Tuesday, January 11, 2011


As most of you who read this blog probably know, our two girls are adopted, and came to our home at the ages of 18 months and 3 years. We've always been pretty open with them about the process, though what we tell them about their parents is necessarily abridged. There has been one exception to this: they have a sister. Somewhere.

We didn't tell them right away. I'm not sure why we held that one huge piece of information back. Partly to spare anxiety on their part, partly because we know so little about her. No name, no age, no city.

Regardless, we decided to tell all this past summer. We told them they had a sister, and that we knew nothing about her, not even her name. We took out the deep pile of documentation and paperwork and let them see it, take it to their rooms, read it. My office functioned as kind of a lending library for this bit; they had to turn in what they had to get any more (there were detailed and sometimes painful histories of their bio-parents buried inside, but you had to really dig to find it). They were obsessed with the papers for awhile. After a couple of weeks they quit checking out the documents, seemingly forgetting about them.

Hux and I combed the stack for any info about their sister in there, and found not a single word. We called Social Services, got no answer, called back and got no answer, called again and finally got a callback months later with some basic info: name, who she lived with, where they lived seven or so years ago when all this went down.

We told the girls their sister's name. Told them the town she lived in back then. The pattern stayed the same: they were tripping over their words asking us questions, then the questions slowed, then stopped.

Thst's not to say they don't think about her. I suspect they think about daily. But there are no more questions to ask, nothing to say. Their sister's presence has moved beyond words.

So. The reason I bring up any of this is because a metaphor presented itself to describe the experience. I just finished China Mieville's clever genre-bender of a book, Kraken, which, amid all the very weird goings-on, talks of a monstrous being, deep under water, in silent motion, unseen, its true shape unknown. The thing is worshiped by some as a God. And it is rising slowly toward the surface, this huge mass. Rising. And when it breaks the surface, when its true shape is known, the world will change irrevocably.

Now that I reread that last paragraph it sounds oddly apocalyptic, and while I did not mean for that note to sneak in there, I won't edit it out. There will be a day when their yearning will break the surface, and they will want to seek out their sister, meet her. There is no way to know how that will go. There are a million ways in which it can go badly. And a handful of ways where it can go well. All I know is that we'll help them find her, if they ask for our help. And we'll be there afterward, whether in celebration or in sorrow. Or, likely, both.


Hilary said...

A beautiful post, C. I know of adopted kids who have met their birth parents and siblings and it has gone very well for all involved. Another instance, not so much. It all depends on the circumstances of course. I wish your girls nothing but peace and happiness.

Eric Shonkwiler said...

You prove time and again to be a stellar person, and father in particular.

Last Tango said...

You know, old friend, I discovered a couple of years ago that it is very likely I have a son. He's living and working in Jefferson City, Missouri, and will turn 31 this year. I've even seen a picture of him. The resemblence is unmistakable. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence. But I know. And like your 'Kraken' it irrevocably changed things for me. Not practically speaking, of course, but in other ways. After much soul-searching I decided to leave it alone. Great blog, Jeff.

Beth said...

They're lucky to have you.

Clowncar said...

Hilary, it's a crapshoot, isn't it? No way to know how it's gonna turn out. That's true of alotta things.

Eric, thanks for such kind words. I miss your daily presence here in bloggyland. Hope you are doing well in lotusland.

Clif, what a startling piece of news. Didja find out last time you were down there? You gonna meet up with him?

No, Beth. We are the lucky ones.

Laurita said...

This was a beautifully written post, and touching. I've been through, and in a way I'm still dealing with, something similar with my daughter. It's difficult to know how to handle these things, but I think you're doing it just right.

ArtSparker said...

It sounds as if there is a lot of trust in your family group. I tried reading Perdido Station and determined that China Mieville is not the writer for me.

Gordon said...

Nice, Friend.

Sarah Sometimes said...

Clowncar, I am so glad you are back. I love reading about your family. I may write to you one day and ask you about adoption.

Fresca said...

Hm. Yes, kraken are quite a menacing metaphor... Not to say they're not apt for our lives. I rather like it.

I love how you trust your daughters with intelligence (theirs, and also "intelligence" in the sense of information gathered).

Btw, have you read John Wyndham's (author of Day of the Triffids) "The Kraken Wakes"?

Clowncar said...

Laurita - there are no right ways to do any of this (though there are certainly lots of wrong ways). I'm sure your family will navigate these sometimes rough waters with grace.

Art, thank you. Kraken is my first Mieville book, but I'll go back. If nothing else, his love for the city of London is infectious.

Thank you, friend. Oldest friend, now that I think about it. Or, oldest friend I'm still in contact with.

Sarah, what a nice thing to say. Absolutely get in touch if you are thinking of adopting. It's a wonderful experience, but not for the timid. email: snark66 (at) comcast (dot) net.

Hey Fresca. It's a wonderful metaphor for the unconscious mind, swimming around in the uncharted depths. A wonderful metaphor for alotta things. I loved Wyndham in high school (Triffids and Midwitch Cuckoo), but never came upon that book. I'l keep my eye out (sadly, it's not at our library).

Fresca said...

Btw, in the US, "The Kraken Wakes" was retitled "Out of the Deeps."
As if we wouldn't know what a kraken is. I tell ya...