Our Moment

kisses

an old picture, us in 2012

Our daughter is teething. Those top two teeth, extra wide and unevenly spaced, will endear her to us in a thousand ways. But right now they are the source of feverish fuss and wailing.

So I hold her close, rest her head against my chest, skin on skin. We rock. I murmur. I kiss her head, slightly damp. I breathe her in.

I think: millions of moms before me have done this. Thousands have written about it, probably hundreds have blogged.

But this is my daughter and this is our moment.

Milky Way by National Geographic

Milky Way by National Geographic

I shiver because the awe of that is bigger than my body, this room in which we sit, bigger even than the moon above our house, our blue planet, spinning, bigger than the dark.

All the moms and daughters who have gone before enter me in a rush, and I hold the moment steady, low in my belly.

I rock and I murmur and I breathe. Long slow breaths, because I’m holding the universe’s universe. I’m holding on.

 

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This is a Perfect Moment Monday post inspired by Lori Lavender Luz. Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between. On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join. Read more perfect moments on the blog hop.

But I’m Right AND I Want to Win!

boxing-gloves-400x400Does it do any good to fight? Does HOW we fight matter? I’m wondering this because two items online this morning have me pulling on my boxing gloves.

First, a predatory adoption “agency” spammed a social media group. In trying to detach from my haze of rage, I realized that I believe this type of “adoption” is a form of human trafficking. Which is to say that I believe this business is a moral evil that should be eradicated and its staff convicted of criminal charges. But while I really want to launch a campaign to revoke their business license and/or hack their web site, the rational part of my brain reminds me that: 1) we live in a supposedly “free country” and 2) these folks came from other ‘law agencies’ and will likely just regroup, rebrand, and continue, because…well, it’s big money. (Human trafficking is, apparently.) So I backed off a bit. I breathed….rapidly at first, and then a bit slower.

Back to that “free” country bit. The other depressing, infuriating news this morning is that immigrant reform will only be available to heterosexuals. Immigrant families headed by same-sex couples don’t get any help or protection. Once again, our lawmakers get to choose exactly who is worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness Leave-It-to-Beaver white picket fences. I started to write a frustrated, venty post and then stopped. Who, exactly, did I need to tell?

Honestly, what I’d really like is for my parents to stop contributing hundreds of dollars to support DOMA and fund anti-gay campaigns. But they are my parents, and they are entitled to their own religious beliefs and moral convictions. I will still make my mother a cup of coffee (with hazelnut creamer) and fix my father a sandwich (with jalapenos) when they visit. Because I love them, even though we don’t agree in a big, big way.

Somewhere in all of this fight and angst and chaos, there’s a place of compassion that I want to inhabit. Not because I really want to see the other side. I’m far too opinionated for that. No, because until I can let go of my pugilistic tendencies, I can’t actually engage in dialogue. And without dialogue I can’t convince people that I’m right honor the human dignity and worth of others. Fighting without causing head injury, that’s my goal. Baby steps.

I DO wonder about my motives, though. When I am vocal online in opposing predatory adoption agencies, am I somehow attempting to prove — to myself, to the entire world — that I am a ‘good’ adoptive mom, i.e. enlightened, caring, perceptive? Am I so vocal in support of adoptees’ civil rights (to unfalsified birth certificates, for example) because I don’t want to be like MY parents? Is the rush of righteous self-indignation really good for my soul?

There’s no chance that I’ll slip into some place of moral relativity. My tolerance really is just barely reaching the level of honoring other people’s humanity. (I was raised southern baptist…serious training…not my fault.) So I’m not talking about letting go of moral absolutes. I’m just wondering if there’s a way that I can hold onto my passion for justice (as I see it) while also being effective, engaging without fighting. This is a big experiment for me, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you advocate online? What works?

The Unexpected Gift of Grandpa

Photo by Steffi Atze. No, not anyone I know. I really need to get some family photos scanned!

Photo by Steffi Atze. Not anyone mentioned in this post, just a great photograph. I really need to get some family photos scanned!

My two best friends when I was a child were my dog, Misty, and my grandfather, Opa. Both of them adored me.

Misty followed me everywhere. Opa sang me songs, put me on his shoulders, and ate my cooking (sand very carefully mixed with water and pressed between my toddler palms). Opa swung me in the swing he hung from the rafters of his garage workshop. During nap time together, we huddled under the covers, not sleeping when we were supposed to be sleeping. When Oma would scold, Opa would wink.

Opa was the reason I had sugar on my eintopf (it made the veggies taste better). He was magic. I’ll never forget the Christmas Eve he rolled out my new bike: bright, shiny red with stickers on it and tassles on the handlebars. MAGIC!

When I was eight years old, I came home from school to find everyone sitting, somber, around the kitchen table. Opa had a heart attack. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

That was the first time I saw my father cry. We sobbed together on my four-poster bed. My father was only 35 years old, a significance that wouldn’t strike me until I was in my mid-30s and childless.

After Opa’s funeral, I woke one night suddenly, smelling his cigar in my bedroom. Every year since I have remembered his Jahrzeit without trying. December 4, 1982: the day my Opa went away, but never left me.

Growing up, I never thought about having kids or imagined what a family of my own might look like. When I finally became a mom, I suddenly realized that since we live more than a thousand miles apart, my daughter wouldn’t have the weekly visits with her Opa, my father, that I’d enjoyed as a child.

But my daughter doesn’t just have one, or even two, sets of grandparents. She has the family that her first and adoptive moms made for her, and that family includes a Grandpa who lives just 25 minutes away (15 if the traffic isn’t bad).

Yesterday we visited Grandpa at work. My heart shone in a hundredfold glow when I saw Grandpa proudly holding his granddaughter and showing her off to his co-workers.

My Opa didn’t just give me laughter and caring, he anchored me to my biology and history. I am German-American, not just American, because my Opa (along with the rest of my family) sang to me the Deutsche Lieder of my childhood. Parts of that connection are hard and complex, but they are ME, and I wouldn’t change them for anything.

Watching my daughter, I know that her Grandpa will anchor her to her history, to the indigenous Mexican family of her great-grandfather, to an inheritance of hard work and good stories. There’s struggle and suffering in that inheritance, yes, but there’s also laughter and a love of thick books and bright colors. That connection is HER, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My daughter has her Grandpa, and in so many ways, my daughter’s mom gave her that relationship. No parent wants to hear that their grandchild will be raised by strangers. My daughter’s mom involved her parents early in the choice of us as adoptive parents and that made all the difference.

Our daughter’s mom made us a family. She didn’t just choose my wife and I as parents, she chose us all as a family, and nudged us to come together around our shared love for this amazing little girl. And we followed, we opened our hearts to each other, and it is sometimes easy, sometimes awkward, sometimes hard…but always, always right.