At a recent Place of Recreation, two little girls began playing with my kids, allowing me to sip a cocktail and text people.
The girls’ mother soon approached me, and I complimented her on how well her children played with younger children. She thanked me, and said, “I have a friend who adopted her daughter from China.”
“That’s nice,” I said. Awkward pause ensued. “Actually, none of my children are from China.”
“Oh!” she said. “Is your husband Oriental?”
“Yes!” I answered brightly. “I got him on sale! He was on the shelf right next to the Flied Lice!”
Okay, no, no. I didn’t say that. I might have smirked a little. But since my everyday generic expression is sort of smirky, I don’t think she noticed. Then I summoned my most patronizing tone, and patiently explained the extraordinary circumstances that have led to my children having brown skin.
The woman nodded sagely. “Those children will lead very blessed lives,” she said.
Yes. Yes, they will. Because they will have sufficient health insurance to cover the therapy bills needed when they’re old enough to realize that their birth parents were too poor to raise them and instead entrusted them to a wild-eyed redheaded woman who lets them eat raw cookie dough for breakfast and listen to Lady Gaga songs on the way to school. Oh, and PSSST…..she’s a yeller, too.
I’ve ranted about this before. But I’ve been thinking about it again lately because of a book I’m reading. In the excellent “The Missing,” by Tim Gautreaux, a 5-year-old girl is kidnapped from a department store in 1920s-era New Orleans. Her parents are entertainers on a riverboat, and the family lives aboard the vessel as it cruises up and down the Mississippi. The book’s main character is Sam, who is the security guard under whose watch the child disappears. He embarks on a mission to find her.
WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT HERE.
He does find her. He sees that she has become the child of a wealthy man and his wife who live in a beautiful Victorian home and give her toys and sweets and her own personal handmaiden.
And so he decides to leave her there….because this new life, he believes, will in the end be better for the girl than the bawdy life her riverboat parents, who love her dearly, will give her.
That’s not the end of the story. But it’s a salient point, and it plagues me a little because so many people assume that my kids are so “blessed” to be here.
Are they? They were born in Third World countries to young, unwed mothers too poor to keep them. They lived the first six months of their lives in orphanages: the younger two drank from bottles that were propped up next to them in their sleeping baskets. The Tyrant had suffered from malnutrition, pneumonia and a staph infection before she learned to smile.
We adopted them and are raising them in a suburb where 94.4 percent of the population is white. Like, really white. And their father makes them watch golf on television and cheer for the Boston Red Sox.
My point: our children aren’t with us because life is better here. They are with us because they needed parents. And yes, they will have opportunities that probably wouldn’t have been available had they been raised in their birth countries. They will also have lifelong questions about the circumstances of their births. The Diva, who turns 9 this month, has cried out of worry that her birth mother doesn’t have enough to eat. The Pterodactyl desperately wishes that he had once lived in my belly. Honestly, he wishes he still lived there.
I am SO PROUD of our family. I love the way we look, and I love our life story. I touch my daughters’ silky black hair a hundred times a day, and each feel of their heads stirs my heart. My son stares at me whenever I walk into a room, and even when he’s screaming at me to GIVE HIM THE STAPLER RIGHT NOW, MOM, I get lost in the mysterious spirit of his big dark eyes.
These children have saved my life, and of the five of us, I am by far the luckiest. Are they better off here because we have money? No. (And by the way, we don’t have much.) They are better off here because they have parents.
But one day, when they’re older, we’ll travel to Hanoi and see oxen moving among the bright green rice paddies. We’ll to go to Guatemala and watch the steam simmering from the Atitlan volcano. And our children will cling to us, their parents, and nonetheless wonder, “What have we missed by not being here?” In a sense, they will have become The Missing.