Alien?

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“My brother is an alien,” she stated confidently in her sweet, three-year-old voice.  She was too young to know that once she had also been an alien.  The immigration officer smiled in a professionally controlled way.  Likely she had heard that joke a few times in her long career behind that desk.

There is no concern in our voices, no hesitation in presenting the official, stamped, sworn-to papers that will make our baby son an American citizen.  After all, we are white, privileged, financially stable, citizens by birth.  There is no question of our right to the time and attention of this bureaucrat, whose salary and benefits, after all, are paid by our tax money.  Our lives are comfortable, our extended clan vibrant with welcoming love for these two young children.  Children who were born to other parents somewhere else in the world, brown-skinned, with hair and eyes as black as night.

True, we suffered years of longing and waiting, tears and anger, attending baby showers with fake smiles on our faces, dredging up congratulations out of the shreds of our shattered hopes.  But now, we are parents, finally.  Not the way we had originally planned, not “blood of my blood,” no shared DNA, no possibility of “she looks just like you!” But parents, nonetheless.

Doubtless feelings of fear and inadequacy plague all new parents, its measure according to personality and ability, tradition and experience.  But add in this:  guilt.  Guilt because this is a world in which someone like me can travel thousands of miles to a foreign land, hand over thousands of dollars to an adoption agency and an attorney, spend weeks or months living in an apartment hotel and finally, at last, travel thousands of miles back home with the most adorable, wanted, loved, prayed for children in the entire universe.

And what of the mothers left behind?  We did not meet our daughter’s mother three years before, because at that time it was not always feasible.  But this time we did, in our lawyer’s office, depending on him to adequately translate the depth of our gratitude.  Our words and those of this lovely young mother were choked with tears.  We assured her that we would speak of her always in kindness; that we would be sure her son would know that she wanted him, desperately, but gave him to us “with her whole heart” because she knew the life she would live with him would be stark and painful; that he would be an alien in his own land and she wanted better for him.

Almost thirty years have passed since those meetings with our son’s mother and with the immigration officer.  But sadly, immigration and the cruel and untrue characterizations of immigrants from those who purport to represent the American people assault me on a daily basis.  I am forced to realize that my children could so easily have been “Dreamers.” That under a different set of circumstances, their mothers might well have brought them to this country or any other country illegally, because that is what parents do when the only other option is letting your child die of malnutrition, be kidnapped into a rebel army, or forced into prostitution.  And legal or not, I would say to them, Bravo, Welcome, Well Done.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 2/1/18
Inspired by Daily Word Prompt: profuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I Want You to Know

puzzle-210786_640As much as I love you, my dear family members, here are some things I want you to know. You have possibly not heard them before because……

I am too polite.
I was raised to be accommodating.
It’s my job to make everybody happy.
You weren’t listening anyway.
It’s just easier to do it myself!

However, please memorize the following:

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I am not a GPS system designed to locate your iPhone, glasses, the television remote, or whatever else you may have misplaced in the last 10 minutes.

 

I’m not sure what you can eat for lunch.  I presume food, but what do I know?

Dishes normally do not fill the sink with soapy water, jump in and wash themselves.

trash-313711_640My name is not “somebody,” as in “Somebody needs to take out the garbage.”

It is not my responsibility to identify the takeout you saved in the refrigerator, that now smells like the back end of a mule.  It really isn’t my responsibility to take it out of the refrigerator and get rid of it, either.  I just do it because if I don’t there will soon be a whole pack of mules back there.

I am sure our marriage vows did not include never letting you forget anything important, because if they had, I would have forgotten to agree to it.

I do not know why “my” son or daughter do stupid things, but “our” children are so amazing!

It is really not okay to wipe up the kitchen floor with the dish sponge.

Even though my pocketbook is large, it is not my responsibility to carry things.  All of you are strong enough to carry your own stuff.  (I would have used another word beginning with “s,” but this is a G-rated post.)  If you don’t want to carry it, you don’t really want it!

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I do appreciate you all doing your own laundry, but probably I did not sufficiently explain a few related concepts:

Putting dirty clothes in the washing machine implies that you are going to wash them. It is not your personal clothes hamper. When the dryer has finished, the clothes actually need to be folded and put away because a laundry basket on the bathroom floor is not your bureau either.

I’m sorry to say, but the upset stomach you have as a result of eating a half dozen cookies, a pint of ice cream and half a bag of potato chips is not the same as labor pains, kidney stones or a ruptured disc!book-912723_640

I swear that I fully support a person’s right to privacy, and since you are all over 21 not everything you do is my business.  But when you leave your bills, bank statements, love letters or iPhone open to Facebook on the kitchen counter, all bets are off.

My friends in the blogging community probably have many more ideas to contribute. If so, I would love to hear them.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 8/31/17

 

 

 

Motherhood and Retirement

Writing about being a mother on Mother’s Day seemed too much of a cliche.  But here I am anyway, adding my own limited perspective to what is probably one of the most emotionally charged, personal, yet universal experiences–being a parent. I clearly cannot write from personal experience about being a father. But I know many of them–my own father, the father of my children, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins and in-laws.  While there are certainly important differences–the intense physical involvement of a mother in pregnancy, childbirth and nursing being the most obvious–at its most fundamental level the emotional aspects of being a parent are not ultimately gender specific.

There is no shortage of advice meant to prepare you for motherhood.  While the old joke about babies not coming with a manual may be true in the specific, there is enough information out there to overload even the most skillful researcher.  Ranging from professional “experts” to blogs from women and men on the front lines of parenthood there is no area of child rearing left unexplored. But all this information and advice seems flimsy and inadequate when a real child moves into your life.

I digress for a moment of humor about one of the most common experiences of early parenthood.  SLEEP??  I have heard rumors that there are babies who sleep through the night before they are six months old. Neither of my children did, and I became president of Zombie Nation in a landslide election.  Not only did neither of them sleep through the night for a very long time, but after the arrival of our second child, I think they conspired with each other to arrange the timing of their awakenings to guarantee that I would never experience more than three or four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Prior to becoming a mother, I could have won an Olympic event in sleeping through thunder, television, traffic noise and even a minor earthquake.  My husband woke to the slightest sound, alert in moments to assess if there was any real danger threatening his home and family.  So, was it not logical for me to assume that a baby’s wail at 2 AM would create a similar response?

late-riser-149016_640Instead, my gold medal in sleeping was cruelly snatched away and given to him.  He could now sleep through screeching, wailing and sobbing, while I snapped instantly awake–not at the screeching and wailing part, but when the child inhaled the breath that precedes it. Even after she learned to talk and would call out “Dada, DADA,” he just muttered “She means Mama.”

The biggest surprise that came with parenthood, however, was this one overwhelming reality.   I am now emotionally bonded to another human being for the rest of my life.  I became a mother through adoption and I remember well the judge asking “Do you understand that this is forever?”  How quickly I replied that, of course, I knew it was forever.  But knowing and understanding are not precisely the same.  Understanding came often like a punch to the solar plexus, this realization that I would do anything in my power to nurture and protect these children that had been entrusted to me.   The frightening truth that I would not or could not always protect them, that despite my best efforts I would fail them in ways that I often did not even understand.

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Now, many years later, I am still a mother.  There is no retirement option, no two-week notice, no hiring someone else to take over.  I still worry about them and wish I could protect them from all the hurts, fears and bad things that inevitably happen in the course of human life.  There is no happiness in my own life that matches the feelings of joy when their lives are good and successful, or the sadness when they are not.  As I grow older, my greatest sorrow is that I will not always be here to protect them, even though that protection is now mostly just loving them, listening to them when they want to talk about their lives, and, yes, praying that angels watch over them in the dark of night.

The judge was right.  FOREVER.