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January 3, 2014

GM and GP 2

When I was younger, we rarely celebrated New Year’s Eve with any kind of hoopla.  My parents did not entertain big, drink big or spend big, so New Year’s Eve celebrations were quiet, family affairs.  One year when I was in college, my maternal grandparents took the entire family to Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl, and that New Year’s Eve with my cousins and siblings at the Westin Bonaventure is the closest I have ever come to an iconic New Year’s Eve celebration. For most of my teens and early twenties, I traded my prom dress for a quiet evening with my paternal grandmother, who, by that point, was alone, having buried her husband and the adult son with cerebral palsy whom she had cared for his entire life.

New Year’s Eve at Grandma Spinner’s was a non-stop snack fest of Mountain Dew, Jiffy Pop, and cans of Planter’s Cheez Balls.  Rather than attend the parties hosted by my friends, I preferred to ring in the new year emotionally safe, unconditionally loved, and satiated with salt.  We’d spend the evening in our pajamas, popping Cheez Balls, watching Dick Clark, and working on our needlepoint canvas tissues boxes.  As I grew older, I tried to do both: heading to the party earlier in the evening but making a point to be back at Grandma’s by midnight so we could ring in the New Year together.  One year I lost track of the time–or maybe I purposefully ignored it–and it was past twelve before I arrived at my grandmother’s house.  As I walked up the steps to her front door, I peered through the picture window in her living room to catch her face unguarded.  The colors from the TV set made her eyes look hollow.  When I opened the door, she got up from her chair to give me a hug.  “I’m sorry, Grandma,” I told her.  “Happy New Year, darlin’,” she simply said, holding me tight.

I feel fortunate to have reached my middle years with few regrets.  Like a good cliche, the bad choices and mistakes that I have made have nearly always yielded unexpected opportunities, humbling me in the process.  Plus, I was adopted.  My entire life was set on course by something that wasn’t supposed to happen.  That keeps it real–and leaves me to obsess over the little details, the smaller barbs that I have inflicted on myself and others.  That B+ in high school biology.  That errant throw that broke my softball coach’s nose.  That New Year’s Eve I chose myself over my grandmother.

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Photo by Yischon Liaw

2013 will go down in my adoption history as a quiet one, with very little contact between me and my birth family.  We’ve all been busy with our own lives and personal upheavals, but there’s more to it than that.  At least for me, silence has become the path of least resistance.   The noise has come instead from the edges.  I finally was able to tour the Chicago maternity ward where my sister and I were born.  The social worker who helped facilitate our adoption, and who was friends with my birth mother in college, attended my youngest son’s baptism.  I met my birth parent’s daughter this past summer and have since forged a relationship with her.  I’m looking forward to the outings we have planned with our families in the coming year.

For all that this reunion journey has, and hasn’t, been, I don’t for a moment regret embarking on it.   But moving forward in this new year means staying tethered to the light behind me.

And there they are, my mother, husband and four sons, bundled up against the cold at Franklin Square in Philadelphia, where we have gone to ring in 2014 after a meal at our favorite vegan spot in Chinatown.  The square is ablaze with white holiday lights, and the night sky is lit by red, white and blue fireworks shot over the Delaware River.  Amid it all, their faces are bright and happy, alight with the noisy, sure glow of love.  There are no regrets here, no hindsight, no resolutions, either.  It’s the perfect place to end the year.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2014 3:29 am

    Hi, I am also an adoptee and I just started a blog along the same lines. Just trying to let other adoptees understand that while our stories may be different they don’t have to go through this alone. I truly enjoyed your post and hope that you would take a look at mine. http://cmylyfe.wordpress.com. Happy New Year!

  2. January 3, 2014 9:52 pm

    Sounds like your adoption story, the history part, anyway, has reached a sort of closing. What a lot of effort and energy you have given! I am so glad you did just for the selfish reason that I could be reconnected with you and Jackie and Donna and meet all of the other wonderful members of your family. Thanks for including my picture; it brought tears to my eyes as I thought about how God is so good to me, even letting me know and hold two generations of special babies. My love to you, Judy

  3. January 3, 2014 8:29 pm

    So good to see your post – always love your stories. A sweet story about your grandmother. I bet she was ok with whenever you showed up — as long as you got there. Happy New Year!

    • twinprint permalink*
      January 3, 2014 9:23 pm

      Thanks so much, Jan! You’re right about my grandmother. Happy New Year to you, too!

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