“I’ve never known a writer who didn’t feel ill at ease in the world. We all feel unhoused in some sense. That’s part of why we write. We feel we don’t fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we’re not of it.”
When I saw that quote I felt the warmth of knowing I’m not the only one, the comfort of knowing I’m not alone. There are other aliens, people not entirely comfortable here. I feel particularly alien lately.
Some of it comes from having spent 8 hours talking with prospective adoptive parents on Sunday in Brooklyn. I knew to bring tissues; sure enough, they were gone by the end of the day. I know the hope these people have. I know the fear that hope may remain just that – hope. I know how hope can become something to be afraid of, to even acknowledge. In a backwards, strange way, I know. They are special to me, the longing-to-adopt.
There is a surreal aspect too. They long for a baby, and I long for my boy. It is parallel and perpendicular at once. Someone will ask if I have children, and I answer that I have a boy who is nine. A few people get confused, thinking Jonah is the adopted child. “No,” I explain. “I’m adopted. My son is biological.” One lady asked me if I had a hard time conceiving. I admitted that I did not. She looked steadily at me, her eyes entering mine with heavy envy. “You’re so lucky,” she sighed. “You’re so incredibly lucky.”
I realized she was envying me the same way I have envied mothers who kiss their kids each day, waving to them as they board school busses…the parents whose children play games. Who do homework, or argue that they don’t want to. Kids who tell Santa what they want for Christmas. The truth is, I know nothing about all these people beyond that which I see in a fleeting glance, just like the lady telling me I was lucky knew nothing at all about where my so-easily-conceived boy is now, and why. There really is no greener grass.
Another man at the conference had just married his long-time boyfriend, and they wanted to adopt a child.
He read The Story of Amy…
…a book my mother made for me out of one of those circa 1970 gold-ring-bound, red cloth, cling-paged photo albums, hand-written on white paper and illustrated with all the cards my parents received to congratulate them on their new baby girl.
I always bring the book with me to adoption conferences because I think it was a great way for my parents to tell me I was adopted. My mom read it to me every night from the time I was a baby, so I always knew I was adopted, and as a result, being adopted never felt strange to me.
Usually people flip through The Story of Amy quickly, giving it an appreciative glance. This guy, though, picked it up, stood aside, and read the whole thing, slowly, page by page. When he handed it back to me, tears were streaming from both his eyes. He couldn’t even talk to me. He picked up my business card and walked away. I almost cried with him.
And speaking of crying, I can’t seem to stop thinking about Mr. Fleischer. I should have sent him a care package, I’ll think, or I wish I had told him he is the answer to one of my password prompts on almost every website log-in: Who was your favorite teacher?
If I don’t use Ned Fleischer, I use Patrick Meanor from SUNY Oneonta, my favorite college professor. I don’t intend to make the same mistake with him if I can help it. I’m going to look him up and see if we can visit in Oneonta. I want to tell him he is my password prompt too, and another one of the few greatest influences in my life.
Tomorrow, though, I’ll have Thanksgiving with my mother, my boy, and Andy. And then, later, with Mark and Jack and Almanzo. I’ll stop thinking “I feel like an alien” and I’ll concentrate on gratitude. For so many things…