This Thanksgiving was certainly not the one I had planned a few months ago.
I had this picture in my mind of how great it would be to have Roo with me this year. Finally, I thought, my family can't ignore me or treat me like I'm mentally retarded or a child. I imagined showing off Roo, how pretty and sweet and smart she was, having everyone fuss over her and tell me she was just perfect, and fight over who got to hold her.
Instead, I brought pictures. When I first arrived I had to endure nearly every relative putting a hand on my shoulder and asking me in a terribly concerned voice, "Jill, how are you doing?" And no one seemed to believe me when I said I was doing well. Why would they? They all seem to think I am emotionally stunted, abnormal, slightly less than human.
I showed off my pictures and chatted happily about Roo - how big she's gotten, how happy she is, how well she sleeps. My words were met with looks of amazement - whether because my child was perfectly normal or because I was cheerfully talking about her, I can't say. Perhaps a combination of the two. After those who were interested (some lost interest rather quickly) finished looking at the pictures, they thanked me in soft, sad, speak-gently-to-the-mentally-ill-person tones. I found the whole thing rather irritating. I'm getting sick of people pretending that I never had a baby, that she doesn't exist at all. She exists! She is perfect and lovely and I could talk about her until my voice gave out. Only one relative bothered to ask me what my plans are now. I guess everyone else figured I'm just going to go along being pathetically unemployed and uneducated, living with my mother and being my usual abnormal, slightly-retarded self.
I'm not stupid or manic or crazy! I wanted to shout. I am perfectly normal and fine and so is my baby! Talk to me like a normal person for once! But I just smiled tightly instead.
I'm not sure what my family thinks of my decision to place, actually. They said things like, "Oh, this must be so hard for you," but no one said anything about how wonderful it is for Roo, or how they admired me for putting her first, or that I had done something amazing. They all spoke as though she were dead. Lost. Is that how they feel? I wonder. I'm certainly not feeling that kind of grief anymore. I know that I have done a wonderful thing. Roo is where she belongs, with her family. But how do I explain that to them? How can I make them understand about eternal families, about God's plan for us all? I know that years ago, when my father first joined the LDS church, his family's views were distinctly anti-Mormon. They tried to ply him with literature and I'm sure they prayed for his soul. I don't know if, having had thirty or so years to get used to us all, they've changed their opinions at all. I certainly hope so. I'd rather not have my only remaining grandparent think I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity.
Part of me wishes I could have had Roo with me, for just a few minutes that day. So I could show her off and say, look. She is perfect, and I grew her, so I've got to be okay too. She is beautiful, she is smart, she is happy. And here are her parents. I found them for her, I picked them out with help from God. They are awesome people, and she is their baby. I'm okay with that. I'm happy about it! And I wouldn't have it any other way.
But that isn't how it went, and I'm not sure it would have made a difference. So instead I smiled tightly, resisted the urge to shake their hands off my arm and snap at them that they don't need to tiptoe around me and the topic of adoption.
Every time I endure a family gathering, I remember a snippet of dialog from an episode of "Frasier." Daphne asks, "Oh, Dr. Crane, why is it so easy to love our families, yet so hard to like them?"
Frasier's reply is genius. "Well, Daphne, that is one of those questions that make life so rich... and psychiatrists richer."