Post Successful Reunion Wrap Part 1

Just your everyday family vacation snapshots…when your family is ALL THIS and MORE

We arrived back in Maine around 10:00AM yesterday after the red-eye from Washington State Monday night. Leaving Sam’s family was all kinds of hard, for so many reasons. For me the hard was because my own visit with them was so short compared to last year. I dropped so easily back into flow with his mom, his grandmother and his sibs that I felt cheated from the brevity of the one and a half day visit this time.

I also wanted every opportunity to see Sammy in his new flow with them with me there. Of course it is going to be immediately different once I show up, as evidenced by the “Instagram Live” broadcast from inside the car with his brothers and cousins on their way to shoot hoops  mid week. (Talk about being allowed insight into a world you are not part of!) Finally, due to the dramatically declining health of his grandfather, there was a layer to this the leaving that felt very very hard. Not only is he very ill, but the care-taking demands on his Nahnah were exhaustive. I so wanted to be there to help her in ways that I am equipped and able to do.

When I asked Sam if he was sad about leaving he said that he was fine. When pushed a little bit, he said that he got what he needed from the trip. I could go on and on about what I think that means, but that is not my place. Sammy gets to take that one out and unpack it in his memoir one day. What I can tell you is that he stayed up till 4:00am every night in a room with three boys who claim him as their own. He never opened the new toothbrush I put in his back pack. As in still in the packaging!

Leaving California was another kind of hard. Until I have had more time to integrate that into my experience of being back on the East Coast I need to hold off on saying too much here. I will say that being grounded and supported where I was staying by my dearest friend and Sam’s namesake Samantha was critical to my ability to stay healthy, focused, and in my body for the duration of the journey. From mediation, to long foggy walks, to laying on the bed and laughing and crying to eating home made soup I felt totally held.

So when Marcel’s donor and family came to pick him up for their adventuring the day after we landed they came in and stayed at Samantha’s for an hour for coffee and bagels and ease. This was normalizing and perfect for everyone.  Kids coming and going, many conversations happening at once. Samantha and Tree have known of each other for a decade, so their meeting was so important too. Marcel found his footing with his new one year old brother (pictured above, and yes there is some kind of resemblance) and his feels-like-a-half-brother as well.  I felt as if I had known Tree’s wife (who we will just call “Gorgeous” here) for a lifetime within six seconds. It was Gorgeous who said; “this visit is energizing for all of our souls.”  Indeed. Sending them all off for the day and a half was like sending your child to the favorite uncle and auntie for an overnight. Clearly we are sill trying to find the language for all of these new relationships. More on that soon.

Leaving California was not immediately hard on Marcel, as he really missed his big brother, and was eager to meet Sam’s family too. (And as you can see above, he was quite a hit!) But clearly figuring out how to stay in deeper connect with all of the love he discovered is hugely important. That Marcel came back from his time with them, and his half day alone with Tree more eager than ever for the world to know him as a young Black man is important to mention. He is so deeply curious about how people see him and know him right now.

What I keep telling Marcel is how important it is that he know himself first. Pretty much we checked that box as a big YES for  all of us in the last week. One of my favorite parts of all of this, is that now is when we all get to really reap the benefits that this trip could begin to mean for  all of us.

The journey has just begun.

Birth-family Reunion Travel Fund

We have just completed our cross country trip, and still hopeful to raise the expense of the airfare through crowd sourcing. We are only $200.00 away from that attainable $2100.00 reach! Will you please consider a $10.00 contribution? Each donation adds up and truly helps. Thank you!!!!

$10.00

Mama C and the Boys Patronage

Love what you read here? Are you a first time reader, or a long time fan? Do you look forward to opening the email announcing a new post? Has your own understanding of Open Adoption, transracial parenting, or known donor family connection shifted in a helpful way? If so will you please consider showing your support with a ten dollar fandom contribution? This allows me to be "paid" here, instead of needing to farm the stories out elsewhere. This will also help me keep Mama C add free and content full all year round! Bisous!

$10.00

 

 

 

 

Two weeks and counting!

Sammy and Mama C in California in 2005

Soon Sammy Sammy will be flying across the country on his own to spend a few days alone with his family in Tacoma, Washington.

I’m really curious and a little nervous about how this will shake out. He is closing in on 13, he is an old soul, the child has lived. But he is a child, still. He is a child moving between two mothers, two families, one love. He is journeying at a moment where the world feels volatile and unsafe. But his is the world he is entering into as a young adult. It is what he knows, what he must know. He is no longer that little in my arms. His will always be that little in my arms.

I’m also so thankful that all of this is possible in every way.

Marcel and I leave on our journey two days later to visit with his donor and family in California. (Knowing that I will be on the same coast as Sammy is going to bring us all ease I suspect.)  I’m equally curious how this Marcel moment will unfold, and what new understanding Marcel will gain about who his radiant, beautiful poetic self is in this lifetime. He will hold his little brother, who just turned one. He will be with his donor and his donor’s family. He will be invited into a new layer of understanding about what the word “family” holds for him.

Marcel and “Tree” in 2011

I’m also so thankful that everyone involved is all about the YES in this moment too. The everyone includes my husband who has been holding the YES in his own way.  I can not begin to imagine what his experience will be having us all across the country navigating this extended family foray away from him. (Of course he was invited to come, and would very much like to join us another time.)  And, yes,  part of this story began long before he came into our lives. One day we all hope that those markers will fade into the background, allowing this to just be a shared breath at any one moment of who we just are.

A dear friend reminded me to reach out on the blog to readers encouraging them to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign.

Or, for those of you who prefer to use PayPal and make a donation to this epic adventure that way-you can do so here for a generous $10.00 donation:

or here to pay for the pre-travel line up for both boys, or the tank of gas for the rental car for $25.00:
or a day of driving from the airport to Sammy’s family and back to the airport thirty-six hours later with $75.00 here:
or several hundred miles on the airplane for one of us with an over-the-top hugely appreciated $100.00 donation you can do so here:
Or finally because you just feel crazy moved by all us on this courageous, family-making, more-love is more-love adventure and want to support this being paid for outright with ease and love with a $500.00 donation here:

MLK Day: An opportunity to start our own Courageous Conversations

noticing the dream in the Trader Joe's
Noticing the dream in the grocery store

Yesterday Sammy and I were at the grocery store, when we had the good fortune to be introduced to this little beauty. Her name is Aggie.  She is brown, and her doting but shy four year old white mama was clearly pleased by the attention her little baby girl garnered when we halted our cart and immediately started gushing.  “You have the most beautiful little baby girl,” I said kneeling down in front of her kid sized cart. Her mother immediately accepted the invitation to celebrate with us, and told us that this was her daughter’s most beloved doll, and that her name was Aggie. I wasted no time expressing my joy that Dr. King’s dream was alive and well here in Trader Joe’s and that she made my day, no my week, because she knows how important it is to love people who don’t look like us too.

Sammy tolerated the entire interaction, as this is what he is used to by now. Mommy sees a race positive potential conversation with a stranger and she grabs it.

In our family “MLK Day” has come to mean: a three day weekend that is kicked off each year by an incredible  gospel music celebration at the performance hall in the city, and an awareness that what we talk about all year other people seem to have more permission to be talking about too.

In honor of this day when areas in the United States gives pause and consideration to the Civil Rights Movement here, I am writing to invite you to do the same.  To give yourself permission.

Permission is something granted to you. I’m formulating an opinion that much of the ability for creamy colored white people to talk about their own implicit bias, or internalized racism will only happen when they are invited to do so in a very explicit and controlled way. I can not imagine how maddening this is to the people who do not have the luxury of not talking about race and racism. If you do not go to a special MLK breakfast today, or a symposium on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative in your city, or have the benefit of having a magnificent teacher in your child’s school starting the conversation for you, there are many things you can do today, tomorrow, and every day you chose to from now on.

Here are a few examples of ways to give yourself permission, to jump on in, on behalf of your children, your neighbor’s children, and the legacy that you are going to leave behind to the world. Period. It’s never too late.

1. Listen to the I Have A Dream Speech with a kid. A young kid, and older kid. Listen to it over coffee with a friend. Talk about it. Pick one message in the speech to write down and put up in your kitchen to take in every day. Have everyone chose a quote that resonated. Listen to other speeches. Give this day meaning. Give every day meaning.

2. Listen to Safe Space Radio’s series on white racism. Bookmark it, and pick an episode to listen to at the gym, or on the way to church. Share something you learned with someone else. I am featured on this episode talking about my own racism.

3. At the dinner table, talk about a memory you have about a time when you did not understand something you witnessed, or saw on television, or read in the paper that had something to do with race or culture. Talk about how not understanding why a person or group does things differently then the way you do it, does not mean it is wrong, or not normal, but means it is not your experience. Ask your family if they can relate.

4. Go to your library, local video store or Netflix, and find a few books and a movie that features kids of all sorts of color doing really groovy fun things too. For a million great ideas for books go here. One of our favorite feel good flicks is Jump In. Here is clip to preview.

5. Read a book by an author of color, about anything you enjoy. Talk to someone else about the book.Want a radical suggestion? Start here by reading How to Be Black.

6. Find out when Alvin Ailey Dance is coming your way and take a friend, or a kid. I took Sammy when he was six. It was mind bogglingly amazing. He still talks about it. We are all going in March.

7. If you are affiliated with a school, make an appointment with your child’s teacher, or better yet the administrator to ask them to share with you the school’s vision for making sure all staff are grappling with cultural competency in and out of the classroom. If they look at you blankly, or say it is too expensive to begin to tackle, send them here to Teaching Tolerance’s Anti Bias Framework.

8. Find other blogs that are talking about race and culture and difference and leave a link on this blog, or on your FB page. NPR’s “Code Switch” is an amazing resource too. My Brown Baby is a go to for me.

9. Have athletes under your roof? Or who often sit next to you in the synagogue or in church? Or living across the street? Challenge them to research an athlete of color and share out their accomplishments by the end of the week.  Musicians? Scientists? Poets? Kids love a challenge. Make it a monthly event.  Have a potluck.

10. Look in the mirror and say; “Self, I give you permission to talk about race today, and every day for the rest of your life. I give you permission to be curious, confused, baffled, and muddled. I give you permission to mess up and say something you regret and learn from that. Self, I admire your courage.”

P.S. The title for this post was inspired from the book by the same title; Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, which I just ordered for myself.

 

 

 

 

 

Talking race in the classroom, on the air, at the salon

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of engaging in a series of conversations/interviews with a conscientious, thoughtful reporter from our local public radio affiliate. She contacted me to discuss how Black History Month is or is not a part of the classroom.

Samantha was ready to tackle the topic in an informed and respectful way. She was very successful at putting me and my students at ease in our one on one interviews as well as the taping of the class. It was such a gift for me to have more practice at integrating my core beliefs and values within the framework of my professional life in such an accommodating venue.

To view the online piece, or listen to the audio, please click here.

In the classroom. Photo by Samantha Fields.
In the classroom. Photo by Samantha Fields.

This past week I hosted a “salon” where I invited twelve friends, colleagues, and fellow race journeyers to join together in circle to share a poem, a story, a journal entry, a song, an article, or any other medium where the intersection of race and the body were at play.

The night was energized and exhilarating. We shared. We laughed. We were still, uncomfortable, and grateful as we witnessed the crisis, the grief, the depth of the unknown, complicated, triggering and complex territory of race in our collective bodies. Yet, it felt safe. How amazing.

It was one of the more hopeful evenings I have had in a long time. Special thanks to Justice in the Body, for providing the space and the encouragement to host the event.

How are you reaching out in your personal lives to create a space to talk about your experience with race? What is working? What is helping? What can you share to give others the courage to take the same risk?

All about who? He’s amazing and it has (almost) nothing to do with me!

Grand Slammy!

Sam is at bat. Two outs. Two strikes. Three balls. Bases loaded. Sam’s team is losing 2-0. It is the bottom of the 2nd to last inning.

For this potentially final pitch I scrambled off the bleachers, and hid behind the storage shed.  I couldn’t watch.

Just writing about it makes my heart rate climb.

The crack of the bat, followed by the rapturous screams (and not the dreaded sighs) signaled that it was OK to look, to race around the corner and see his powerful hit bounce squarely in the outfield. To watch him clear first, second and miraculously arrive at third was exhilarating. My son had hit a triple.

His team was now winning 3-2.  The next player hit him home.

The game was over ten minutes later.

They won their first game of the season.

My son. My son was the hero.

But my genetics were not involved. And something about that makes it all the more glorious. Seeing a child you have raised, you have nurtured, you love deeply whack the crap-a-lap-a-ding-dong out of a ball is a moment of concentrated joy-pride-glory. When that child is not your biological offspring that moment, I would argue, might be even closer to pure magnificence-because your own ego is one tiny step removed from the event. He didn’t “get that arm from Grandpa Joe” or at least not my Grandpa Joe.  He just did it, and it is ALL HIM.

That is another amazing gift of adoption–you are creating opportunities for a child to realize their potential unencumbered (in a general way) by familial expectations for specifically chosen traits of excellence. (Or the opposite! There is also no worry that he’ll “turn out just like Grandpa Joe did after his arm gave out.”) I do know that Sam’s birth father played basketball really well.  But I have no idea if anyone played baseball. He might discover that story someday, or he might never know.

He will always know that feeling of marvel at his OWN skills, strength and glory that he achieved at the plate this week.  Perhaps it is just another way to look at the story of adoption, open or not. That there maybe something very freeing, on occasion, for a child to discover their talents by accident? Of course biological offspring do this all the time too. I am just suggesting that as a biological parent of Marcel, I know that I really think he should be good at, and love soccer like me. Sammy is OK at soccer, and not nearly as interested in it as I was. Of course I understand that by taking him to baseball, soccer, and basketball practices, and teams etc, I am helping to select which parts of his genetic story is being awakened and nurtured. He is also teaching himself the ukulele. I couldn’t even spell the word until three weeks ago. I have less musical inclination than s butter knife. Sam is clearly gifted there too. Marcel has shown little inclination at this point.

As adoptive parents, or adoptees, or birth parents–what is your take on this piece? How connected is pride and joy  for your kids connected or not connected to biology? As adoptees did you ever have that experience of success as unencumbered joy, or did it often have a “I wonder if my biological mom also loves to dance too.” component?  As birth parents/ first parents in an open adoption–what is it like to witness your child discovering a skill or talent you both share verses one you have no connection to what so ever? As always I look forward to your thoughts!

Sam the grandson of a whaler?

My eldest son is famous, again.

OK, he hasn’t made it to the Olympics, yet .

But he has become immortalized in paint, the first of many opportunities I am sure. What is particularly layered and cool about this is that he is indeed the great great grandson of a whaler on my father’s side. (We come from New England on my dad’s side, and the French West Indes on my mom’s side. Whaling was a source of fuel and other necessities at the time. For a rather concise history on the brief whaling industry peak in this country, go here.) He was asked by the artist, Scott Kelley,  to model for this painting to represent one of the offspring of the only known Black whaleship captains in history-for his upcoming show Whale which will take place here.  To see more of the pieces in the show, or learn a little more about the artist poke around here. The words under the painting read; “Sam with a portrait  of his grandfather Absalom Boston*, the sole Black whaleship captain of Nantucket, master of The Industry, 1822. Scott Kelley 2012”

Sam the grandson… Scott Kelley 2012

*Two resources I found with a quick search on Absalom Boston are here and here. Enjoy!

Pilgrimage to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in DC

At the Dr. King Memorial in Washington, DC Photograph by Samantha Smithstein 2012 All Rights Reserved

Last weekend the boys, Shrek and I made the long awaited journey to the new Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC. Seeing family and friends was deeply important, but this was about an event, an arrival that had taken on a life of its own in my heart. I have been plugged into this venture for years, including fundraising for it with students as part of a unit on Civil Rights two years ago. I had shown the boys photographs, and nearly climbed out of the airplane when I saw it from my window during our descent into Washington on Friday.

The number of people there with us, on the atypically crisp spring like day in Washington was exhilarating. The fact that the majority were Black was exciting too.  School groups, church groups, and just group groups were there milling about, taking photos, and claiming the space. For the most part my kids were more interested in what could be climbed on, and how close you could get to the water than reading the quotes, or taking in the significance of the monument. But I didn’t care. We were there, and they knew that getting there, and witnessing this GIGANTIC BLACK LEADER-MAN (who is carved out of white stone, which is still odd to me) was our collective priority. That we shared it with one of my dearest from high school and her extended family-as planned months ago- added another layer to  the significance.

If Sam and Marcel weren’t in my life, would this have been our collective priority? Would I have felt this palpable sense of arrival, and togetherness with all of these other Civil Rights pilgrims? Would I be taking in on such a cellular level the importance that Dr. King shares the stage with Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Washington, along with the Vietnam, Korean, and World War veterans? Have other transracial parent readers here ever had that almost mythological feeling of; “returning the boy/girl king to this place of great import. See how well they  are cared for…” at these events? I’ve come to embrace it. Maybe then I can get through that tape, and just enjoy all the learning that being Sam and Marcel’s mama affords me that my life without them may very well not have had? What a gift the entire event was, and if I needed the excuse of being their Mama in this life to embrace it, so be it.

MLK Memorial, 2012. Photo by Mama C and the Boys all rights reserved

In the air (poem)

In the Air

Daybreak-
I am momentarily alone,
meditating in the big blue chair,
framed by orange yellow daffodils,
reaching for that sliver of light in the air.

The creak of the bunk bed ladder
delivers his little heavy footed feet
barely balancing
his needing
to climb into my lap,
wearily
and crawl sweetly back
into an earlier version of himself.

His skin is the color of the warm coffee
suddenly out of my reach.
I watch as he returns deeply into
his gentle mocha dreaming
on the backs of flying dragons
still so easily within his reach.

I pull him closer towards me all the seven years
I’ve had so far to hold him
no amount of this will ever be enough.
Now I am teetering on the edge of another mother’s grieving with
all the other mothers now fearing
their seventeen year olds
leaving the house (and not coming back).

Maybe it was seeing Trayvon’s mother’s vacancy
where her son, and her heart ought to be
that made me
cross the street the other day
when we were all outside at play
over to that young Black man
who was just walking along,
ignoring us until I got up in his way
to just say; hello!

He stopped short and looked long into my eyes
and told me how he
used to live across the street from my family.
He remembered when my littlest boy was little little

Those curls of his, they were so wild, and free.
They’re all gone-he asked or was he telling me?
Surprised, I blurted how I cut them off, because they were- unruly.

He nodded and smiled while walking slowly away from me-
this twenty something version of Sammy
has every bloody reason to be unruly.

Unruly.

Be unruly in your dreams boys
whack the ball clear
over Jackie Robinson’s legacy
leap and extend yourselves
further than Alvin Alley.
President, engineer, poet and astronaut-
not holding back but
breaking free from our shared history
and stomp, don’t stand all over the unequal ground
bequeathed to you indirectly.

Like the time the referee
held onto Sammy a little too long
while he was squirming, anxious to move along.
Admonished apparently to pass the ball more
and shoot less,
I wondered when the other light skin boys
might get a similar address.

But for now my little love,
just sleep and breathe in deeply your
luscious dark brown dreaming
conquer your dragons while clad in
your heavy armor and mesh hoodies.

My brown skinned prince so sweet and near me-
if squeezing you tighter will keep you fear free
and holding you here
will not let (my) fear ever take you from me.

Evening-
I am no longer alone,
meditating on that moment in the big blue chair
framed by orange yellow daffodils,
and sensing a mass of hope in the air.

– C. Anderson 2012