1. the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.
2. an opinion or conclusion. a misfortune or calamity viewed as a divine punishment.
Four years of Mothers’ Days, birthdays, care packages and mourning had passed and it was August 2002. I was going to Maine to see their home, meet the rest of their family and see The Boy for the first time since he turned one and they came back to finalize the adoption.
I was living with a girl, but it didn’t occur to bring her, she was not someone I was proud of. I wasn’t either, but what can you do? I takes about 6 hours to get from Jersey to Portland, ME. I have always liked long drives, it lets you get used to going from one place another at a pace I could appreciate though this trip seemed to go by more quickly than I was prepared for.
Gwynnie and Gretchen had set me up at a local B&B, and I was thankful. I didn’t think I could stay in their home, there wouldn’t be anywhere to hide. It was the first time I had a hotel room to myself and that little pleasure was celebrated by jumping on the bed and laughing at myself.
I met them back at their house later. It is one of those big Victorians, with wide steps that lead to a porch wrapped around it. Each step felt heavy. Then, he was there. We were unsure of each other. It felt like a punch to the gut that you have to smile and say nice things, through.
Most people can look in the mirror and see the parts of them that come from this or that relative. The small ears from Nanna, full lips and pert nose from mom, that troublesome widows peak from dads side of the family, I have never seen myself in another’s face. Though I had lived with my mother’s people, I look little like them, though I did have my grandmother’s ears. In pictures I resembled the small brown child some infertile member had adopted from an island nation.
There was no mistaking where this child came from. He was my darker version. I had anticipated the possibility of pain and the hardship of seeing him at all, would entail, but this came as as shock. I had seen plenty of pictures and knew intellectually that we looked quite similar, but the reality almost felled me. I rarely saw beauty in myself, but in him, I could see nothing else.
I think that they tried to limit the amount of people who might overwhelm me when I walked in the door, but still when we convened in the big bright kitchen, I was overwhelmed. The house was owned by three families, Gwynnie and two of her siblings had bought it along with each of their significant others. Her sister Penny and her husband Paul had the back half of the house. Her brother Matt and his wife Lisa had the third floor. Gwynnie and Gretchen had the front, and each portion was distinct to their personalities but somehow smoothly connected to the lives that inhabited it.
There was homemade bread, fruit picked at local farms and an endless stream of faces I couldn’t remember the names for. Cousins, Aunts, friends, neighbors, I think everyone wanted a turn to meet me.
“We are so grateful for what you did”
“You are so brave”
“Everyone loves The Boy so much, you made them a family!”
“ You were so young and so selfless!”
“ OH WOW, you look JUST LIKE HIM!”
Rinse and repeat
I saw Gwynnie and Gretchen looking between our faces, along with everyone else and wanted to hide behind my fingers like a small child who believes it will make them invisible. I was not brave, or clever, or selfless, I was a train wreck with enough common sense to know it. I was afraid to look to closely at The Boy, I didn’t think I could touch him and I didn’t have the words to react to this kindness deluge. I wanted to trace his features with my finger and marvel at him. I never thought I would feel so broken and so full at the same time. I smiled and tried to find appropriate words to the words they sent my way. Even the deluge was easier than looking at The Boy, so I did my best not to be a blathering idiot in front of these people who were so nice.
This kind of home, this family, their friends, it was like visiting an alien nation where I didn’t have the language or the tools to navigate. I felt their judgement of my angelic deeds and saw no resemblance in the mirror. I wasn’t a nice person. I said inappropriate things, sometimes laughed at funerals, I slept with too many people, I had a free-flowing sense of morality, oh, and I curse like a fucking sailor. All of that was on a good day, and had nothing to do with the past four years spent on less than virtuous pastimes.