Just click your red shoes

September 21, 2006 at 1:04 am | Posted in AdoptThis! | 22 Comments

When I talk to people about the adoption, I find myself struggling for the right words. After the adoption, we will bring Guatebaby… home? Home for us. And eventually home for him/her. But for Guatebaby, Guatemala is home. S/he will be used to the smells, the air, the temperature. A drafty old house in the ice box northeastern united states will not yet be home.

How early do you know what home is? Home for me will always be New York. As much as I loved living in the Flat City, I feel a sense of comfort when I am in New York City that I feel nowhere else. The rythyms of people’s speech, the way people move on the sidewalk, it’s all familiar, innate. I can blend in easily. It startles me to realize we’ve lived here in Small City for three years now because it still doesn’t really feel like home.

What will feel like home to Guatebaby? I worry that all the love in the world will not make him/her feel at home in our world.

Before you rush to reassure me – think about how you feel when you are with Your People. The ones who look like you. Who talk like you. Who understand why baby showers can hurt and that “just relax” deserves a punch in the jaw. Who offer up carb counts with dinner as if everyone needed that information.

I’ve never had any illusions that we’re doing a mitzvah by adopting. We’re adopting because we have a child-shaped hole in our lives. Really, it’s selfish. I do know that we have a lot to offer: a fondness for fart jokes, one very patient kitty and three who know to run away from small children, an affection for our child-to-be’s culture of origin, lots of very eager grandparents, a burgeoning collection of children’s books, and of course, love up the wazoo. I just hope that, in Guatebaby’s eventual calculation of positives and negatives, that those plusses outweigh the biggest minus that s/he will have to deal with: the loss of family, of culture, of belonging, of home.


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  1. I think that is very true what you are saying. As a person who lives very far away from their home, their family and friends and language and culture. I see Canada as my home, and I always will, I still get a little prick in my heart when I watch shows about Canada on TV. I miss it very much. But after the 5 years I have lived in Germany, I have come to see it as my second home. I have my wife and my new German family here, my German friends and my new German language here. I am surrounded by people who love me as if I was one of their own.

    I know that’s not quite the same as what you mean, and my answer may sound like a cliche, but love really does make a home. It may not replace your first home, but it does add room for you to love a new second home.

  2. i think the fact that you can think through and acknowledge all of this is all part of what’s going to make you such an awesome mom.

  3. My sister has a big map of China in her kitchen and Emily always points to it and says, “that’s where I was when Mom came to get me and bring me home.” Obviously she is still too young to grasp the entire concept, and we hope that all her questions can be answered as she grows.
    Trust the process.

  4. I like your post. It’s true, there’s always an inherent comfort level with your original surrounding. It sounds like you love where you grew up. Me, not so much. I appreciate, like you say, the smells and the sounds and those little things that are deeply rooted from childhood, but I don’t miss it really. I obviously don’t know what it would be like to be a child who is being adopted and taken out of his/her country of origin. I can see how you’d be worried about it, and I think your sensitivity and compassion on this issue will help you feel your way through whatever will be needed to help your child.

  5. Wow! This a a little deep for me at 8:41 in the a.m. but you pose a number of interesting questions. Firstly, I think your child will grow up feeling his/her home is wherever you and Pili are, but saying that, I also think that many adopted kids no matter their native culture or background, question their origins and lack that sense of connectedness that you mentioned. I know my adopted sister had those questions and when she was old enough, she went in search of the answers. She found them in the person of her bio mom. She also found, as I’m sure most adopted kids do, that she really did grow up in a much better situation than she would have had her bio mom chosen to raise her. Can you make your childs’ life so perfect that they will never feel a loss of culture or question their identity? No, probably not, but you can offer to him/her two moms who would go to the ends of the earth for them, more love than they know what to do with and a home filled with everything to help them become a wonderful, well-adjusted and happy member of his/her/yours/our community.

  6. Very interesting post. Might allude to it on a future post of my own…if you don’t mind.

    For now, I asked D, where home was. He came up to me, gave me a hug and said “Where you are.” I hugged him back and explained what I meant. (Location of country, people who talk the same language etc.) He said, “The answer’s the same. Before I met you, home was where you are. My parents, my family, [place where I grew up], gave me my identity. You are my home.”

  7. I am 30 years old & still don’t know where my home is. But the one thing that I can count on is what grounds me & that is my family.
    I wonder if there is a difference between you roots and where you consider home. I guess the south will always be part of my root system- but who knows where home will be.

    & who knows- your Guatababy may be a snow bunny at heart!

  8. It’s so interesting. Some people say home is where their family is. I never felt like I fit in Phoenix. San Francisco was my home. But then New York became my home partly because the person I love kept insisting it was and partly because time spent there transformed it.

    Moving to different cities in the U.S. as a semi-grown being making her own decisions isn’t quite the same thing as going country to country as a baby. I guess I just mean there’s no predicting. You may get a kid who grows into a person who clicks with the U.S. and Small City or wherever else. You may get a kid who grows into a person who has crap to deal with because of the early move. There’s no telling.

    What we do know is what other people are saying, cliche that it may be. You are going to be a great mom because you are aware of this. And because your love and care will be the most important piece. There may be crap to deal with later on. But that would be true no matter what. Personally, I think parents should skip the college funds – we can get loans for that – and start therapy funds. Far more necessary.

  9. I agree with what Sarah says. I also know you and Pili personally and when your baby comes home, he/she will know that they are home, and that you are his/her parents. It’s just something we as parents do….create a home.

  10. Yes, I think the same thing. How long will it take to make them feel at home…the feeling like there is no other place in the world where she wants to be. Will she ever. In utero even she has tasted food from Guatemala and heard spanish voices. Will those sounds and tastes always be an innate feeling that I cannot fill…a longing that cannot be explained. I do not know I can just hope for our little ones that our faces will become those that are familiar and home…

  11. I was born in the Midwest. I grew up in the midwest. But, it was never ever home for me. Home for me was the east, and now the west. I knew my people, and my people were definetely not midwesterners. But, having that history, there is undeniably a part of me that IS midwest–even against my will so to speak. I don’t think that there is an easy answer to this. You can’t predict the future, but it IS possible that your child will feel that “home” is where YOU are but also feel like “their people” are elsewhere—they might choose to live somewhere else when they are grown, but this wouldn’t be an insult to you anymore than my choosing to live in Oregon is an insult to my parents or means that they were bad for choosing to raise me where they did.

  12. I remember how unsettled I was when the first person I talked to who had adopted from the same place JL came from said “You just want to get your child home.” So much ownership and entitlement implied in one sentence. Home, family and who is a part of it is a process toward which you are already working. It takes a long time even after home and family happens. And I don’t doubt that there will always be a sense of dislocation, of varying intensities, for all of us.

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  14. I think, to some degree, all of us creating alternative families face this issue. I mean sure, kids are very well adjusted growing up with two moms, sure positive male role models are great, but not having a “dad” or having a dad who is not biologically related to you is a big deal.

    It matters. It is not ‘nothing’. It doesn’t mean that we can’t adopt, and have kids with donor sperm, but it does mean that maybe we grieve a bit that our kids may have some extra challenges in life. And biology is important. Ethnicity is important. Country of origin is important.

    Just because love is more important doesn’t mean those other things cease to exist.

  15. What cat said. I couldn’t agree more.

    Whatever Guatebaby experiences, you guys are gonna validate, and that’s priceless.

  16. When I went to college 3000 miles away from my home in California I was soooooo homesick. I used to listen to Joni Mitchell’s song “California” over and over and just ache for my home, my people. For the brown hills, the casual pot-smoking, and the beautiful warm air–so different from uptight Massatwoshits. Then one year I discovered that even hearing that song in my mother’s house in California, the beloved house I grew up in, would make me homesick. That moment marks in some ways a long period of rootlessness. A period that didn’t really end until I settled down with you, art-sweet. All these comments suggest to me that lots of people in this hyper-mobile moment in history experience this kind of rootlessness. And yet, I also know it has opened me up to the deep knowledge that home is where your love is. I’m so grateful to have found a home with you.

  17. I think it will depend on the child and how s/he come to terms with their early history. We see this trajectory with several KADS.
    For example:


  18. This is a hard one, no easy answers. The range of feelings about this among adoptees is broad, so it’s hard for us a-parents to have confidence that any choices we make to reduce the potential pain for our children actually will.

    So all we can do is listen to the adoptees, work to understand it in light of our children, to whom we should always be listening, too. And then let them tell us where home is for them.

  19. Great post and you are absolutely right. Its one of the best things we can hope for.

  20. OK, what Pili said? The sweetest thing ever!!!

    I think everyone has pointed to the complicated ways that we experience “home” in our mobile world. It varies so much more now than it ever has in the past.

    I jokingly describe my sister as a “born and bred New Yorker who happened to be stuck in the midwest from birth to 18.”

  21. You might be interested in starting to read this blog: Twice the Rice. It is written by an adult Korean adoptee who grew up in a white family in the Midwest (I think) and now lives in Hawaii. Anyway, I find it fascinating, as I know several children and adults who were adopted from other countries, and this woman’s writing offers a very interesting perspective. Not always a nice or uplifting perspective, but I think it’s worth learning about. Not that your child would necessarily have the same issues–no two people are alike.

  22. UGH!

    As an Oregonian who moved to NYC at 18, I STILL feel like Oregon is Home – so much so, in fact, that I REALLY want to move back there.

    but I ALSO consider NYC my home – very much so in fact.

    Malka considers our house her home, too. The MAIN reason I feel such a strong connection to Portland now, is because of emotions and the love and support I get from there – not the physical structures.

    Love makes a home, and I’m sure that “guatababy” (love that) will feel at home soon – not immediately, but soon, indeed. Shedding the mantle of an orphandage, no matter how wonderful and magnificant, will be overshadowed by the constant attention of two loving mommies.

    L’Shanah Tovah U Mitukah

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