October 2010


When you are studying literature in high school, there is a lesson on climax vs. denouement.  In some stories, it’s hard to really pinpoint the climax and you may have some debate about it.  I thought back on my journey adopting my son, and I realized that it was the moment when my lawyer’s office called me and told me to bring him to the next court date, because that would be the adoption.  I was still worried, but it was over.  I hugged a million people in my office.  I plastered the date in huge numbers on my wall.  I smiled for days (I kid you not).

Just because the climax of a story happens doesn’t mean the story is over.  After that came the beautiful part – the adoption, the celebration with my friends and family, his last name changed to mine – then the move to the new town and the fresh start.  I thought that moving was the end of the story.

If that’s the case, then tomorrow night is the epilogue.  My sister, yes – my son’s biological mother – THAT sister, is coming to meet him for the first time in almost four years.  I’m very hopeful that this will go well.  All signs point to the fact that it will.  It doesn’t mean that everything is better, or that there still won’t be a lot to work out between them as he grows older, but it feels like something positive.  For him, I know he’ll want to know that it wasn’t his fault that she left him.  For her, I know she’ll be glad to have him in her life again and will hopefully be able to heal some of the guilt she feels.

I’m glad of both those things, but I’m also hopeful that it will signify our ability to close that story in our lives, not just with the feeling that the action is over, but that long-term, there can be some peace for us all.  It will take a lot of commitment on her part, but at the very least, he will have the chance to get the answers that he needs to move forward.  That bit right there means the world to me.

And for me?  It’s come to my attention lately that I am often too busy thinking about how others feel to really know how I feel about something.  I’ve been so busy putting one foot in front of the other all these years that I haven’t allowed myself to pause and reflect.  When I get through tomorrow night, I will, though.  If I do it now, I don’t know how I’ll make it through.

Today is my 33rd birthday.

There have been so many times in my life when I have had so many wishes to make upon my birthday cake, that to sit here and feel content as I do seems unreal.  There are most certainly goals that I have in my life, but I don’t need wishes to get me there; just growth and determination.  Besides, achievement is rewarding, but it isn’t what makes my life good.  The people in my life make my life good.  And so many of them have called me today that I truly feel lucky to know so many people who care about me.

This morning, my son said that 33 sounded like a lucky number.  I quickly agreed.  He was then a little disappointed that he didn’t have luck like me, but I told him that if I had luck, then he would have luck, because he was a part of my life.  I am lucky to have so many things, not the least of which is him.

I’m not sure what I’ll wish for on my cake.  Maybe something silly like the big cupcake mold that they show on infomercials, or new jammies. 

What do you think I should wish for?

My son is learning flute for the school band this year, and man, it makes me miss my clarinet.  I haven’t played it in about 20 years (I can’t believe I’m so old that I can say that), but suddenly I miss it.  I didn’t pick the clarinet for any special reason (unlike my son’s passionate love of the sounds of all types of flutes), and I don’t remember loving it particularly, but time has given it an unexpected nostalgia.

Lessons at school are only once a week in 4th grade, but there’s a commitment to the teacher to practice 20 minutes a night, five nights a week.  At first, J practiced on his own.  Mostly, this consisted of him messing around, which is fine because I want him to have fun and right now it’s just about getting familiar with the instrument.  At one point, I popped in to ask him to practice blowing only on the mouthpiece to get the tone right, instead of the squeaky sound that had been issuing from him bedroom the prior few nights.  (This must be a power of parents: that we learn when they are young to ignore so much that ultimately we can tune out just about anything.) 

But once he started with the book, that was it for me.  I spent the whole twenty minutes excitedly explaining how to read music: the notes, the rests, the measures.  I showed him how to tap the rhythm with his foot while he played.  I forgot how much I missed reading music, and playing something.  I sing all the time for leisure, but it’s not the same as looking at a piece of paper and imagining the song in your head. 

Of course, he’s far from playing songs yet, and he’s already started to complain about practice.  But that’s okay – I complained, too.  I just want him to stick with it for a few years and learn to enjoy it.  Sadly, my clarinet was lost years ago (I still hold out hope that it’s in my mother’s basement, conspiring with my lost class ring).  Funny thing, though, is that all these years later, I still remember exactly how it felt in my hands.

It just occurred to me that my birthday is coming up.  I have a love/hate relationship with my birthday.  I loved it, until three years ago when it was the deadline to contest my son’s adoption and my father hired a lawyer to contest it – who filed the motion at 11:30 on a 12:00 deadline.  (As you know, my son is my bio nephew.)  I was devastated.  Someone actually gave me a sympathy card instead of a birthday card, which somehow made it much worse. 

It’s all over now.  It was actually over a year and a half ago, but when my birthday came last year, I still had a lot of hate and resentment over it.  Recently, seeing how much my father’s stubbornness and misguided intentions have hurt and isolated him, the pain has faded.  I pity him a great deal.  Maybe things will change in the coming years.  For now, at least I can approach my birthday again with some renewed excitement.

I’ll be 33 this year.  I have a friend who calls this “the Jesus year”, with the implication that it’s some sort of reckoning time to see if you’ve made something of your life.  I still have lots of goals, but right now, I’m good with the path I’ve taken in life.  I have a good feeling about this year.  I have a good feeling about the next few years, actually.  I was at a family wedding this weekend, and you could tell that my cousin was deeply in love with his new wife.  All of my siblings are in relationships, and three out of four of them are in long-term relationships.  I hope the next few years bring weddings and (more) children and an explosion of love and joy in my family.  We deserve it; we’ve been through a lot together, and some of the drama in the last decade has been really miserable.  I want to see my mom overjoyed with how happy all of us are, creating new families and enjoying life together.

Isn’t that a pretty dream?

Every year I have a pumpkin carving party at my house.  This year’s is going to be big.  I can’t wait.  I never ask for anything for my birthday except that the people I love come over and spend time with me, drinking cider, eating cupcakes, and carving pumpkins.  Those are the thoughts that warm me on fall nights.  I can’t wait.

Yesterday, right before my son’s belated birthday party, I was finishing up my dishes when I broke a glass on my hand.  My mom did the same thing when I was little, and a friend of mine too very recently, and both needed stitches.  I knew I should have been using the cylindrical sponge, but I was in a hurry.  As I stood there, waiting for my hand to start bleeding, all I could think was, “Please don’t let this need stitches so I don’t have to cancel the party!”

It didn’t, luckily.  My fingers aren’t pretty, but I’ll live.  It just seemed to be a good metaphor for how life is right now: full steam ahead, fingers crossed that the speed bumps are tiny, getting to the good stuff.  The party was great.  I felt like such a good mom for having games and prizes planned.  I had everything set up in the yard for a Nerf war.  In all, seven boys came, and two moms stayed (thank goodness).  They ate pizza, cake, and ice cream, laughed and screamed, and talked so much I seriously believe they could give a group of girls a run for their money.

I swear, every boy had this gun.

The boys who came, for the most part, were very similar to J.  It’s a relief, because J always seemed to me to be more crazy than all the boys around him.  I know he’s mellowed out, which is part of it.  The other part is that he’s not the only one with such (how do I say this?) character in his personality, and I’m glad he’s found some similar souls to befriend.  Or just perhaps he’s just more normal than I think. 

The reason that J didn’t have a party back in August was that we were moving at the time.  He was very amenable to delaying it.  Of course, he very sweetly suggested that he get a second birthday present for the party, and he’s been so good about all the chaos these last few months that I had no problem obliging him.  He’s been asking for a pet for years, so I took the leap and got him a hamster.  I told him that I needed cat litter and that we’d just pop into Petco (we don’t have a local pet shop, or I’d have skipped the chain).  When we got inside, I confessed we were there for a hamster.  He was so amazed, he was absolutely beside himself with joy.  He kept saying he couldn’t believe it, and thought he was dreaming.  (He was so serious that he even said he’d know if it were a dream if the house looked different when we got home, because your house always looks different in your dreams.)

He named him “Fidget.”  They are made for each other.

For my part, I’m amazed that he’s matured so much that I can get him his own pet.  He’s come so far the last few months, and I know that a lot of things in life are frustrating for him, but he’s pushed through instead of letting himself get blocked.  I know he’ll love having a creature to love and take care of. 

The hand is really a small price to pay for such a wonderful day.  I swear, I hardly felt it.