Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Knitting Needles

Three women, like three sisters, fates, or norns, sit in an isoceles, making their own triangles of socks on straight needles. They do not exchange one eye that they may in turn see, or a tooth that each might chew. No lives are measured from the distaff and cut with mythic shears. Instead, over coffee and cakes, among forced flowers of far off spring, they tell tales, stitch stories, their yarns unravelling from skeins to produce something new, more than just a turned heel or a ribbed cuff.

“Did you hear that Doris lost her baby?” asked Brenda.

“Oh no, not again!” exclaimed Charlotte, her needles pausing mid-stitch. “That makes how many now?”

Brenda pauses to think. “Four. Or is is five?”

“There never was a woman who wanted a child as much as that girl,” commented Delia, her knitting smooth and uninterrupted, an even click click click in the sudden silence.

“Such a pity,” mourned Charlotte. “Those two have been trying for ever. Maybe next time.”

“There probably won’t be a ‘next time’,” Delia cooly informed the others. “I think the doctor said she wasn’t to attempt another, that one more miscarriage would likely kill her. Maybe they’ll just forget all this nonsense and adopt a baby girl from China.”

“Perhaps,” said Brenda. “That seems to be quite popular these days. The other day at the IGA I saw a woman with three daughters, all Chinese, all different ages, totally unrelated.”

“I wonder what it’s like for the girls,” mused Charlotte. “I mean, I know they were too young to remember China and being abandoned in a bus shelter or church doorstep or wherever, but to be so obviously different from their adoptive parents. I wonder if they ever feel like they totally belong.”

“Oh, that’s hogwash,” snorted Delia, “and you know it! Maybe when they get to be teenagers, but not before, not if they’re truly loved.”

“What about if they get it in their minds to go looking for their birth mothers, like so many adoptees do?” asked Charlotte. “That would be an impossible task.”

Brenda stopped knitting long enough to refill her coffee cup and help herself to another piece of cake. “Did I ever tell you about the woman I met on the train, the one returning from a first time visit to her birth mother?” she asked.

“Wasn’t that when you were coming back from your father’s funeral?” asked Delia.

“I didn’t hear it,” said Charlotte. “What about her?”

Brenda sipped her coffee. “I don’t really remember too much, since I was pretty full of my own state of mind at the time. She was in her 30’s, I guess, and she said she never really felt that she belonged in her adoptive family, even though her parents didn’t treat her any differently than their own birth children. She was half-black, half-white, and obviously different. Also, she had been kicked around in foster homes for a while before this family had adopted her, and she remembered that part a little too well.

“Anyway, after years of searching, she found out who her birth parents were. Her father was black, her mom was white, and they had had a relationship which, of course didn’t last, and when this girl was born, her mother put her up for adoption. It was done more frequently then than it is now. I don’t think it’s a good idea that teenagers and un-wed mothers without means of support keep babies who would do so much better with families where they would be wanted and given more advantages.

“She had also met her father before and discovered that she had a half-brother. She told me about him, the same guy who picked her up at the station when we parted ways, that she had gone out to dinner with him and his girlfriend. When the brother had gone off to the bathroom, the girlfriend said to her, ‘It’s uncanny! You’re so much alike!’ How’s that for nature vs. nurture?”

Delia nodded. “That would be interesting, connecting with family you didn’t know you had. So, what was the reunion with her birth mother like?”

“Well,” continued Brenda, “apparently it was rather emotional. I mean, what would you expect? Thirty-five years later the baby girl you gave up for adoption arrives on your doorstep and calls you ‘mother’. It would be downright freaky.”

“Wow,” said Charlotte. “That’s quite a story. I couldn’t imagine being in that situation, well any of those situations, actually.”

“I guess it’s not all that different from the Chinese girl babies left in bus shelters,” added Delia.

“Nope,” Brenda agreed.