It is unlike me to think of anything in a scientific way, I am not that kind of person, I don't measure or mete things out, they just happen. So, when I related an experience that I had this moring to hubby over dinner he said, oh, you just experienced the Elements of Language, I'll show you, I have the book in my office, Janet Lerner on Learning Disabilities. Hmm, I thought, here we go again...............more psychology to get me off on a tangent. But he came back with the book and showed me the graph, the tiny black and white mountain that is supposed to be a foundation of sorts for us to develop our communication and writing skills.
I looked at the chart. Nice, tidy layers of steps, well laid out. The first rung on the ladder is experience. So here goes;
Decide to make a chocolate cake because fourteen year old son has a yearning for this particular cake that I frequently made for birthday parties, celebrations, any excuse really. The one thing he recalls is the Apricot Jam smothered between the cake and the frosting. I begin to make cake. Cream sugar and butter as directed. Add duck egg one and duck egg two, duck egg three plops in and the noxious fumes rise up to cause me to retch. A bad egg. The bones of the cake are quickly deposited in the brown bin. I look in refrigerator, no more eggs, blame the sixteen year old for his love of scrambled ova and grab my wallet to drive a mile and a half to the nearest store. On the way, through the mist and strangely moody and windy day, I spot a woman on the road. Her umbrella is not sufficient to keep the moisture from ruining her dressed up, somewhere to go outfit. I stop the car. Do you want a lift, I say. I'm only going down the road but your welcome. She gets in.
I don't know her and we don't exchange names, at least initially. She say's you have a lovely car. I say, try telling that to my sons', they complain it's way too small. She laughs. How many do you have, she asks me. I tell her. She has two children herself, an eighteen year old son and a twenty four year old daughter. I drive on, the wipers swishing, doing their best to wash the mist away on the windscreen. Joni Mitchell on the stereo, singing Ladies of the Canyon. Out of the blue, she says, let me tell you my good news. What's that, I ask. Well, I just found out who my birth family is. Wow, I say, that's fantastic. Nothing is going to stop her now and so I listen. How she was adopted when she was three years old. Her birth mother was sixteen when she gave birth to her. The father a married man with children. How times were different way back then. How she doesn't know where she lived until her adoption. How she longed to find her family. How she corresponded with the Adoption Society and The Health Board for years and how they always fobbed her off, tried to discourage her from the truth. How she almost gave up until she decided to do it alone. Privately. How, then, when she did, it took only two weeks to find her family. How her mother had died in the interim. How she was heading into town to meet her sister for the first time. How it seemed like it was Christmas every day since she made her discovery.
I suppose this category doesn't really apply. Because we can sometimes speak without saying anything. I listened to her story and she told me her life all in the space of a short drive. I ended up driving her close to town, I did not want her outfit to get windblown because of her meeting her sister for the first time. I wanted to tell her that I had a sister too. That I was not adopted and that my family, all living, apart from my parents, were not too far from my door but miles away in reality. But, instead, I delighted in her tale and by the time I dropped her at the nearest bus to town we were firm friends. I have an open invitation to visit her house, where she insisted she will show me photographs of her newly acquired family and make me tea. Look for the orange flower in the window, she said, please come, you are welcome, my name is Teresa.
Reading is important in all of this. But I do not choose to read about adoption very often. It doesn't affect me but my heart is big. I did read about other women striving to find their birth mothers, years passing, lost in the fray. I read about them longing for a connection and considered myself lucky to have had a mother that I could burrow into. But reading isn't everything, is it? Stopping on the roadside and picking up Teresa changed my day. One bad egg made me experience this encounter. I left myself open. All the reading in the world won't make that happen.
I am writing about this event because Teresa left a mark on me. She left a stamp on my bones when she left the car. It made me think about the world in a bigger picture and my world and the people in it. I watched Teresa battle her way to the bus stop to go meet her sister. I envied Teresa and all the other Teresa's out there. They are the women that never get any credit. They don't write about their lives, they just happen to live them.