Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mama Bean had a favourite bedtime story

When I was little, if a bedtime story was offered, I almost always asked to hear the story of how I was adopted. (My parents never hid my adoption, I knew for as long as I can remember.) I imagine I liked this story because I was the protagonist and it had a happy ending, just like all the other princess stories :) This is the story I remember:

Mommy and Daddy had two boys who they loved very much. For many years, they really wished they had had a little girl. One day, the Adoption People called them, and asked if they would like to come down and pick up a little girl. So, the whole family went to the G Hospital, which was a special hospital just for women having babies they couldn't keep. They went to a big room full of rows of little cribs. Each baby had a little information card with them. Mommy and Daddy and the boys found me, and instantly fell in love. I was two weeks old. They liked that I was Chinese like them, and I was so cute! My birth mom and birth dad couldn't keep me but they wanted to make sure I was raised in a good family. So, my parents and brothers took me home and I became a part of their family forever.

Of course, this story is only how I remember it, not literally what was told to me as a 4-year-old. And once I grew out of the bedtime story age, we didn't really talk about how I was adopted. The story has been distorted by time and culture and the rest of my life's history, and is clearly a fairy tale, because this is not how adoption works, then or now.

There are some things I laugh at because they are so removed from reality: who are "the Adoption People" and why would they be just calling up random families, handing out babies? The G Hospital was the primary birthing hospital in Cowtown, but how did I come to think it was only for relinquishing mothers? I'm sure my vision of the room full of bassinets is influenced by tv and movies, showing the dad going up to the window of the hospital nursery, with the row of little babies, blue cards for boys, pink cards for girls. I guess I imagined a place for adopted babies would just be a bigger room lol.

Some things are endearing in how I've remembered them: my memory places my brothers in the hospital when I was 'chosen' because all my life, my brothers have made it clear how much they love me. The first few pages of my baby album are filled with photographs of my brothers holding me, and the love in their eyes is palpable. (I am reminded of it every time I see Bean looking at Sprout.) But of course, they were not involved in the process of 'choosing' me, because the big room of bassinets is not a real place. It's just that I feel like my whole family chose me, not only my parents. It's also endearing how I remember the emphasis placed on my race; I must have felt it was important to my parents that I look like my family. When I read transracial adoptee bloggers, I realize this really did protect me from some of the more insensitive comments people make to adoptive parents. More often than not, people are very surprised to learn I'm adopted. When strangers would tell me I look like my dad or my eldest brother, I used to chuckle a little at the inside joke.

I recently heard the more detailed, more real account of how I was adopted. It made me realize how comfortable I was with my toddler-sized fairy tale - how could I be thirty years old before learning the truth of my origins? I am happy to know it, but there are some uncomfortable feelings that come with it, that I am still processing. While dealing with the gulf between childhood stories and adult truths, I want to extract the meaningful touchstones, the underlying truths upon which any fairy tale is built.

Some of those touchstones include the undercurrent of my brothers' love, my parents' effort to create a good fit for me, to achieve real inclusiveness, and of course, the fact that I was and am deeply loved. There are things that don't change, that are true, even if the fictional baby room is not. This is the process I must navigate now, and although it is work and sometimes hard, I would not go back to the fairy tale.

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