She is beautiful, young, perfect. She clearly belongs to one family. Duckling-like and in a matching swimsuit, she trots behind Mom--gorgeous, athletic, in her forties but with the body of a 20-year-old, tanned and toned to perfection. The brothers, running by and tossing towels and insults at one another, are tall for their ages, blonde, ever-moving. If you hadn't seen them traveling in the family pack, you would still know they are her brothers by the offhanded way they throw her into the pool when the lifeguard isn't looking, by the way she isn't angry, by the sly looks they exchange, and by the "enough of that"s and "be nice to your sister"s of their mother that she is obligated to make in public but which they dutifully ignore.
And aside from the fact that she is Asian, I know the girl is adopted every time her mother spies her surreptitiously. The love. The surprise. The overwhelming gratitude of a gift that was never to be. It is not in every adoptive parent, and it shows up other places, too--particularly in the eyes of parents who have not quite but almost lost their children. The awe that this blessedness is truly reality.
And then there is the other, messy side. The side that we are either blind to or that seems to dominate our lives. There are moments when the instinct of the mother and the instinct of the daughter are both suddenly in check. When they know that they do not understand one another somewhere deep down. Somewhere in which a character trait has been neither shared nor witnessed. An uncertainty. A foreignness. And I am sure it was there in infancy as well. I even remember it in our house. The way my brother's ears would perk at the echoes of his own lost language. The way he would turn from our faces when we embraced him. The way he needed things for calming--bumping his head, being held extra tightly--things we didn't understand.
In this time, there are other moments, too--moments when the girls in the pool clearly turn their backs on this girl. Perhaps it is the age. But the frequency of the response and its persistence regardless of changes in the peer group would indicate otherwise. When anything is verbalized, mother and brothers jump in. But it is usually silent. So we needn't mention it. Not a big deal. No blood. Nothing broken. Not even bullying, the new B word. Perhaps Mom or brothers see. Perhaps Mom has even tried to tell somebody. Perhaps she has been brushed off. Even now, I see that I have occasionally brushed off my father about this very issue.
You see, adoption has changed my life, but I am neither adopted nor an adoptive parent. And the problems of adoption are not unique to adoptees and their families. But in adoption they seem to be matters of fingerpointing and blame. And I guess I am here to say, "I have lived both sides. There is no blame. It is not the fault of adoption. It is not the fault of a child or an adoptive parent or a birth parent. There is only loss and longing, and great, great hope and love." And it is the beauty of the brokenness that I want to talk about, that I am learning to live with.