Tag Archives: memoir


1 Feb

It is the start of my birthday week.  I think it’s an appropriate time to offer a sneak peek of my memoir in-progress.  This section, “Maybe,” will be excerpted in a few weeks, as I don’t normally like having my writing on my blog.  Thank you for this journey and I hope you enjoy!



[. . .]

When my mother would take me with her on shopping trips to the mall or my sister Lesley would take me once a year to the larger Galleria in Houston to see the Christmas tree that had been erected in the middle of the Olympic-sized ice skating rink, I would look for my birthmother in the wash of faces rushing past with bags from Neiman’s, JC Penney, Waldenbooks.

I pictured myself a detective in pursuit of the fugitive parent who had given me up for a better life, one, maybe, with a piano and ashtrays.  As I held my mother’s or my sister’s hand, I would scan the crowds, and look into the faces of each woman, and hope to see a resemblance.  Sometimes one of these strange women would catch me looking at them and I would hold my breath, waiting for her to walk over to me, bend down, say, hello, I’m your mother.  It never occurred to me how unsettling this would be—to have my birthmother be in the same shopping mall that I was with my own mother or sister, and further, to have my birthmother walk right up to me outside the Sunglasses Hut or Corn Dog 7 and greet me as her very own.  It never occurred to me how slim these chances actually were and how even if I did see my birthmother eyeing a strand of freshwater pearls in Dillard’s or buying perfume at JC Penney, I would never have known it.


He may be pouring her coffee. She may be straightening his tie.


When I would listen to Annie sing Maybe, I would imagine my birthparents in a house hidden by hill, one where my birthmother would straightening by birthfather’s tie while he poured her coffee in the mornings.  I once drew this picture, which has been lost to time or the garbage can or a wayward house cat, but I remember it clearly.  In the drawing, the green hill took up the largest portion of the white sketch paper.  The grass, shown as small slashes and straight lines rising from the hill’s curved surface, appeared to wave in an unseen wind.  There was a half-circle of sun in the far right corner, complete with yellow-orange lines representing rays.  On top of the hill was a small house (the technique of drawing a suggestion of a house hidden by a hill was lost on me) with a chimney smoking its fire plume into the clear, colorless sky.  There were windows everywhere and a narrow black door.

[. . .]

These were my parents: toy husband and wife in a house built of pencil, crayons, watercolors.  A sun shined overhead and a chimney smoked into the white sky.  The hill and the waving grass.  A dark door.  I sat on the floor and ran my small fingers over the house, the hill, as though reading its secrets.  As though my parents were speaking to me: come find us. We are waiting.

We Have Something To Tell You

6 Feb

On today, my 36th birthday, I’d like to share a tiny bit of my memoir in progress, What Took You So Long.  This “essay” (I use the quotes because it’s more of a section than an essay) is titled, “We Have Something To Tell You.”


[UPDATE: Thank you for all of your comments!  As I said in my original post, this excerpt has been removed due to privacy issues.  I am still at work (however slowly) on this memoir.]


3rd birthday!

3rd birthday!

The Memoir

1 Jul

For the past five+ years, many of my writer/editor friends have said to me more times than I can count, “you need to write a memoir.”  I can now safely (and happily) say, that I am.


The memoir, tentatively titled, What Took You So Long, is a work about adoption, foster care, and the exploration of self through the detritus (letters, photographs, emails, and recipes) of birthparents who are wholly absent — one through a tragic death, the other through choice.  It is a book that examines the notion that a person is not who they are as a result of biology alone, but the sum of the parts of nature and environment.  What Took You So Long is a work of exploring the delicate threads of a biological past wound in mythmaking and tragedy in order to find forgiveness and understanding for two imperfect birthparents.  Ultimately, it is a book about learning how to love two families and discovering one’s role in both.


I decided to finally write this memoir — and if you’ve been following me here, on Twitter, or on Facebook, you know a little of the story of my birthfather and the subsequent finding of my birth grand-parents — because in my research, I’ve found that the adoption narrative is lacking in scope.  There are a lot of books out there about adoption, but most of these are how-to books (how to adopt international children, specifically), or books on how to tell children they’re adopted (hint: don’t just shove a book at them and say, “Congratulations!  You’re adopted!”), and the like.  There are several good adoption narratives, specifically A.M. Homes’s The Mistress’s Daughter, Jeannette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and the lovely Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, and I’ve read them multiple times.  However, sadly, adoption memoirs are few and far between.  According to the Adoption Institute, there are “1.5 million adopted children in the United States, over 2% of all U.S. children,” and, I can safely say, nearly all of these children want to understand the answer to the proverbial questions, “where did I come from?” and “what makes me the way I am?”


I always knew I was adopted. There was never a moment where my parents called me into the kitchen, sat me down at the table, and said, Listen, we have something to tell you.  There was never a time when I was digging through my parents’ closet and found a box filled with adoption papers, a sheet identifying me as once having been someone else. They never hid it from me.  I sort of grew up always knowing.  I have heard so many adoption stories from people over the years and I feel that my story will help give voice to these more-common-than-you’d-think narratives.  This book is not only about adoption, of course, but about selfhood, discovery, identity, things that all people consider at one time or another in their lives.


I feel great about doing this.  I’ve been working on the memoir for such a long time “in my head,” that the book is almost writing itself.  I’ve written poems about it (in my first book, The Glass Crib), a handful of essays, and now have almost 1/3 of the memoir completed.


My birthfather’s mother has been so helpful in this process — giving me photographs, stories, letters, journals, my birthfather’s poetry, his death certificate from the US Coast Guard, and so much more.  Four years ago, I met her and my paternal grandfather (who died shortly thereafter).  Four years ago, my world changed.  I am so thankful.


There is grief in this — a sort of delayed mourning and yes, even anger — but also much joy.  This process has made me appreciate my adoptive family in a way that I hadn’t before.  It has also made me love, among other things, my little round nose, my laugh, and my Italian-Irish-Mexican heritage, which for so long had been a mystery to me.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong, and the place I belong to resides in two wonderful families.


I am also appreciative — and writing about — that I grew up in a family as unique as mine.  We were a foster family and I first came to my family as foster child (weighing a whopping 4lbs, 1.9 oz at birth due to my birthmother’s starvation to conceal her pregnancy) and wasn’t even adopted until I was almost two.  My life included helping to take care of all sorts of babies — a myriad of races, babies with cleft palates, babies who were blind, shaken babies, babies with holes in their tiny hearts.  I have gotten in contact, recently, with some of our previous foster babies, and am just so thrilled to have been a part of this special process.


I feel that with the writing of this book, that I am doing the work I need to be doing.  There are 1.5 million people out there who know what it means to be given up and then chosen to be part of a family.  Yes, my family is different: 8 children (5 biological and 3 adopted), but my experience as a foster child, an adopted person, and a foster sister, has helped me in immeasurable ways in the writing of this memoir.  Adoption is love, pure and simple.  It’s a struggle, it brings pain, confusion, marked identity disturbances, but overall, it’s love.  It is the love I want to encapsulate.  It is the love that takes you home, sits up with you at nights, gives you a new name, holds your hand, wipes your tears.  It is the love that makes you forgive the past.


Weekend Reading Recommendations

25 May


[T-B: Saint Therese of Lisieux by Kathryn Harrison, Blue Nights by Joan Didion,  Two Minutes of Light by Nancy K. Pearson, Trespasses by Lacy M. Johnson]


Side Note: I will be interviewing Lacy M. Johnson about her book in the forthcoming Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Pebble Lake Review (mid-June).  Be sure to look for it!