She Knits – I Crochet

She Knits – I Crochet

My husband is the TV watcher in our family. He gets up, and first thing, the TV goes on. I lived without a TV for the six years prior to meeting him. But having a TV in the house without watching it is like having a bag of M&M’s on your desk without eating them – it’s not likely to happen. So I started watching TV, just a little at first. After seven years of marriage, it became something I wasn’t thinking about anymore. Until I got together with a few of my very smart girlfriends a few times and started to notice that we never had a conversation in which our favorite TV shows didn’t come up. Really?

read instead

This year, however, after attending the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in January, I committed to reading more – which means turning the TV off. I’m halfway through my seventh novel since making that commitment, and I’ve been delighted to rediscover the joy of reading. We didn’t get rid of our TV, though, so I still watch occasionally. But I’ve never been able to watch television without having something to occupy my hands. For a while it was adult coloring books – but you miss a lot of details if you’re not actually watching the screen with some regularity. Same problem with video games on my iPad.

When we cleaned out my husband’s grandmother’s house after she passed away a year ago, one of the things I came across was a bag of knitting materials: balls of yarn, needles, scissors, and a pattern book. It was strange because Mary had always said she had no skill whatsoever at handcrafts – so we’re not really sure who the knitting bag belonged to. Made me think for a minute, though, that I might like to learn how to knit – or at least resurrect my middling crochet skills from my high school days. I even looked into classes in my area, but the next one was starting the following day, and I wasn’t quite that ready to jump in. My friend Katie, who’s an avid knitter, told me to hold onto the bag, because I might get into it someday.

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Well, lo and behold, someday has arrived. As it turns out, Kathy – Eric’s mom – is a knitter. She’s busy these days making a bunting for her grandson before he makes his appearance sometime in mid-August. Like Katie, she belongs to a knitting group, which she enjoys for the company and the relaxation knitting provides.

I guess I mentioned to Kathy that I’d like to get back to needlecrafting – but I wasn’t sure knitting was for me. My older sister taught me basic crochet once upon a time, so I thought that would be a better place to start. Then Eric went home to Boston last Friday, even though I’m still hanging out with Kathy and Bruce so I can attend Book Expo America in NYC this week. Since we had a couple down days early this week, Kathy offered to arrange a private lesson for me with a teacher from her yarn shop. What a thoughtful gift!

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My beginner project is a scarf, so I chose some worsted yarn. Fortunately, crochet is like riding a bike. I never got too far with it all those years ago, but apparently the muscle memory is still there, because it was pretty easy to pick up the two “new” stitches I needed for this project: single and double crochet. For advanced crocheters, this project will seem simple. I’m pretty proud of the start on my variegated colored scarf, even if it is a bit uneven. Not sure yet whether it will be a gift, or if I will just keep it. Bruce asked me today if there was need for a scarf in Arizona. “For me, yes,” I told him. “For you, probably not.”

crocheted scarf

So there we sat on the couch watching the first game of the Stanley Cup finals last night, Kathy knitting, Bruce on his iPad, and me crocheting. Kathy texted Eric about the cheesy start for the Las Vegas Knights and they went back and forth for a bit. It was so normal and comfortable. If you’d told any of us 23 years ago that this would be the outcome, I doubt we’d have believed it. And yet, here we are. For all those birthmoms who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I can only suggest that you keep the faith and hang in there. It can get better – but sometimes it takes a while. And in the meantime, you have to get out of your own way and choose to allow the miracles to come.

__________________________
Laura Orsini
 is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Puzzle People

Puzzle People

There are puzzle people and there are puzzle people. Eric and I are the latter. I started doing puzzles with my sister a long time ago, but our puzzling was sporadic. We’d do one, look at it for a couple hours, box it up, and then it might be six months before we’d do another one. When she moved in with me the last year of her life, we resuscitated our interest in puzzles and even designated our dining room table as the “puzzle table.” From there out, there was always a puzzle going. Corina didn’t like the TV because she found it energetically disruptive. I think she enjoyed puzzles because they’re play as you go. No pressure to finish within a particular time constraint, unless you self-impose one. You can listen to music, or have a conversation, or just get lost in thought.

I steered clear of things Corina and I did together for at least the first six months after she died. To this day, every time I go past the freeway exit that took me to the last house she lived in before she moved in with us, I think of her – and I never go that way. But the puzzles were a different story, for some reason. In fact, I went the other direction and became something of a puzzle maniac. I got so good at them I was doing a 1,000-piece puzzle every other day, at minimum.

I bought most of them at the thrift store, opting for $2 to $4 per puzzle, rather than upwards of $20 each. This is a risky enterprise if you’re a puzzle purist, however, in that you never know whether all the pieces will be there. One puzzle I got for less than a dollar – a picture of crayons – must have been missing 20 pieces. It was rather comical, and I always thought that was part of the fun. Not so with my friend Andrew Greess, who lost a single piece from one of his favorite puzzles and actually painted a piece of cardboard to fill in the spot. As it turns out, Eric informed me there’s a company that will do this for you! Of course, there’s an enormous amount of trust involved, as you must send all of the surrounding pieces of the actual puzzle to The Jigsaw Doctor so they can make a mold for the replacement piece and match the colors as closely as possible. I didn’t check the price because I’d never bother – but clearly there must be enough people who will bother for them to have built a business around it.

jigsaw doctor

My biggest solo puzzle, to date, has been 1,500 pieces. I have maybe two or three 2,000-piece puzzles, but I haven’t started any of them yet because I’m not sure my old puzzle table is large enough. And, I haven’t done a puzzle since moving into our new house, because I know the addictive nature of the things – and I’m not sure I want to go down that rabbit hole again. I see them in the garage every now and then, though, and I’m always quite tempted.

Eric’s biggest solo puzzle was a 9,000 piece beast. He said it took him nearly 10 years to complete it, but he made a big push on the last half over one six-month period. He has his eye on another one, similar in size. He’s just waiting to live in a space large enough to accommodate it. The map of the world is still on the floor in a spare room adjacent to his parents’ garage.

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Who knows what will happen after I return from my trip, as far as my own puzzle practice goes? I’m sitting at the kitchen table in the house where my son grew up. Kathy is out on the deck. The dog is at the groomer. Bruce is a the dentist, and Eric and his girlfriend are still sleeping. The puzzle we started yesterday afternoon – probably the hardest one I’ve ever done, personally – sits on the dining room table about three-quarters finished. It’s the blue sky that’s the problem – with no clues other than shape to go on, it’s a matter of trial and error, trial and error, trial and error until you get one piece. Then repeating that process with the next piece. This puzzle came from the local thrift store – and so far all of the pieces appear to be here. We may yet meander around and find a newer, easier – more fun! – puzzle, or we may move on to a board game.

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Regardless of what we do, I’m amazed and grateful and blessed to be sharing this time with Eric and his family. I don’t know if he gets how special it is. He’s very communicative, but not terribly demonstrative, so it’s a little hard to read him.

I love watching him with Meaghan, though. They are cute together – and, I believe, good for each other. There’s no visible competition – just cooperation. I bought them each these metal puzzles – the goal is to pull them apart, and then put them back together again. Meaghan solved both of them! The infinity one had all of us going, at one point. I went into New York City to see a Broadway show with a friend from Phoenix, and received a text from Eric while I was at the show: “Meaghan got it!” He was eager to share her success with me – if there had been that ugly competition that sometimes brews between couples, he never would have sent that text.

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Through the puzzles and games, we’re getting to know each other a little bit better and just spend some time together. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

ADDENDUM

The New York City skyline puzzle was completed about 5 hours after this post was published. Thank goodness all the pieces were there! Eric glues and hangs the puzzles he likes – I feel privileged that this one passes that test! Now, we’re onto a 1,500-piece job, albeit perhaps a somewhat easier one. Goal is to finish before he takes off for Boston on Friday morning at 10.

ADDENDUM 2

Irish cottage

Puzzle #2 was NOT easier than the first one. Just difficult in a different way. We got it about 3/4 complete before we moved it onto a large poster board. Eric promises to finish it next time he’s home, which should be next weekend. We shall see…

__________________________
Laura Orsini
 is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

Have you ever had that dream where you went to class all semester and then forgot to take your final exam? Or you realized on the day of the final exam that you hadn’t attended class once all semester? I had versions of that dream for years. Other similar dreams, too. Missing the bus. Catching the bus, but being unable to get off at the right stop. Missing my plane. Arriving at my destination, only to realize my luggage had been misdirected. Again and again and again, I had these kinds of dreams. I began to call them my Dreams of Incompletion, but I was puzzled by their meaning.

Then, about 8 or 9 years ago, I took a storytelling class with my friends Steve and Resa Ferreira. One of the assignments for the class was to write and tell a fable. There weren’t really any rules, except to craft and share a simple story that had special meaning to us. Those crazy dreams had ceased, but they suddenly came back to me and, more importantly, I finally understood what they’d meant. And so I wrote the fable, Esperanza and the Swan.

I’d been thinking for a while that I’d like to share Esperanza with Eric someday, as the fable tells the story of a mother losing her infant son, only to find him later. I imagined putting the story into print somehow. I pictured line drawings on translucent paper. Though I thought about it and thought about it – it never came to pass. But I saved the story, moving it from laptop to laptop. Then, Eric’s college graduation loomed large, and I knew this was the right time to gift him with this simple but important story. However, my visions of putting it into print no longer seemed the proper vehicle for the story.

So I approached my friend Rita Goldner, award-winning children’s picture book author and illustrator, and asked her if I could commission her to create a single painting that would encapsulate the whole story. That was a stroke of genius – as she created the most wonderful painting. I was still a bit concerned it would seem an odd gift to Eric. I was certain he would appreciate it one day, but I wasn’t sure he’d appreciate it now. Silly birthmom. I needn’t have worried. I waited until after his party and all the guests had gone to share it with him, his girlfriend, and his immediate family. He couldn’t have been more touched – and all of them loved the painting.

The text of the story is below.

Esperanza gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy whom she named Marco. Shortly after Marco’s birth, a wicked wizard cursed her husband, turning the boy’s father into a stone sculpture. Grief stricken, Esperanza decided to journey to her homeland to visit her native people. She wanted her son to meet his ancestors, and desired for the elders to bestow ritual blessings on the new man-child in their lineage.

As Esperanza lived along a busy seaport, she believed the easiest way to reach her homeland would be to seek passage on one of the many merchant ships that docked in her port town. She arranged travel for herself and Marco on a ship that would depart in three days’ time. To prepare for the journey, she washed clothes, packed dried fruits and nuts, gathered necessary medicinal herbs, and made ready her cottage for her extended time away.

Esperanza awoke early the day of departure and arrived at the pier several hours before her ship was due to set sail. As she stepped across the gangplank, she realized she had forgotten to bring along the leather pouch containing her identification documents. The journey would require travel across several countries, and Esperanza knew she would more than likely be asked to show her identity papers at some point along the way. Not wishing to disturb her sleeping infant, she touched his head softly and left him in his cradle on the ship while she ran home to retrieve the vital papers.

As Esperanza approached her cottage, she saw, to her horror, an enormous lizard lying across her doorway. Lizard was ugly, with many spiny protrusions running along the length of his long back. He switched his tail back and forth, lazily. Esperanza approached. Lizard hissed and spat at her. She was running short of time to return to the ship before it sailed, so she pleaded and bargained with Lizard to allow her into her cottage, promising him the modest home and all its contents in exchange. Satisfied, Lizard allowed her passage through the front doorway. Esperanza grabbed the leather pouch and was on her way in a matter of minutes.

To save time returning to the ship, Esperanza followed a shortcut that took her across a rickety bridge over a narrow tributary of the river where her merchant ship was moored. With great trepidation, she took a huge breath and began to make her way across the shoddy bridge — when suddenly, her foot went out from under her and she slipped, dropping the leather pouch into the rapidly moving stream. As it happened, a swan was passing under the bridge, just as the pouch dropped. The pouch’s leather strap caught on the swan’s bill. Swan paddled to the edge of the stream. “Majestic Swan, thank you for rescuing my leather pouch. But now I beg you, please, oh please, beautiful Swan — what will it take for you to return the pouch to me?”

“I’m not sure,” Swan replied. “What exactly does the precious leather pouch contain?”

“My identity papers. Oh, please, Mr. Swan. May I have them back? It’s urgent that I have them now if I’m to catch a ride on the merchant ship that will depart shortly.” Just at that moment, the ship’s horn blew loudly, indicating its imminent departure. Esperanza sat down with her hands over her face, and cried.

“What troubles you so, fair maiden?” Swan inquired. “Of course you may have your pouch back.”

“The horn! Did you not hear the horn? The ship is departing, and I shall never make it in time.”

“There will be other ships,” Swan said, matter-of-factly.

“No, there won’t! My son is on that ship. I’ve missed it now, and I have no way of getting back to my baby. What am I going to do?” Esperanza wailed.

“Well, what are your options,” the wise swan asked gently. Esperanza looked up at him. She shook her head back and forth. “Options? I…I…I don’t know.”

“Well, what if you had to know? What if ever seeing your son again depended on your knowing?”

Wow! Esperanza thought. What are my options? “I need to find a way to catch up with the ship. If only I had a boat or a ship of my own. How can I quickly secure a boat and a pilot who will help me catch up with the merchant ship?”

Swan slowly moved his long neck from side to side. “Does it have to be a boat?” he asked after a thoughtful moment.

“How do you mean?” Esperanza was confused.

“Does it have to be a boat that carries you?” Swan asked.

“No. I suppose not. It does have to be something that floats, and that can support my weight, and that has a means to navigate its way back to the ship, though…”

“Like what? Do you mean a raft?” Swan asked.

Esperanza looked carefully at Swan, a smile spreading across her face. “Like a bird with a sturdy back and a good wingspan!” Esperanza clapped her hands and jumped to her feet. Esperanza reached out to remove the leather strap from Swan’s bill. Then she climbed on his back and they quickly set sail after the now long-departed merchant ship.

It took 11 days, but Esperanza and the Swan eventually caught up with the ship. Esperanza and Marco were reunited, and they continued their journey to meet the ancestors where they were welcomed like royalty.

LO, Eric, & Esperanza

____________________
Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Where the Hell Did the Time Go?

Where the Hell Did the Time Go?

I remember being pregnant with Eric, trying to envision our lives – his and mine, distinctly separate – when he was 18. That’s the magical number to many a birthmother, as it’s the age of consent. They no longer need trouble with pesky adoptive parents when considering contacting the child they placed for adoption all those years ago. Of course, I exaggerate. I don’t have any idea how many birthmoms actually try to circumvent the adoptive family to reach their child, but I’m sure there are some. Particularly if the adoptive family has been extraordinarily stand-offish or breached the agreement after promising a certain level of contact.

As heartbreaking as such behavior no doubt is to birthmothers – birthfamilies – I actually understand it. I don’t sanction it because it’s more than likely born out of fear, but I can imagine an intensely overprotective adoptive parent thinking they’re doing the right thing by shielding their child from his or her family of origin. I believe this thought process is utterly misguided and will do more to hurt their child and harm their relationship with their son or daughter – but I get why they might behave that way.

Fortunately, I had none of those worries. Thanks to Kathy, our adoption has always been open, and I have had nearly unfettered access to my son – to whatever degree he was comfortable with. She always let him set the pace, and I never once got the impression that she felt threatened by me or my presence. And even so, I had a very hard time imagining this unborn baby – barely a seed of a human – at 18 years of age, or older. I used to ask my sister what she thought Samantha would do with her life, and she would tell me she didn’t want to speculate. She preferred to watch Samantha’s progress and growth unfold in real time. My niece is an interesting individual. She is simultaneously both one of the most amazing people I have ever known, and one of the most narcissistic and caustic ones. Cori got to see Samantha reach her 25th year – and given Sam’s extreme behavior the final year of Corina’s life, it’s probably best that my sister didn’t envision it ahead of time (or have a crystal ball).

It’s an interesting thing to be involved in your child’s life from the sidelines. This is NOT a complaint, merely an observation. I made a choice about which I have few regrets. But as Eric’s birthmother, I saw things through the very long lens, rather than through the day-to-day microscope. I received his annual school photos, vacation pictures, and occasional updates about this class project or that sports event. The good news is that I didn’t have to imagine him as he was growing up – I always knew where he was, what he was up to, and that he was safe and loved. Birthmothers – both domestic and international – in closed adoptions have spent their children’s entire lives wondering how they were turning out. I still can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

Five years ago, I received a somewhat last-minute invitation to Eric’s high school graduation. Kathy didn’t want to invite me until she knew there would be a ticket available for me – and she managed to wrangle one at the eleventh hour. It was quite a trip – not my first visit to Eric’s family’s house, but the first where I was fully enveloped into the family. I arrived a few days early and spent them driving around the Stanfields’ little New Jersey hamlet with Kathy, preparing for the graduation party. Everywhere we went, Kathy would introduce me to the clerk or attendant as her son’s birthmother, and they were fairly uniformly impressed by our close relationship. The woman who was our server at the restaurant on graduation night was straight out of Central Casting. Big hair, made up like a cancan girl, authentic New Jersey accent. She teared up when Kathy introduced me, and told us she was going to include our story in her memoir, which she said she was in the middle of writing at the time.

Many, many things have happened and changed in my life in those last five years. And now, our son sits on the precipice of Real Life – about to graduate from Northeastern University with a degree in civil/environmental engineering.

graduation invite

 

Due to the extremely limited number of tickets, I didn’t receive an invitation to this year’s graduation. I know Kathy feels bad about that, because it’s in her nature to want to make everyone happy. I’m OK with missing the graduation, but a bit disappointed to miss the graduation night dinner. Nevertheless, I’ll be there again for the big family party. As much as it won’t be new to me this time, it will be different. This time, our kid is all grown up. He’s an amazing young man of whom I could not be prouder. He’s got his whole life ahead of him, and my heart swells, thinking of the amazing future I hope he will have. Only he can really decide that – but from what I’ve seen, he’s got a giant heart, a brilliant mind, and a whole caravan of people who love and support him. In other words, a huge head start.

When it came to his high school graduation, I didn’t want to give him anything as impersonal as money as a gift. I was stumped about what to get, but then John’s dad came up with the idea of a gift card to the Boston Garden, since we knew he would be attending college in Boston. His pleasure at receiving that seemed genuine. I also gave him the info I’d tracked down about his birthfather – call it a side gift? This is a bigger occasion, so the gift will be commensurate. I’ll write more about that after I return from my East Coast visit in May, as I don’t want to spoil anything ahead of time.

So far, all I know is that I have plans to spend four days in New Jersey. My plane reservations are for a week, though – my plans are open for the rest of that time. Eric will undoubtedly be the center of attention that week, so I’m just going to plan, as usual, to go with the flow. I can always find a way to entertain myself, so there’s no need for anyone to worry after me, although I do hope to get in at least one private meal with the kiddo while I’m there.

Right now, he’s in the middle of finals, so I’m just sending good thoughts and keeping busy with my life in Arizona. I blinked and 23 years flew by. I’m not sure where the time went. Before long, we’ll be sending his kid off to college!

____________________
Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

I was 27 when I got pregnant. Employed full-time, with health insurance and paid maternity leave. Probably in better straits than many women who find themselves Bravepregnant. Yet I wasn’t ready to be a mom, especially since there was a very good likelihood that my son’s birthfather wasn’t going to stick around. I say “very good likelihood” because he told me he wasn’t going to stick around. Never mind that after I signed the papers, he conveniently changed his story and said, “You know, I would have stayed.” Thanks for nothing, big guy.

Even as I never really waivered from the adoption plan that formed in my head pretty much as soon as I confirmed the pregnancy, I wondered daily how I’d get through it. When I was about six months pregnant, I attended one meeting of the Spence-Chapin birthmother support group and took comfort from being introduced to a handful of birthmothers who had placed their children for adoption, even though one of them, with whom I became good friends later, told me she hoped she’d never see me after I left that night. She knew what I would have to go through, and from her perspective, I would be better off not doing it.

Whenever I would wonder how I could ever go through with the adoption – bring this amazing little person into the world and then walk away from him – I thought of Peggy and Lynn and Cathy. They had done it and lived through it, so living through it was something people did. They didn’t die. The earth kept spinning, sunrises and sunsets right on schedule, every day. They went back to work. Two of them got married – not to the birthfathers – and had other children. Their lives moved forward.

It was clear, even from that single meeting I attended, that these women still had issues and challenges and strong emotions related to their adoptions – but they’d moved on, as best they could. Moving on was possible – they were proof of that.

It’s funny. I’ve lost count over the years of how many people have told me how lucky I was to have found such a great family for Eric. While I will happily agree they are a great family, I have always taken issue with this idea that I was lucky. I’ve detailed in many of my past posts how much effort I put into making sure I found the right family – so from where I sit, luck actually had very little to do with it.

The thing I’ve only heard one or two times was that I was brave. As Merriam-Webster.com defines it, bravery means the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty. Danger? No. Fear and difficulty? Yep, in spades. And I faced them. So I guess maybe I was brave.

Just as I used my meeting with Lynn and Peggy and Cathy for encouragement to get through the adoption, later in life I used getting through the adoption to get me through other challenging times. If I could live through the adoption, I could live through losing my dad and my mom, and my sister’s illness and passing. I could live through moving and impossible clients and the challenges of marrying after 40. Thankfully, it hasn’t come up in a while, but when the going gets tough again, as it inevitably will, I will take comfort in knowing I’ve already done perhaps the most difficult thing I will ever have to do. Whatever comes next, I’ll be brave enough to get through it.

I’ve never been a Disney gal. My sister despised Disney, and my husband has pretty similar reactions to all things Magic Kingdom-y. So I haven’t seen many Disney films. But on a friend’s recommendation, I did see Brave, and I really liked it. I loved that this imperfect little girl with unruly red hair was the protagonist. I loved that she stood up to the boys and did things her way. I loved that she really was brave.

I promised last post that this one would be about bravery. So now I am complete with my trio of posts drawn from three randomly selected words: Bravery, Caves, and Song. If you think you might like to participate in the 52-Week Ultimate Writing Challenge, drop me a line and I’ll let you know when we’re planning to begin and how to register.

In the meantime, practice up by sharing the bravest thing you’ve done so far this year in the Comments section below.

____________________
Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Two Reunions and a Wedding

Two Reunions and a Wedding

Tomorrow is John’s and my 7th wedding anniversary. We chose St. Patrick’s Day, a Thursday, because of my affinity for the Irish part of my bloodline and because it was pretty nontraditional. As important a day as it was, the day before – seven years ago today – was perhaps more important, because it was the day I had a face-to-face reunion with my son for the first time since he was 2 days old.

It took John and me a while to figure out the right date and decide what we wanted to do for the wedding. We decided on an outdoor wedding (at Bell Rock) in Sedona. As soon as we knew the details, I phoned up Kathy and told her that she, Bruce, Eric – and Jill, if she could make it – were invited. She was quite happy for us – and nervous about telling Eric. He was 16 at the time and, understandably, we weren’t in as direct contact as we are now. Though Jill wasn’t able to attend, Kathy, Bruce, and Eric made the trip.

Next, we had to plan that first meeting between our son and me.

I invited Eric and his parents to meet me at our favorite diner – the place John and I had breakfast almost every weekend the entire time we lived near downtown Phoenix. John decided not to go, as he didn’t want to crowd the meeting. He figured there’d be enough tension without Eric having to meet my husband, too. I was giddy – and nervous – for the whole week leading up to the meeting.

Thankfully, I tend to have some common sense – so I planned for what I figured were the two significant possibilities: Eric would be like Tony, close-lipped, quiet, reserved, smart as hell, and saying very little. Or he would be like me: open, warm, and easy to talk to. Strangely, I didn’t feel like I had to do that much in the way of psyching myself out for possibility #1. Though the odds were pretty much 50-50, he’s a guy, so I tended to lean toward the assumption he would behave like Tony. And I was ready.

I felt I had done very little in the way of pestering or interfering with Eric and his family through the years. I’d let Kathy know that I was available if Eric had any questions (he never did), and he and I had exchanged a few emails. I sent a Christmas ornament for their tree every year, and acknowledged his birthday with a humorous ecard and the occasional gift. But I’d been as hands-off as I could be, because I didn’t want to overreach or scare either Eric or his parents. Kathy had told me several stories to indicate that our kid was a caring child, growing into a caring young man, but this was going to be an unprecedented meeting for him. How do you get ready to meet the woman who gave you birth and then gave you away?

Quiet and uncommunicative would have made sense to me. Turns out, I needn’t haveEric & Lo worried at all.

 

My sense of our son is that he took after Tony physically, but he seems to have more of my emotional makeup. He was obviously nervous at the meeting, but we sat, him between his parents, and I on the other side of our booth. We all chatted for a bit – and then Kathy and Bruce made a gracious exit and allowed Eric and me to talk, which we did for about an hour.

I was ready – expecting – for him to be quiet, and he was anything but. We talked easily like old friends catching up. He chuckled as I described my initial meetings with his parents. When I told him that their social worker, Anna, had described his dad as “hard to get to know,” he laughed out loud.

“Yeah – pretty much exactly,” he agreed with Anna’s assessment.

His folks swung back by to pick him up when we were done. Kathy said she asked him how it went – that was when he got quiet. “Fine,” was his only response. I’m sure he told her more later – but he probably needed time to process things. As far as I was concerned, the meeting could not have gone better.

The wedding was the next day at about 2 in the afternoon. Earlier that morning, we all made our independent ways up to Sedona from Phoenix: John and I; Eric and his parents; my sister and her husband; John’s family; our wedding officiant; and our photographer. Corina and I had hired a caregiver to look after our mother during the ceremony and throughout the weekend, but our mom came down with pneumonia a couple weeks before the wedding and we decided the day before that she wasn’t strong enough yet to make the trip. The caregiver didn’t get the message, though, so other than the gal who married us and the photographer, she was the only non-family member in attendance – other than the hikers and tourists who gathered around to watch. It was quite an experience!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may have seen mention of the many powerful coincidences that punctuate our adoption experience. It was a monumental coincidence that helped us open the adoption in the first place. There are also all kinds of birthday coincidences, too. On the day of our wedding, we learned of another astounding coincidence that did not involve me or my family at all. As we all gathered in the parking lot of the hotel to drive down the hill for the ceremony, it was the first time the Stanfields were meeting my sister, and also the first time they were meeting John and his family. So imagine all of our surprise when both John’s grandmother, Mary, and Bruce did double-takes. “Don’t I know you?” one of them asked.

Mary and Bruce

“Yes – from the bank in New Jersey 30-plus years ago.” Mary had been a teller when Bruce was starting in auditing at the same bank branch back in Clifton, New Jersey, decades earlier. I still shake my head at the odds of such a thing occurring. There had never been any doubt that Eric was where he was meant to be – but this was absolutely uncanny.

After getting over our shock, we made our way to Bell Rock and had a beautiful ceremony. The reception dinner followed at Heartline Café – and Eric was so gracious as John’s dad (unintentionally?) pummeled him with questions about his plans for the future. I was so pleased that Corina got to meet and chat with Kathy and Eric. It was the only time they ever connected, but important to all of them, I think.

Life with John has been such a blessing – it’s hard to believe it’s already been seven years. And right alongside that wonderful relationship, I’ve been developing one of the other most precious relationships in my life. So glad to be connected to you, my beautiful son!

Lo with Stanfields

PHOTO IDs

Cover Photo: The whole wedding – pictures courtesy of master photographer David Bell. L to R: Matt Bustos, Corina’s husband; Corina, my sister and maid of honor; Gayle Kelemen, John’s stepmom; Laura; John’s dad, John Sr.; John; Ed Snible, John’s bro-in-law and best man; Charlotte Snible, John’s niece; Gayle Snible, John’s sister; Kathy Stanfield, my son’s adoptive mom; Mary Kelemen, John’s grandmother; Eric, my son; Lauralee Green, our officiant; Joan Pearlman, my mom’s would-be caregiver; Bruce Stanfield, my son’s adoptive dad.

Eric and Laura

Mary and Bruce meet again

Kathy, Laura, Eric, and Bruce

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

The Challenge of Naming a Baby

The Challenge of Naming a Baby

I was recently visiting with my friend Sunil, whom I’ve previously mentioned as my relationship guru. He’s a brilliant, thoughtful, calm, soulful person who has been a mentor and teacher to me in many realms, relationships chief among them. I suspect that if I’d known him back when I was dating Tony, my son’s birthfather, I might have been guided to leave sooner. But, as my husband and I were discussing this morning, it was all the steps and missteps of our pasts that led us to where we are today.

Everyone who knows Sunil was shocked to hear that he’d suffered a severe stroke back in November. He’s coming around, but still has a long road ahead of him toward a significant recovery. The good news is that his mind is still sharp, and we were able to have a nice chat. We spent a lot of time catching up, as it had been some years since we’d last connected.

Sunil asked about Eric, and I was proud to give him an update. Then, rather out of nowhere, he asked me if I had chosen Eric’s name. The short answer is no.

Although we’ve had a nearly picture-perfect adoption experience, there were some Eric as Zorochallenges. The first major one surrounded the name of this as yet unborn little boy. I was open to hearing the name Kathy and Bruce wanted to use, until they said Eric. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I had a visceral negative response to the name. For one thing, I’d gone to school with a guy named Eric who was tall, blond, and one of the biggest goofballs I’d ever met. He got drunk at a Halloween party where he was dressed like Zoro – and the whole Zoro thing followed him through the rest of his school days. I just looked him up on Facebook and he’s become an immigration attorney – seems like a pretty solid guy. But back in high school, he was just odd. I didn’t want to think of my kid in relation to this eccentric guy every time I heard the name.

The other part was the sense that the name Eric belonged to a blond-haired, blue-eyed person. I have dark hair and a medium to olive complexion. Though Tony was platinum blond as a kid and my father had blue eyes, it never occurred to me that our son would inherit all the recessive genes. Our kid did, in fact, turn out to be tall, blond, and blue-eyed. The name his parents had chosen for him was a perfect fit – even though I was resistant to it for quite some time.

I counteroffered with the name Thomas. The only problem was that Kathy’s brother is Thomas and, as our social worker Mary explained it, Bruce wasn’t too excited about their kid having his brother-in-law’s name. If their son was going to have a family name, it should be his father’s – but no one really wanted to name the new baby Bruce, so we had to come up with another option.

Perhaps the strangest part in the whole naming process was the fact that Tony wanted no part of it. When I asked for his input, his answer was, “He’s their kid – let them name him whatever they want to.”

I remember Mary trying to reassure me that it was a good thing that Kathy and Bruce were still so sold on Eric as the name for this kid. Apparently, had either of their first babies been a boy, they’d have named that child Eric. As Mary saw it, the fact that they still wanted to use that name was proof that they were already embracing this adopted child as their own. I wasn’t buying any of it.

My next choice – and the name I actually put on the birth certificate – was Christian. And I referred to my son and thought of him as Christian for probably the first 5 or 6 years of his life. Kathy and Bruce didn’t really care for that name at all. They asked their daughter, Jill, her opinion about the name she liked for her baby-brother-to-be; her answer was Christopher. Close to Christian, and still a no-go for the Stanfields. A couple years later, I ran the name Christian through a website that purported to analyze the vibration of the sound of any name. Christian, allegedly, has a very weak vibration, while Eric is strong and commanding. Hmmm…

As it turns out, Kathy and Bruce met me part way, and included Christian as his second middle name. So our son has the WASPiest sounding name on the planet: Eric Thomas Christian Stanfield. It did not escape me (nor, presumably, him) that the first three initials comprise etc.

Corina and Jane honored my decision to call my son by the name I’d given him. I think my parents were just a bit confused about what his actual name was – but they tried. Somewhere along the way, however, it occurred to me that Eric was the only name our son had ever known, so for me to insist on calling him something else was not honoring who he was. So on a dime, I shifted. Cori, Jane, and my parents followed suit.

I don’t know if there’s anything to that name vibration thing, but I’m sure that in the long run, Eric suits him much better than Thomas or Christian would have.

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.