, he was like a beloved Uncle to all of us, and I loved him like a family friend, if that family friend sat you outside under the blooming jacarandas and fed you beer. Howard Carter  would be proud of me! I loved him because he “walked the talk.”  Sterling Watson  would be….well…Sterling would always be Sterling. I valued his opinions like no other. He had written a book I loved, Weep No More My Brother,  and he was reading words I wrote. It was all very heady stuff for a 20 year old.

Loyal readers have probably guessed by now that I didn’t get to see my poem in print. Only the first place poem was printed, a poem written by a girl I didn’t even know. I went to school with less than 1500 kids, we all knew each other! They gave me my $25 in a check I couldn’t cash. (Checking accounts for students were novelties. You had your laundry money).

Although by now I was going by Jaye full time, I signed the poem by my legal name, Janet.  I needed to make sure the Pulitzer committee could find me. This is not sarcasm.  I still have these poems, typed on semi-transparent onion skin paper. We couldn’t erase but we did have correct-o-type. Ask your grandparents. It took hours to get it right, and even now my musty, yellowed onion skin copy has a single typo in it.

Without further doodoo, I give you:

The Pill Obsession from Three to Midnight

the mommy takes a pill

counting, one more time,

to be sure there hadn’t been two

or three, and three

flashing amber lights disturb an otherwise

black and white afternoon

the children, filling the neighborhood with noise

pulling dandelions for mothers

the bus sighs, relieved of its burden

and at four,

she timed the roast

dried the socks

and mopped the bathroom floor

child number one

banged Indian chords on an untuned piano

as number two rubbed the cats hair

the wrong way

and the mommy ponders,

did  I take my pill today, my pill

and at five the daddy comes home

and turns up the anchorwoman loud

beer tops form tinkling little sounds

the cans, white ringed scars, as

Eastern Standard takes its toll

the sun sets and the phone rings at six:

“it’s Grandma!”

shouts the daughter (number two)

“and she says you said you were

thawing a pork today”

mommy swallows Anacin

“and she says to tell you

To make sure you cook it good”

after the phone clicks the mommy screams

over the timer TV snoring

“TELL GRANMA IF SHE WANTS TO EAT A GODDAMNED OLD DRIED UP PIECE OF MEAT…”

the evening crawls up quick, dark,

quieter, now that the crickets have gone

and the children, boy one, girl two

burn themselves out, sleep

and the daddy

climbs the stairs

penis smiling a little from the slit

in  his chessmen boxers

and the mommy

snaps off the oven light and counts the pills once more

and follows him, to bed.

Janet Sorby  a.k.a. Jaye Roth, Spring, 1979