Love it, Barbara! I think a sense of wonder and play is essential to happiness. Looks like your father is imparting terrific wisdom to the…...
Adoption Blog: Improv Mom
My Summertime Shakedown
For me, summer brings to mind many happy memories -- my daughter running bare-bottomed at the beach or covered head-to-toe in double fudge ice cream. But just like the sand that gets lodged in the bottom of my bathing suit, one irritating recollection is inevitable, as well -- The Woman at The Beach (insert menacing theme music from Jaws).
It was the summer of 2010, and Beth, adopted domestically, was 17 months. The Woman at The Beach had a teenage girl and a younger daughter the same age as Beth. The little ones were toddling around the beach's café area when The Woman and I struck up a typical mommy conversation -- though, in the span of five-minutes, she must have remarked five times that Beth didn't look like me. (She also emphasized that everything her kid did was amazingly advanced for her age.)
Beth is Caucasian like my husband, Tony, and me. However, that's where the physical resemblance ends. Tony and I have dark brown eyes and hair, and olive skin, while Beth is a sun-kissed blonde with hazel eyes and fair skin. I often hear, "Where'd she get the blonde hair from?" and "She must look like her daddy.
When The Woman first said, "Funny, she doesn't look like you," I responded with, "Oh," and shrugged my shoulders.
Then she asked, "Is your husband blonde?" I said, "No," and then added, for good measure, "It runs in the family." ("Runs in the family" has become my favorite go-to line -- it's to the point, it's true, and it stops further interrogation. Usually.)
By now I was more than ready to make my escape, but Beth was finally sitting and eating, so I stayed. After Tony returned from packing up the car with our beach gear, The Woman nodded toward Beth and said, sounding exasperated, "I just don't see it. She doesn't look like either of you."
I remember shooting Tony a squinted-eye look that I thought clearly said, "WARNING! WOMAN IS NUTS! DON'T TELL HER BETH WAS ADOPTED!" Somehow Tony missed my message.
"Well, that's because we adopted her," he said with a smile.
"I was young and single when I had her (pointing to her teenager) and I could never put my child up for adoption!" The Woman exclaimed.
"Well, everyone's situation is different," I said as calmly as I could, even though my heart was pounding and I was sweating profusely.
"I could never do that!"
"We're so grateful that our daughter's birthmom could," I said, wiping away my sweat mustache. "We love and respect her so much." I was speaking and moving quickly now -- simultaneously packing up my beach bag, throwing away lunch leftovers, and collecting my child into my arms.
"I could never ever do that."
"Well, this was fun!"
My sarcasm was obviously lost on The Woman because she gave me a big, friendly smile. I was fairly certain the next thing out of her mouth was going to be, "We should exchange numbers!" Just as she was opening her mouth to speak, I said, "Bye!" and made our getaway.
When we were safe in the car and Beth had fallen asleep, Tony and I replayed the conversation -- over and over. What snappy comeback could I have said to, "I could never do that"? Maybe I should have whispered in a conspiratorial tone, "I know! Can you believe it?!" At least that might have made me feel in control of the situation and my emotions.
I suppose what really got to me was this: I thought I could get this Woman to see past her own experience for a moment, to show an inkling of compassion for our daughter's biological mother and to see the great little family that was right in front of her.
I haven't run into The Woman at the Beach since the day of my "summertime shakedown," as I like to call it, but I know she isn't alone in her attitude toward adoption. So, sweaty or not, spiffy comeback or not, I'll continue to defend, or deflect, or discuss open adoption. Because she, and others like her, is still out there. (Oh, go ahead, replay the menacing theme music from Jaws!)
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