Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Tale of Three Neighbors

When I was 18, my 19-year-old boyfriend introduced me to his parents. Soon after, I mentioned to my dad that I was surprised at how old they were.

“Are they really old, or do they just look old?” I specified that they were both over 60.

They’d gotten married at age 30 or so, and had planned to have children, but it simply hadn’t happened for them. BF explained that they had been surprised at his advent 10 years later, because by then, doctors had determined that his mother was unable to conceive due to her fallopian tubes being formed in loops. (That’s as technical as the explanation got.)

On another visit I mentioned that I was fascinated by twins. I'm less fascinated now, remember, I was a teenager at the time. His mother responded with a pronouncement that “Multiple births are always a tragedy.” She followed with a story to justify this intonation.

Years ago, when the housing development was young, and before my BF made his appearance in the world, a couple that lived a few doors down had triplets; all girls. They were young and underemployed and felt completely overwhelmed. They considered giving up one or more of the daughters for adoption and my BF’s mom thought about adopting, but decided against it.

The couple that lived next-door, right in between the two families that have been mentioned so far, was also childless, and took them up on this offer. They adopted the smallest of the three. It might have been good or bad to have an adopted child living just across the driveway from her natural family, but they never had to face this, because the biological parents and their remaining 2 daughters moved to Florida with the aim of getting some support from extended family there. To Californians, Florida is like the old country, the other side of the world.

But six months later, the Floridians were back for a visit. The almost toddler was now much bigger and more active than the other two. She was cheerful and communicative. The Floridian parents felt horribly guilty about having given up their child. Plus, they must have wondered if they’d mistakenly missed out on the good one. The adoptive parents became afraid that the natural parents would kidnap the baby and vanish. So they hid her with my BF’s parents. She was there for almost a week.

I think about this story every time someone tells me about the joy of landing at the airport with their new Estonian, Chinese, Siberian child in their arms.

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