First of all. Let's define disability. I have friends who say, "Yes, yes, we're all disabled in one way or another." Some have ADD, some are diabetic, some have seizure disorders. Oh. Another claims her glaucoma is a disability. Ok. We're all disabled. But what we're all NOT, is able to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. I am. This makes me, in the face of the courts, DISABLED. I have a cool license plate to prove it. (Pardon the double negative.)
So. I'm doing this because, although I think I am a GOOD human being, I want to be remembered.
And I want my sons, and their families, to remember who I AM long after I am gone. (even if it's just through words.)
Today, I start w/Day One.
I was born in Manhattan at Le Roi hospital, a lovely place for the upper class. Two days later I was taken out of the arms of my birthmother and placed in a foster home. Why? Because she was not married to The Judge and it would not seem fitting for a person of Position to have an illegitimate child. (Although based on the number of adoptees in my Sunday school class in NJ there was a WHOLE lot of something going on over there in NYC, from whence we came.)
Spence Chapin ... the toniest of adoption agencies in the mid 50's where "good girls" signed over their babies so upper middle class people could buy them. Whoops. Adopt. No credentials needed, a W-2 will be fine, thank you.
But it didn't work that quickly for me and I spent time in the foster care system. I can't find my foster mother, will never know her, but love her from the bottom of my heart (this is something I cannot say about "Babs" but that's another post. Maybe tomorrow if I'm not passing kidney stones through my nose.) WHY do I love this woman? Because she loved me. Fair enough ... she had me preconscious memory, but what I have from her, is a stuffed rabbit that I slept with for years. Purpy Rab (what else does a kid name a purple rabbit?) One could tell he originally had those googlely press-in eyes but she has taken them out and sewn on red buttons instead. Mothers do that. Make thing safe for their kids. This is love. As I would look at him at arm's length I studied him hard, to the point that I can tell you, 55 years after the crime, that she didn't stitch in parallel lines but rather like an "X" which makes them stronger. Hence, safer. Yes. She loved me.
My father (the man who raised me now to be spoken of as Daddy) told me my adoption story as often as I would ask.
He was at "Scout Camp" when they received the call that a baby girl was available. Darn. My mother wanted a boy (another post) but my father insisted. So they raced to NYC where they sat in one room and my foster mother and I both sobbed in one adjacent. My father said he couldn't hear her words distinctly but that it was very obvious she was worried. She wanted me to wear what she had dressed me in and as the agency owned these clothes, I had to wear what my parents had brought. The social worker went back and forth between the room saying as little as possible. (I have little respect for those 50's social workers. Tabla rasa ,my ass.) Eventually my foster mother dressed me in clothing that had not been washed and she worried wold scratch me. I'm telling you, she loved me. And then she handed me over. I'm gonna guess she kissed me a lot before she let go. She took me as a new born and got me all the way into solid food and crawling phase.
When I asked my Daddy what he remembered most about the day he said, "We brought you home (Westchester) and laid you on a green blanket in a Universe you'd never been in before. We called you "Ruth", a name that was new to you. You didn't respond to it but looked up at the ceiling fixture. I flicked it on and off and you roared with laughter. Belly laughter out of this little tiny girl who was too small at birth and had a heart murmur. Belly laughter. I knew I was in love like I'd never been in love before. Belly laughter."
But back to Purpy Rab. Who, having been purchased by my foster mother, was allowed to come "home" with me unlike any clothing I was wearing pre transfer.
Years later a NJ neighbor was a foster mother who fostered one baby after another (no doubt from NYC.) I was most awed that she would take these babies and GIVE THEM AWAY. I mean, how much being given away does one person have to GO THROUGH in their lives? Although I was only in elementary school she would let me hold them, rock them, and play w/them. She would let me kiss them. I asked her if she cried when they were adopted and why didn't SHE adopt them if she loved them so much (these were questions I would have never asked my mother or father ... from whom I tried to shield against Adoption Pain.) She said of COURSE she cried ... every single time, and explained to me that she felt called to love these babies, to give them the BEST start in life she could, and to pray for them forever. I showed her Purpy Rab once (her daughter "Jeffy" was one of my closet friends.) I remember she held him as if he were made of fine china and pronounced him "beautiful." Jeffy's mom was European (French?) and she admired his eyes in particular. She noted the FINE work that had gone into securing his eyes (which were really slightly askew.) He WAS beautiful and still IS beautiful although his fur is all gone and I have repaired one of his ears so many times I won't try again ... because there is simply no fabric through which to stitch. His eyes, however, are still there, solidly sewn. Yes, she loved me.
Purpy Rab used to reside on the bed I made every morning. I had a slick trick down for this bed making (which I found ridiculous.) I'd lay in between the sheets, straighten them out. pull up the bedspread and ssssslip out. Smooth out the top, fold back the pillow area, arrange the pillow, flop, fluff, and then the bed was ready for its final adornment, Purpy Rab.
The greatest angst came when it was time for me to go to college. Purpy Rab and I had never been apart. Only HE could remember from whence I came ... when I was Constance, and not Ruth. How do you leave the only thing who knew you before you did? It was very difficult. In the end, my Daddy helped me decide he was safer at home in my closet than in a college dorm closet. We took a picture of him that I kept in my underwear drawer where no one would look. I didn't look often myself, but yeah ... there were nights I just needed to see his red eyes. Just to know that somewhere, Constance still lived.
And when I married? Frankly, the Professor didn't care. He told me of Bear (for whom he had made a sleeping bag as a child.) Bear lived outside of Chicago in the top drawer of a dresser. Yes, he had been left resting comfortably in his sleeping bag.
Purpy Rab is now in a plastic bag in a plastic tote in a storage unit. Eventually he and his plastic will come live with me in The Barn (ooh, look forward to Barn stories) although I will never again hold him face to face.
My immune system has been rendered "compromised" due to toxic mold exposure and as Purpy Rab lived with me through the floods and later many older apartments and homes, he's toxic. In the most loving of ways. I suppose I could try and wash him ... I have some nifty sporicide that probably has a half life I don't want to know about, but the thought of him disintegrating in the wash is more than I can take. I'd rather have him entombed in a zip loc bag for all eternity.
Yes, I've read "The Velveteen Rabbit" maybe a million times between being a parent and a teacher and yes, I recognize that both Purpy Rab and I have the many, many scars the "real" wear. My own sons, are unimpressed by him. I wish I could say this is because they bare no scars of their own, but I'd be lying. And I don't lie. But my students? There's another story. My students were mostly urban minority kids with their own hard stories to tell ... and every time I'd read "The Velveteen Rabbit" I'd bring in Purpy Rab. The greatest humiliation he ever suffered was disinterest, but the greatest joy he ever brought and received was a from a fifth grade boy in a school where I was substituting for a teacher who had broken her leg. He touched him and cried. Ironically or not, this boy, now young man is my sons' father's wife's child. I don't say step brother. To my knowledge my kids and hers have never slept together under the same roof. The Wifey didn't really want my kids polluting hers. Now THERE'S a post that will go unwritten.
And, a brief DYT fashion report ... after shooting out nine kidney stone shards last night I am attired in a bright red bathrobe adorned with a real live black cat w/a red collar. My very own, Larry. Laurence of 11th St., to be exact ... although his location evolves.
I do, too.