Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This is weird

Both of my sisters are 40 years old. Both of my sisters were born the same month and year.

My two sisters live with my two mothers.

I just think that's weird.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Thank U


I honestly did not expect this response. That’s the truth.

Here’s the truth – I’ve been having some trouble with my memory lately. I think it’s a lot of stresses that have been going on outside of adoption. So the main reason for getting it all down was because I was afraid I’d forget parts of it. This is the truth: I did not expect this at all.

Your responses have blown me away. So instead of commenting as a reply on the previous post, I thought I’d put this up.

Ungrateful kitteh is really grateful for the people in my life.

Thank you.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Peace be with you

It’s over. I’m home.

Today there were two bits of unfinished business to attend to.

The first was gramma’s grave. It was rather lacking in the flowers department, but I’ve rectified that. The most beautiful purple tulips I’ve seen now grow there. And hopefully will again next year too.

Neither mom nor I are flower people, but after seeing the house gramma grew up in when she was a little girl, where relatives still live now, I believe that gramma was. As it’s my great-grandmother’s grave too, I thought the purple tulips were fitting for both of them.

On the way back, mass was in service. I had briefly considered going to mass, but had decided against it after the creeped out feeling I had gotten when the church was empty.

I looked at the parking lot as I sat at the light in the intersection. It was a full house, and cars were parked up and down the street as well.

I looked at the red light; I looked at the parking lot. Red light, parking lot. The light turned green.

Oh what the hell.

I pulled in and parked in a no parking zone.

If you’re going to go where you’re not wanted, might as well break a law or two while you’re at it.

The church is massive, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. The back vestibule was full of people too. They really pack ‘em in at my church. I asked a woman in the back if it was always this crowded. She said it was, all four services every Sunday.


It was a whole different feeling when the church was full.

Truth – it’s kind of nice in there.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Catholic mass. I was so surprised during Peace that I wound up first shaking the hand and saying “Hi” to the first person who wished it to me. I decided to throw myself into it though, all nine yards. I even did a hasty Act of Contrition and took Communion. This is such an old church, you can still do Communion the good old fashioned unsanitary way – open mouth and all. I like tradition, you know.

I was really getting into it. I don’t know if the priest who gave me Communion ever had anyone smile at him like that before, but honestly, I was having a blast.

When the church was empty it was oppressive and frightening, and had whispers of unhappiness and secrets. When it was full today, like it was for noon mass, it was something different entirely.

Or more truthful – I was something entirely different. Because just for that moment, I was there as Real Me. I was there as the Me who, if things had been different, would have been baptized there. I would have gone to school there. Real Me would have been in the Legion of Mary there, Real Me would have processed every May Day trailing flowers through the streets behind the Blessed Mother. Real Me would have had her First Holy Communion there, her Confirmation there, gotten married there.

Real Me felt real comfortable with everyone there, as I made small talk in the back of the church, because Real Me most likely knew the person I was talking to. Maybe Real Me was even related to her. She was my age, so Real Me would have been friends with her. Maybe even best friends. Real Me would know the people there by their first names. Real Me may not still have been Catholic at my age, but Real Me probably would still be involved in the church. Because living in Philadelphia, Real Me would know, the entire world is: your block, your family, your parish.

So Real Me felt very peaceful there, and was genuinely generous at collection time. I know they were grateful when they opened my envelope.

When Mass was over, I made my way out. I wanted to visit the Rectory briefly. Real Me knew there was a little chapel in the back that she wanted to see.

A very old man touched my shoulder as I made my way through the crowd, and I turned around.

“Hey…. It’s good to see you here again!”

Without a beat – “It’s good to be home”

I look like somebody.

I look like somebody.

I look like somebody so much, I made someone happy to see me.

I look like somebody.

Oh god, if you’re real, you’ll never know what that means.

Right now what happened freaks Ghost Me out twelve ways to tomorrow, but unfortunately Ghost Me wasn’t at the church today to have acted on it. The old man said that to Real Me, who grew up there, who attended church there, so of course he would miss me. I hadn’t been there in a while. But it was really good to be home.

There was a woman heading up to the rectory.

I called to her asking her where the chapel was.

It’s over here, I’m going there, you come with me. There’s stairs up the rear but I can’t manage them so I go this way. I have a bad back

“Oh I do too”

The chapel is small and narrow. Only two seats on the left and one seat on the right. I sat off to the right.

She came in and sat across from me.

There’s a little basket up front where you can leave prayer intentions.

I went up and wrote one for my mother.

And when I sat back down, Real Me left and Ghost Me came back, and the weight of what I have lost came crashing with it.

As embarrassing as it was, out of nowhere, huge sobs that I couldn’t control came, sobs that bent me over in half, sobs that took my breath away. I sat there bent over, my forehead pressed against my knees, my mouth wide open but no sound came out, just this wrenching in my stomach that I felt would never leave.

And there was this sweet hand on my back, and this sweet voice that said, “If you need an ear, I’m here

And Ghost Me who apologizes for everything started apologizing, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you came here to say a rosary and I’m sorry, I’m sorry to interrupt you, I’m sorry

It’s OK, if you need an ear, I’m here

I looked over at her. She was maybe a little older than my mom, not by much.

I took a breath, she was a real kid. I couldn’t say much to her. No matter how sweet they are, you just can't trust real kids with the full truth.

“This was my family’s church. I came here from New York. I wanted to see it. Seeing it makes my loss that much more real. I never knew my family”

Oh sure, sure, oh yeah sure, oh you never knew your family

“I just wanted to say a prayer for my mother. I didn’t want to cry like this”

Oh sure, sure, of course, you miss her, you only have one mother.

Oh sweet nice person, you have no idea how true that can be.

You miss her so much


I bet she was your best friend


“I never knew her, but yeah, she was in my mind. I always loved her”

You never knew your mommy”, and she started to cry

She gave me a peppermint.

I sat there for a bit. I could see out the window the parking lot was now empty, except for my bastard car parked blatantly out front in the no parking zone. I started to feel…. like a bastard. And I had one bit of bastardly business unfinished.

I thanked her and told her I had to go. She gave me another peppermint for the road.

In the back of the church, I left copies of this quarter’s Pennsylvania Adoption Reunion Registry newsletter on the table with the other literature.

And a few doors down from the church is the neighborhood grocery store, where I left the other stack.

This quarter’s newsletter features an article on the Donaldson report.

It features search tips.

It features a review of The Stork Market by Mirah Riben...

And it features your truly.

I look like somebody.

There's a wedding in August I need to go to Philly for.

I think I'll be back.

Pax vobiscum


Friday, April 04, 2008

Drive the streets my foremothers walked on

It was a grey and gloomy day in Philly.

But the sun shone in the form of Mia, who graciously gave of herself to spend a day traipsing around the northeast corner of Philadelphia on my genealogical field trip, and all she got was a lousy parking ticket to show for it.

Our first stop was the beautiful and cozy 3 Monkeys Cafe, conveniently located across from the Torresdale SEPTA stop. If you’re in Philly, do take the time to visit. You won’t be disappointed. Just a word of advice: if you’re on a field trip back to the land of your birth, skip it. The food is too good to not eat, and I was so nervous I barely even ate one fourth of my veggie wrap.

So barely eaten veggie wrap behind me, we set off first for mom’s. After pulling into the wrong complex, we found the right area.

Mom lives right on the water.

Of course she does.

Of course she does.

Yeah, we pulled right up and parked.

Someone was in the house. The TV was on.

We sat there in the car.

I considered it for a nanosecond.

OK, half a nanosecond.

I didn’t. I couldn’t. I thought when I got back to the hotel tonight I’d regret not going to the door, but I don’t. Tomorrow is going to be a really emotional day for me, being around my entire adoptive clan, and I just need all the strength I can for it.

I couldn’t go to this thing tomorrow after, after I don’t know what, but just after. I couldn’t.

Anyway, it’s rude to show up without warning. I hate it when relatives do that to me. Even ones I didn’t even secretly give birth to.

But I was there. Right there. Right there, in front of mom’s. I don’t know who was in the house. I don’t know if it was her, or someone else in her family. I don’t. But I was there, in her space, and with everything I have going on now, it was enough.

Next stop, 4 blocks away, was the house I grew in, or at least achieved human form in. I was a little disappointed to see it had been seriously hardcore renovated recently, with new extensions on either side. The usual stone-face façade had been taken down except for one thin strip, and the house looked brand spanking new. But still, the original lines where the house of the faceless girl lived remain, and for a brief while I could pretend it was April of 1963, and this was a house of very, very, very unhappy people.

Next, 1 more block up, the church mom attended. I’d been there before. But this was the first time since I knew it once had been hers.

I didn’t stay long. It creeped me out. I had to just light my prayer candle quickly and get the hell out of dodge.

Oh and one brief detour: Catholic Church – wtf is up with the electric candles that you push a button to light? Where’s the magic in that? Listen – prayer candles only work if you can do the whole ritual:

a) take the long stick out of the sand
b) take the fire from an already lit candle
c) light your own candle
d) put the long stick back in the sand

Four steps – that’s it. Not press a button and an electric fake candle lights up. Jesus Christ.

Anyway, last stop, gramma’s grave.

I couldn’t find it at first. Good thing Mia was there, I very well may have given up after the first pass.

I couldn’t find it at first because the large name on the tombstone was not my last name, but the name of gramma’s family. Yeah, it was a family plot. And I hit the dead Irish genealogy jackpot as there is a veritable boatload of my DNA on both sides of the family located underfoot, with their names all engraved.

And therein, I lost it. Big time.

My family, my ancestors.

People I probably would have loved, if I had know them, which makes them all the more precious to me, and the loss of them searing and unbearable.

My family, my ancestors. People who died while I was searching for them. People whose lives went on without me. I could see the years of death and put them on the map of my life.

My family, my ancestors.

The graveyard was tough.

I’ve got two days left here. I have more places to visit. I want to see the great-grandparent’s houses. They’re all in this neighborhood too. I don’t know what brought them here when they immigrated, but they took root and never left. Nor did their children. And their grandchildren. Within five blocks generations lived, grew, married, gave birth, died, and the children they gave birth to repeated the cycle, never leaving this area. Almost all of them. They’re all right here, tucked away in this pretty little corner of the city.

I am of the tribe of Velda, and I am of the District Magherafelt, but by birth I am a Torresdale girl, and damn proud of it. Today, as hard as it was for me, I am very glad to be home.

By the way, that real kid was right. Genealogy doesn’t really feel real, until you see your first grave.

You’re dead and buried gramma, and just for today, I forgive you for throwing me away. Slán agus beannacht leat.

I’m wiped.

Good night.

Thank you Mia.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Birth

I fear evil.

A walk through the valley of the shadow of death would be a piece of cake compared to going to Philly.

It hurts me to say that. I love Philly so much.

I love it so much, I never go there. Because it hurts too much.

Philadelphia is where:

  • - I was made
  • - I was given away
  • - I was taken in
  • - I loved the family that did but
  • - I never felt like I fit in
  • - I moved away from
  • - I never, ever, ever return to.

In Philadelphia lives:

  • - My mother who wants nothing to do with me
  • - My adoptive relatives, some of whom do want something to do with me, but whose hearts I break because I can’t stand to go there.
  • - My immediate family, who may or may not know about me

Nothing in the last statement makes me feel good.

If they don’t know about me, it really sucks to be someone’s dirty little secret.

If they do know about me, it really sucks that they don’t give a shit about me.

I’m really working myself up into a frenzy over this trip. Of course this doesn’t help:

Bloody weather.

Trip Itinerary:

* - Gramma’s grave
* - Grandparent’s parish
* - Grandparent’s house
* - Library – removed. No yearbooks
* - Archdiocese Archives – removed. No yearbooks
* - WTF kind of city doesn’t keep yearbooks in it’s libraries?
* - My city, that’s what kind.

My city, where during the BSE your life consists of:

* - Your relatives
* - Your block
* - Your parish

That’s it, that’s the entire world. Your relatives, your block, your parish.

So when your, say, 18 year old daughter gets pregnant in the winter of 1963, it’s the end of the world. What will your relatives, your block, your parish say?

There’s only one thing to do. Hide her away until October, until that unpleasant bit of business is done with, and then you can breathe a sigh of relief. Who cares what it may do to your daughter. Who cares what it may do to that nasty thing inside her. What matters is: your relatives, your block, your parish.

What kind of a closed heart fails to realize that your daughter and her child are also part of your relatives, your block, your parish? The kind that believes: They don’t matter. They don’t count. They are disposable, dispensable, disgusting.

So why go? Why subject myself to this when it has me in such a state?

Because it’s also:

* - My block
* - My parish
* - My relatives

And I don’t feel entitled to any of it. My hope is that by seeing it with my own eyes, somehow I can cast off some of this unnecessary shame, this despicable weakness inside me.

One can only hope.

So I’ve got to get packing. Friday morning I head off to the valley of the shadow of birth, and face the evil there with new eyes. This is the first time I’ve gone back since I’ve known my real name.

I’m absolutely terrified.


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