I was 31 when it hit me – with all the subtlety of a drive-by shooting. I had just closed my classroom for the day and was beginning my drive home. I rounded the corner onto the main street and glanced across the car and out the passenger side window for a last look at the school. My heart leapt into my throat and I gasped. Quickly registering the empty seat beside me, my foot went to the brake and I swerved. “Oh my God!” I thought, “I forgot my child!” This thought was of course, followed shortly by the next thought, “Oh – that’s right – I don’t have a child.” Somewhat shaken, I wiped the sweat off my palms and continued homeward, slightly amused and more than a little disturbed by what had just happened.
I had been arguing with some inner voice for quite a while. The voice kept pushing and nagging me to look into adoption. I was not so willing as to run to the nearest agency upon encouragement, even if the voice seemed to be coming from within. I mean, who knows where that voice came from? And although I consider myself open-minded, I was, and am not, a reckless fool.But, in the face of tricks like these, I decided a little concession might be in order. Perhaps a little half-hearted and insincere research at the local library would quell the stranger in my gut……
It took me a while to find the section in the library – most things take me a while to find in the library – in spite of the neat little cards in the cool little wooden drawers with the brass handles. But I finally found the section, and spent the next hour or so perusing the literature. “What an obscure thing to be doing,” I thought. Still held at virtual gunpoint by The Voice, I finally selected two books and calmly checked them out.
Once home, I drew the curtains and looked at them more closely. I skimmed a few pages here and there, and put them down. Then I picked them up again.Then I put them down again. Then I picked them up again. I sat down and, over the next 2 days, read both of them cover to cover. The next day, I pulled out the Yellow Pages and looked up under “A” for adoption. (In case you are wondering, it’s right there on the first page.) Feeling totally intimidated and half crazy, I bumbled my way through calls to several agencies and requested information to be sent to me.
Through the practical process of elimination, and in another round of information gathering phone calls, I found myself talking to a social worker for quite some time. After about an hour, I finally accepted her oft repeated offer for a formal meeting.
I told myself that this was all just to satisfy the noisy malcontent in my midst, and that I wasn’t really doing this. I was, after all, just a 31 year old young woman with a cat and a cozy, neat house. No partner, no home ownership, no nest egg, and no solid plans for parenthood anywhere on the horizon.
But one thing led to another, which led to another, until, at some point a couple of months later, I realized that I was no longer considering this – I was actually doing it. And I found that I was very happy about that.
By the time I met Camaro, he was 4 and I was 33. I met him at what’s known as a “Kids’ Fest”. Kids’ Fest is an annual event put on by a few local adoption agencies whose goal is to unite searching parents with searching kids. It’s billed as an entertainment event, and they do go all out, but everyone knows that it’s an incredibly awkward time of tense parents looking over hoards of equally tense kids – all checking each other out and hoping desperately to be chosen by someone. It’s absolutely excruciating. Effective, but excruciating.
I had heard about Cam from my caseworker just a few weeks before, and he seemed a promising candidate. We were told that he’d be at Kids’ Fest with his foster parents, and that I should look for him. I had been told to look for a tiny blond boy with his foster parents, and that he’d have a nametag on.
By the time I’d hung up the phone I was, of course, already in love with him, and had the whole romantic scene played out in my mind………….. He’d walk through the doors and I’d know who he was instantly. We’d catch each other’s eyes and he’d run to me – sure of who I was. He’d be dressed casually in neat, colorful cotton clothes, and be ready to play. He’d grab my hand and we’d be off on some mutual adventure……. We’d be in such love that he would move in the following day and we’d just ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
As it turned out, I finally spotted him atop his foster dad’s shoulders – green snot pouring out of his head from what turned out to be a chronic sinus infection, dressed in an old t shirt 2 sizes too big and not an agreeable color at all. He was indeed tiny – more the size and appearance of a 2 year old – and crying from all of the noise inside the gymnasium. His head was an odd shape and, frankly, I was disappointed. He was not the idyllic picture of cuteness, and I suddenly had no desire to meet him at all. The foster parents were kinda scary looking……. But I also wasn’t sure of how to avoid them.They had been told that I would be there, and they were obviously looking around. It took me 3 approaches until I finally swallowed hard enough to introduce myself. Once they knew who I was, the foster parents immediately asked me to join them outside where it was quieter. Cam stopped crying immediately. Once placed on the ground, he walked up and grasped my finger. He waddled around in his diaper checking out all of the vehicles. His eyes and feet never stopped moving, and, with the exception of asking everyone we saw “Hey, where’s your truck?!”, he just repeated everything I said.
While listening to Cam with one ear, in my other ear, the foster parents grilled me bluntly and mercilessly between long drags on their cigarettes. Clearly they were nervous, and definitely not the shy, patient, take-your-time-and-watch-a-bit-and-see type. I stumbled after Cam – totally bewildered.
I had been told that he had “global developmental delays”, but that no one really knew what that meant – both currently and for the future. As a special education teacher, that didn’t scare me a bit. Heck, I dealt with that every day easily enough. But, now, being dragged around by a tiny, toddling, droopy-diapered, echolailic four year old whose eyes never seemed to stick on anything for more than a portion of a second, and who was clearly obsessed with vehicles, I wasn’t sure about being called “Mommy.”
What had I done, and just how had I gotten here???
But as my circulation returned to normal, and I sweated out enough adrenaline, I started to enjoy this little guy. I, too, was overwhelmed by the inside crowd, and preferred to be outside. I noticed that he was quite at ease with himself and seemed to have a sense of who he was. He enjoyed himself and others immensely. He was not bothered by the fact that I was a stranger, and readily dragged me along – oblivious to everything else but having a good time. He was not at a loss as to how to entertain himself and laughed from his heart. He was comfortable in his own skin. I didn’t expect that level of settledness from someone so young. It was very attractive, and I had to admire that.
We parted at the end of the party – them visibly hopeful, and me inwardly overwhelmed with the idea of “picking out” a child. Days and a couple of weeks went by. I had never picked out a child before, and had no idea of how to do it. In fact, whenever I thought about it, I was nearly overcome with how weird and alien a concept it was. Should I adopt Camaro or keep looking?What was it exactly that I was looking for? How would I know? Was he too old? Too young? Should I get a girl? Should it be a boy? What would I do next? Would he like me? Would my friends and family like him? What if they didn’t? Would I like him? And just how does one become a mother overnight? Come to think of it – what is a mother, anyway?!
It took some time for my emotions and thoughts to calm down enough to see straight. And then, one day as I was driving around the city doing ordinary errands on an ordinary day, I knew. It was quiet, and not what I expected, but I knew that I did want to adopt him – whatever that really meant.
I called the caseworker and she set up a meeting.