I had one of Oprah’s AHA! moments this week, and it happened when I logged on Facebook.
My gaze was first drawn to the sponsored ads on the right side of the screen. Come to think of it, it’s a miracle I had my AHA! moment at all because the impetus was nestled between one ad tempting me to “learn how Bloomfield Hills moms earn big money working from home” and another claiming to have “the secret to losing belly fat.”
(What the hell am I clicking on that Facebook marketers are somehow peering through the window of my soul?)
The ad in the middle was for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. I clicked and found myself reading beautiful stories about children being adopted by loving families. Many of the children had spent considerable time in the foster care system prior to being adopted.
November is National Adoption Month, and this foundation, named after the Wendy’s founder and adoptee, is dedicated to finding “forever families” for children in foster care.
A picture of the cutest little guy wearing one of those old-fashioned newsboy caps accompanied one story. It was a comment someone wrote under the post that led me, first, to an audible gasp, and then to my AHA! moment.
The comment said something like, “He’s so cute. I can’t imagine someone didn’t want him.”
Whoa. Mind blown. And then came my AHA! moment realization…..
My mother was the original spin-doctor, the original Olivia Pope; that is, if Olivia Pope did all her gladiator work from a rotary dial phone in the kitchen.
You’re confused. I don’t blame you. Let me fill in some important blanks.
I was given up for adoption at birth and spent the first six months of my life in a foster home.
For as long as I can remember, my mom–my adoptive mom, the only mom I ever knew–celebrated the loving sacrifice my birth mother made in choosing adoption. This choice was always referred to within a framework of gratitude and enveloped in words like “selfless” and “heart-wrenching” and “courageous.” Each and every one of my birthdays began with a prayer of thanksgiving to my birth parents who made the “love-filled realization” that I would be better served being raised by another compassionate family.
It never occurred to me that I might not have been wanted. Never. Ever.
I was raised in a home where gratitude fueled our every action, softened every disappointment and persuaded us to make a difference. My mom’s positive spin helped define me as a person and has enabled gratitude to serve as a foundation of who I am.
Which explains why now, as a grown woman just a smidge out of my 30s, the possibility that I might not have been wanted is on my radar for the very first time.
I did the math as a kid. I knew how to subtract nine months from my early June birthday, so I always assumed I was the unplanned souvenir of a love-filled summer romance.
When I got older and embraced my Irish heritage, I entertained the possibility of being the byproduct of a pre-Chappaquiddick Kennedy-clan member love affair. This caused me great angst because I was sure the day would come when John Kennedy, Jr. and I would meet and fall victim to a mutual love-at-first-sight only to later learn our bond was doomed because we were, technically, related.
My spin-doctor mama prevented me from daydreaming a back-story rooted in any number of horrific, violent or salacious circumstances. And it made all the difference in my life.
Had I not been swathed in gratitude, I could have traveled a path of bitterness, resentment or mistrust.
My mom wasn’t privy to the details of the first six months of my life, but she was intimately aware of later challenges I faced, and the common thread that she wove through every one of my days was one of gratitude.
That thread remains strong even now, nineteen years after her death.
And for that, I am forever thankful.