Six weeks ago, my little family drove north on Interstate 5, hung a right at Highway 14 and drove into Antelope Valley. Sounds like a pretty place, doesn't it? Almost mystical. I would bet most of you, if you were to take out your own personal mental snapshot of California you would be looking at Rocky Mountains or the roiling Pacific, majestic redwoods or overpriced amusement parks. I'm sure none of you pictured Antelope Valley. Although it sounds like a lush savanna bounding with chipper quadrupeds, in fact, Antelope Valley has no antelopes. The poor creatures were obliterated by hunters in the 1880's, and replaced with prefab homes, out of date strip malls, alfalfa fields and the second largest Borax pit mine. Antelope Valley also has the distinction of being the crystal meth darling of the Mojave.
This is where my daughter, Maxie, was born. (Interesting to note, the nurse in charge of Maxie's care for the first two days of her life, told us an increase of meth users in the area coincided with an unprecedented baby boom. Thankfully, Phylis, Maxie's birth mom, did not partake of the pipe.) And on that day, six weeks ago, we braved scorching heat and unrelenting fast food temptations to visit with Phylis and Maxie's two half sisters, Cheryl and Taryn. It was Taryn who insisted on seeing her younger sister again. And who are we to thwart a ten year old's wishes?
I'm pretty sure seven years ago, when Michael and I started the adoption process, we did not anticipate trekking to Armpit, USA to visit with the birth family. I probably went into it thinking we'd do the same thing my aunt and uncle did when they adopted forty years before, which was to slam a very heavy door on anything relating to the birth mother and bolt it shut.
All my preconceptions changed when Michael and I went to an adoption fair, sponsored by the Pop Luck Club, an organization of gay dads in the LA area. There were many brochure covered tables with all sorts of folk from the adoption industry. There were representatives from adoption agencies, adoption lawyers and surrogacy providers (my favorite, Ova the Rainbow.) And we met a wonderful woman who told us about open adoption. It was her belief that the bolted door is pretty much old school. She said that it's more psychologically sound and in the child's best interest to fling that door wide open and invite the birth family to come on in and set a spell. Mind you this is a slow get-to-know-you process. Think of the birth family as in-laws. Consequently, we bought the whole concept hook, line and sinker and attached ourselves to Kinship Center, an adoption agency based in Santa Ana.
Sebastian knows four of his half siblings. And Maxie, as I stated, is in contact with her birth mother and two half sisters. And it's fun to see their family resemblances. Sebastian's people are small with expressive eyes. Maxie comes from a long line of long legged females with fierce intelligence and dry hair. (You can smear my daughter's head with Vaseline and by the end of the day all evidence of petroleum jelly will have vanished.)
Add to her genetic hard wiring, Michael's and my very special brand of poison (our gestures, our humor, our turns of phrase) and you have my daughter. (Take a gander at my previous post Poisoning My Kids.) It's hard to describe but a bond is formed between the hard wirers and the poisoners. Sort of a "your looks, our mannerisms" bond. To a certain extent we are all responsible for this little girl. So when Taryn said, "Come on, adults, I haven't seen my little sister for over a year," of course we all hopped to and made this get together happen.
Our afternoon in Antelope Valley was spent in a park. A much needed breeze wafted as Maxie reconnect with her birth family and we ate greasy fast food. When in Rome... Aside from the drug bust next to the playground it couldn't have been lovelier. An intoxicating commingling of nature and nurture.
Two pictures of siblings. One with a strong biological resemblance, the other without a drop of shared DNA, and yet, an undeniable sibling bond nonetheless.