Tag Archives: humor

So, Adoption Huh?

I realized curious onlookers hear roughly 13% of the conversation after they ask “So, adoption huh?” The other 87% of the diaogue is in my head. Hammy, the mentally unstable hamster who runs my brain wheel, internally berates me for weeks after these exchanges. He scolds me for over-sharing, under-sharing, and my lack of boundaries. He also scolds me for my top bun penchant, but that’s another story.

Between sets tonight, my swim coach (who I adore) asked if I adopted my son, and how long he’s been home. Casual adoption questions translate to asking for a sound bite on the most impactful event of my life. Between swim sets during Masters practice. In the cereal aisle at Trader Joe’s. While waiting for a table at Islands. On the elevator at Days Inn. Ya know?

I feel Hammy’s beady black eyes glaring disappointment into my soul as soon as the curious onlooker scratches their nose and says “So, um…” The nose tickle is the onlooker’s body screaming what their brain knows: “It isn’t your right to know the answers! Live with the curiosity! It won’t kill you! Or Google! What about Google?!” The scratch pushes away the physical alert, and we’re off.

Curious Onlooker: “Is that your son? / Did you adopt your son? / When did you get him? / Etc. (so many openers)”

Cue Hammy’s glare of disgusted anticipation. He’s certain I’ll flub this.

Me: “(Uncomfortable reply, over-compensating attempt to hide my discomfort and hurt feelings.)”

Hammy: “Allison, you are a spineless waste of vocal chords.”

Curious Onlooker: “(Emboldened, increasingly intrusive line of questioning.)”

Hammy: “When are you going to draw the line and define some boundaries? No, I’m kidding. I know you’re a soggy chicken-nipple who’ll keep answering until this gaping hole of manners is done with you.”

Me: “(Humorous attempt to deflect and distract.)”

Hammy: “Oh, she’s got jokes! Isn’t she hilarious while she’s trying to be likable at the expense of her son’s privacy?!”

Curious Onlooker: “(Probing question about Luc’s birth family.)”

Me: “(Brief answer followed by watch glance, and comment about the late hour.)”

Hammy: “Allison. You have a funny way of pronouncing, ‘None of your damn business, Rust-Juice-For-Brains!'”

Curious Onlooker: “(Question with the term “Luc’s real mother.)”

Me: “(Shaky voice correction about who Luc’s ‘real mother’ is (hint: it’s me).)”

Hammy: “Poor Luc doesn’t realize he has sandwich spread for a mother.”

Eventually, I find a way out of the conversation. But for the rest of my life, Hammy finds precious moments to remind me of my mistakes. He’s convinced me the majority of Luc’s future need for therapy stems from my incompetence. And, the hardest part is he’s partially right. My friends hug me, and tell me it’s rubbish. But it isn’t.

I guess what I really want to say (Hammy: “And could have saved us all a lot of time by saying it earlier.”) is those questions are intrusive. It’s not easy to figure out the right time to ask or answer them. But it’s not hard to figure out the wrong time. And I’m clearly inept at answering in a healthy way–

Hammy: “You have the spinal cord of a jellyfish. Get to the point, Allison.”

I wish people would take a few seconds to think about how their questions will make Luc and me feel. And have they have earned enough trust in our relationship to ask them in the first place?

If the mystery is a distraction when people are around us, maybe the bigger question to answer is why.

Hammy: “That was excruciating.”

Am I Creating A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy?

White friends often ask if parents of Black children (like me) create a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching our children about racism. Do they have a point? What if I replace “racism” with other words?

  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about bullying? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about communication skills so much.
  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about cavities? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about oral hygiene so much.
  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about looking both ways before they cross the street? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about road safety so much.

To me, it sounds like blaming the victim. Nobody invites bullying, cavities, car accidents, or racism. And, the more all of us understand those realities, the more empowered everyone is to protect them self.

#theonlystupidquestion #istheonenotasked #openminds

Grandma Lee’s Funeral

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

My weekend might have been worse than yours. We flew to Athens, Georgia, for my grandmother’s funeral. Reed calls me the velcro member of “The Family” (the core family: my two sisters and our parents). I am the detachable/re-attachable obligation.

24 hours until the funeral:
Reed, Luc, and I arrive at Bob Hope International Airport relaxed, ready for caffeine, and determined to make the best of a funeral weekend. Michael, our Southwest ticketing agent, cringes as he breaks the news that we are at the wrong airport. Our flight will leave from LAX as scheduled, and we would need teleportation to board on time.

22 hours until the funeral:
The Great Wrong Airport Debacle of 2015 resolved (thank you, Southwest!!), we scuttle through security where I nervously present an expired driver’s license and my antique passport. A text from my sister pings that we should not stop by our parents’ house (both of my sisters are staying there) when we get to town because Mom is stressed. I figure she must only want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait. I am family.

11 hours until the funeral:
We hobble into the Holiday Inn of Athens, Georgia, at 1am. Luc is asleep. I am 18% alive. The empty bottle of saline surprises Reed anew, and he makes his monthly dash to a 24 hour drugstore.

4 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should not go to our parents’ house today before the funeral because Mom is overwhelmed. I figure she must want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait…

3 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should absolutely be on time for the funeral. The Family will arrive promptly at noon, and I’d better be there waiting. Or else. I silently question 5 hours of flying, 4 hours of laying over, and 3 hours of driving for this.

1 hour until the funeral:
The hotel iron is a union member who already worked 40 hours this week. My dress, covered in wrinkles and large ovals of iron juice, has reached a new level of suitcase chic.

11:15 AM:
We arrive at the church and debate parking in the spaces marked “Funeral.” My husband insists we can’t park there because “those spaces are for family only.” Really? Really?? Velcro Girl growls.

Noonish:
The Family arrives. Mom moves and speaks with a quiet fluidity. I think she is medicated. We file into a gargantuan sanctuary. Ambitious choice for a 99 year old’s funeral. Surprise baptism! My sister scheduled an adult baptism for herself. Today. An hour before our grandmother’s funeral. The Family is pleased and does not offer an explanation.

12:15 PM:
Miraculously, energetic, excited-to-see-each-other-after-a-whole-year 5 and 7 year-old cousins remain quietly pretend-somber. Sort of. Mom invites everyone to view a short, silent slide show of Grandma Lee through the years. It loops. And loops. For 45 minutes.

Grammy promises her fading grandchildren tiny, mysterious presents if they behave. Desperate parents hiss time-outs, shoot stink-eyes, and issue death threats to bring the impossible to fruition: happy, hungry, bored, quiet, calm children.

Post Funeral:
The service lasted in the neighborhood of 136 child-years. We file into a room with finger sandwiches and cookie platters. Luc takes a finger sandwich for show, and then shovels 80% of the cookies onto his plate. I pretend not to notice because, frankly, he deserves them.

Eventually we are dismissed and return to the hotel for food and swimming. A stressful, mandatory, The Family style dinner closes the day.

24 Hours Post Funeral:
Reed packed with an air of time abundance. We arrive at our gate hungry and just in time to board. Hopefully trail mix will satiate us for the next 5 hours. “Attention please: we have a passenger on board with a peanut allergy. No peanuts or peanut products will be permitted today. Thank you!” We survive on millions of pretzelito packs and thimbles of orange juice.

Was my weekend worse than yours?

Everything Bagel Life

Raisins ruin Everything bagels.

Raisins ruin Everything bagels.

I want an Everything bagel life. When onions, sesame seeds, salt, poppy seeds, and garlic each add their unique contributions, the result is an extraordinary bagel. The world is a richer place because of that collaboration.

But sometimes I feel like the raisins. Raisins aren’t invited to the Everything bagel party. Everybody knows that raisins would ruin the Everything bagel.

I found an interesting group created for inclusiveness in literature. It was thrilling to read their mission statement. “We recognize all diverse experiences…” They understood that having more books with a rainbow of characters would benefit everyone! This was the Everything bagel I’d been hoping for! But as I read about various grants and contests, I kept bumping into a familiar exclusion:

“Please note: … Being … a parent of … a diverse person will not qualify an otherwise ineligible applicant.”

It made me feel like a foolish raisin for once again trying to find acceptance in an Everything bagel.

My situation is tricky. I’m white, and so I have all the privilege that goes with being white. Is it because of white privilege that people judge me negatively for adopting a black child? We are routinely stared at, yelled at, scolded, mocked, threatened, harassed, bullied, dismissed, and excluded (see above).

What do I want? I’m not sure. My bio says: “An adoptive mom and former comic strip creator, I want to add to the diversity on the bookshelves by telling silly stories through a family that looks like mine: transracial and full of love.” I want to be a part of desensitizing people from the curiosity of uniqueness, and sensitizing them to a life of collaboration.

But, I keep getting scolded and told to go back to my Raisin bagel. On top of that, the Raisin bagel isn’t too sure about me anymore either. The raisin bagel thinks I wish I’d been born a poppy seed.

It always leaves me wondering, “Am I doing this right?”

Life Questioned: Did You Buy Luc?

When a conversation seems headed toward "orphanage," Luc shuts it down. Firmly.

When a conversation seems headed toward “orphanage,” Luc shuts it down. Firmly.

The other day, Luc and I were hanging out with a 7 year old family friend. Kind of out of the blue, she asked a blunt question. For the rest of the conversation, my only thought was, “Am I doing this right?”

Julie: “Did you have Luc in your tummy, or did you buy him?”

Me: “God brought our family together through adoption. Luc was not in my tummy.”

Luc: “I don’t want to talk about this.”

Me: “Fair enough, Luc. Is it okay if Julie asks me questions with her Mom when you are not around?”

Luc: “Not if she’s gonna come to me afterward with even more questions.”

Me: “OK. Julie, can we promise that I’ll answer your questions, and that you won’t try to talk to Luc about this unless he says it’s okay?”

(Silence.)

Luc: “She’s not promising.”

Me: “Julie, have you ever been through something in your life that was really hard, and you don’t want to talk about it?”

Julie: “Yes.”

Me: “That’s how Luc feels about this subject. Does that make sense?”

Julie: “Yes.”

Me: “So, can you two agree that you won’t ask each other about the hard stuff you’ve been through that you don’t want to talk about?”

Both: “Yes.”

Me: “Thanks, y’all. And by the way, Julie, I want to be clear about one thing that is absolutely true. I love Luc exactly as much as your Mom loves you.”

Julie: “I don’t know about that. My Mom loves me the biggest number.”

Me: “I know! And that’s how much I love Luc, too!”

Then Julie and Luc argued over which amount of love was bigger: infinity or googleplex. But how many zeroes does googleplex have? We would need to google it. “We need to Google googleplex.” Giggles. And we closed the conversation giggling about Googling googleplex.

To 31 year old Luc (if you have issues with cavities):

Note: If 31 year old Luc does not have issues with cavities, please totally disregard and immediately destroy the following babblings.

Dearest 31 year old Luc,

very tired mom

Mom under the influence of exhaustion (mental and physical).

I love you. You know that. You were always a high-energy, strong-willed child. You know that too. Strong-willed children can be tiring. When you were two, you caused mayhem. I’d sigh, “Aw Luuuuc…” and you would double over with laughter. I used to have a private Jerry Maguire joke with myself during times of friction; I would think to myself, “You deplete me.” But, no matter how frustrated or exhausted I became, I always made sure to tell you that I loved you without condition.

So, about the teeth. The guilt is really getting to me. I know I should scrape myself off the floor and brush your teeth after you brush each time, but the inevitable battle… Ohhh the inevitable battle. I just… It’s just… I never do it. I won’t say I can’t do it because we’ve all seen the You Tube videos of the blind or deaf, one-legged and/or no armed, three-toed hermaphrodite puppy climbing Mt. Everest while singing “Nearer to Thee.” Or something similar. Can’t is a big word. I could, but I don’t. I hold myself accountable.

The thing is there are a million things, like teeth, that I need to scrape myself off the floor to take care of: that bump in your nose, hair cuts*, pink sludge, soy, bathing, ash attacks*, pedophiles, room tidiness, holey socks, playing Wii until your eyes glaze over and you forget how to swallow, and on and on. I can find two degrees of separation from any activity and DEATH. Because I’m a Mom. It is a mother’s curse to know that everything can lead to permanent damage. God gave us the superpower of foresight, but He didn’t provide any antidotes!!!

You will probably read this and feel resentment. You might even show it to your future therapist. And you’ll both agree that I should not have let a 7 year old’s temper tantrums dictate my behavior: She should have ignored the rage, and brushed his teeth after he brushed. At least once per day, right? I mean couldn’t she manage even once per day??

No, 31 year old Luc and his future therapist, I can’t manage once per day. I can manage once per week. Usually.

But, no 7 year old can possibly comprehend the permanent consequences of dental hygiene!

I know. I tried to explain them to him.

But that’s insane!

I know that too. I’m sorry.

Sorry?! Say sorry to TSA as their wands go crazy over a mouthful of fillings!

If that would help, I will. Maybe. If I have the energy.

You really are unbelievable, you one-sided conversation having nut jo—

Don’t you talk to your mother like that!

I’m not!! I’m reading this! YOU are typing it!!

I need you to check your tone, son.

You are not a sane person.

I realize this. And sometimes I cling to one of the benefits of being an adoptive mother: I can claim with near certainty that enduring my neuroses is better for you than enduring [insert negative unknowable alternative]. It’s a low bar, but a moderately comforting one. Also, I know you know, and your future therapist knows, and you know your future therapist knows you know I love you. And love conquers all?

In conclusion, I love you very much. I’ve made sure you know you are loved. Your daily hygiene is an acknowledged suboptimal situation. But I love you very much. And I love you. Did I mention I love you?

Now, who wants ice cream?

*It’s a black thing.

I Never Win Anything

When I arrived, the hallway on the 9th floor was filled with (I assume) 125 people. Role was called. And then, the stunning news that 5 lucky people had been chosen by a randomization computer script to be on call. Meaning they could go home immediately and not even think about reporting again until a week later. At that point, they were to call the Magical Phone Number of Potential. They would likely learn that their service was complete!

The first name was called: a young, very overweight Latina. I decided she could use a break. I approved.

Then the second name: an older white man sitting way down at the end of the hall (indicating he had arrived early and prepared). He seemed humble and bookish, so I approved him too.

As each person passed me, I showed them I was genuinely happy for them (and I was! …. I was. Well, I was trying to be happy for them) by smiling and whispering, “Congratulations!!”

The third name: an oldish (60’s?) African American woman who smiled so big as I congratulated her that I thought she was going to hug me. Approved.

The fourth name: some dude standing in front of me whose last name started with G. Too close. Too emotionally searing. I did not approve. But I pretended I did, even as the hot tears filled my eyes. I never win anything, I sniffled to myself.

The fifth name: Allison Garwood. WHAT?! I gasped audibly. The crowd gasped audibly in reply. I looked at everyone and smiled and thanked them. And the band played some song as I walked carefully down the catwalk, trying not to offset the crown that had been placed precariously on my— oh wait, that’s Miss America. But there is no way Miss America is more excited to win than I was. Amazing and awesome.

Therrrrre she iiiiiis, Mrs. On Caaall Juror Eight-Oh-Nine-Fiiii-hiiiive…

Potential

Sunday: I call the number and enter the other numbers and press the numbers and eventually learn that I need to report for jury duty on Thursday.

Thursday: I arrive at 111 North Hill Ave to find a line of people in front of the building entrance. “Good,” I think, “they should make the criminals wait in line and watch all of us hard-working, upstanding citizens as we walk in to do our civic duty. Sadly, the line was for people with jury duty. I took my place in line and quickly grew so bored that I decided to start an Instagram account. Nobody cared.

Waiting in line for the privilege of jury duty. #first2ndhandcigoftheday #delicious

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

And I also decided to keep a log…

7:34am – Hour 1 has been unpleasant but I am still strong. I waited in line for about 30 minutes. The woman behind me told a listening ear (not mine) about her many, many, many, many, many ailments. She started with a lesson on how to know when it’s time to get that tooth pulled. Next we dove into the wrist injury (“massive break”) and the resulting bone degeneration disease that left her knees knocking bone on bone (“the doctors don’t even know how I’m walking around!”). Then came the story about the car accident where she suffered “whiplash times ten.” But the whiplash-times-ten had a name that involved the word “ovarian.” At this point, she was talking so quickly, that it was easy to miss such small details. I am growing dubious. Before she could launch into another adventure, the guards have begun to file us through the metal detectors.

7:46am – I set the metal detector alarm off, yet without so much as a glance, the guard robotically motioned me to proceed … as if she secretly hopes that I do have something on my person that will put her out of her misery. When I turned to ask her for directions, she intuited my question and interrupted with a stoney “SECOND FLOOR.” What a strange place.

A day will come when one too many people ask her where to go for jury duty...

A day will come when one too many people ask her where to go for jury duty…

7:53am – The scenery here is so oppressive that it appears to have drained everyone of the ability to interact.

7:55am – I walked down the most life-depleating hallway I’ve ever seen.

The long, despairing hall/haul of juror dutydome. #everyoneissofriendly

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

7:59am: I did the “Who goes left?” Shuffle with a woman who remained completely expressionless. I nervously giggled “Excuse me!!” but she remained silent and emotionless, much like a coyote I once saw negotiating a fence.

The Who Goes Left Shuffle with a lifeless shell of a woman.

The Who Goes Left Shuffle with a lifeless shell of a woman.

8:11am – When I entered “The Juror Room” a.k.a. “The Sea of Potential” (as I have renamed it), a sea of empty blue chairs looked like softly clapping waves in an ocean during a tidal change. Peaceful in appearance, but underneath you know that it will drown you if given a chance.

#seaofpotential

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

8:48am – They played a video. Then a judge who must not feel heard by his loved ones talked for a long time about the honor of jury duty. He made a confusing reference to the recent terrorist massacre in Paris where extremists murdered 17 innocent people, including the execution of 3 cartoonists. The judge said the event would have been “impossible … well, unlikely” in the U.S. because of our jury by peers system. You might need to read that part again because you are so confused, but he really said it. And nobody punched him. I almost did. Obviously we could all reference a little event in the U.S. that we refer to only by it’s date. I’ve never used this shorthand before, but it’s works here: SMH

8:53am – My strength is fading. They are clever here. They use long speeches peppered with rainbow suspenders level gags to break us down. I can see my comrades weakening. I’m amazed at how quickly the bright eyes of the living are dulled by this subtle and powerful torture.

8:04am – The hour hand of the clock sags so that it is difficult to decipher the time. This must be intentional. I almost believe that we are repeating the 8 o’clock hour, but I’ll try to remember that it is really the 9 o’clock hour. Must remember. I think it is Thursday, though all the days run together here. Since it is still Day 1, I am able to keep track.

8/9:07am – My body is beginning to feel at one with the chair. My mind seems to be breaking down. I almost joined in the bizarre North Korelian applause that happens after each speech. The Commander spoke about the rules and listed the stupid questions we are not permitted to ask. The implied conclusion seems to be that we are stupid and annoying. I believe her. I am stupid and annoying. Wait! No, I am not! It’s all getting fuzzy. I remember my son. I remember my husband. And the puppy. I remember them. Must not forget.

The Captain says "I LOVE YOU!!! I LOVE YOU!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!!!" #captaincutiepants

A photo posted by Petunia Insect (@allisonagarwood) on

8/9:11am – I ration the last of my luke-warm tea. Lips so dry. Tongue swelling? Was this mole here yesterday? Distracted. I must remove this blasted chipped nail polish. Nail polish remover! Cupboard! Home! Memories of home! What is my family doing now? Do they miss me? How much has my son grown since I saw him last?

8/9:24am – They’ve replaced our names with dehumanizing numbers. I am now Juror 8095. Must remember my name, my humanity. I will fight for those memories. I am Allison Garwood!

8/9:29am – The sedative of boredom and ugly carpet is punctuated by bolts of terror. Will my name be called? What then?? I try to get some rest, but I can’t sleep. The silent screams of the Potentials (as I have named us) makes sleep impossible. Each time I catch the eye of a Potential I see more screams: “What if? What then?!” I try to concentrate on my family and making it back to them one day. My sweet son. Juror 8095 loves you, sweetie.

8/9:33am – They offered us a 30 minute break. A few people left. Where did they go? A break from what? How does one take a break from waiting? Is it a trap? Do they shoot the fools who leave for not appreciating the honor of serving this great country? Do they shoot the fools who stay for not needing to rest from the excitement of the potential of serving this great free country? I decide to stay.

8/9:44 – A flashback of my old life when I think I see a friend from behind. A friend from my old life. The woman turns, I realize I’m here in my new life. Keep forgetting this is where I live now.

8/9:47 – I brought some Cuties in my purse. Can I eat them? The Grammar Outlaw (yes! Juror 8095 remembers calling herself this in her old life!) wonders both: a. if eating in the Sea of Potential is allowed and b. if the starved stomach of a pitiful Potential is capable of receiving nutrition.

8/9:50 – In the name of everything that’s holy!! They are calling names right now!!! A TWENTY ONE DAY TRIAL!!! Oh the humanity!!!!

8/9:51 – My name was called.

Black Pride

Reed was out of town last week on a business trip. Luc missed him SOOOO much. He sobbed every night and choked up every morning on the way to school. Thankfully, Reed is back. The boys are in the den wrestling (manese for “I’m glad you’re back!”). I thought the dog was asleep, but then I heard this ….

Luc: “The Captain is saying, ‘I’m rooting for this guy, so I’m gonna lick him just so he knows!'” (…followed by peals of laughter.)

The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame "The Heels"

The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame “The Heels”

Shortly after, a “Poop Break” was announced. Luc bounced into my office with a Lucha Libre library book. He wanted to show me how the match was going with a visual aid. He pointed to the losing wrestler on the cover of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame’s “The Heels”: “That’s what I did to Daddy. Except that’s more horrible because he’s black.”

Me: “Wait, why is it worse for a black wrestler to get hurt?”

Luc: “Because I always root for the black guys.”

I’ve got nothing. I have no idea how to respond to that.

– – –

A few months ago, Luc and I were waiting outside of the black barbershop. We chit chatted with a few passing folks. During a lull, Luc turned to me and said with a proud smile, “Black people are a lot cooler than white people.”

Me: “Uh, helloooo.”

Luc: “What.”

Me: “You just said that to a white person. I’m white, dude.”

Luc: “Sorry Mom-Mom, but it’s true. You have to admit it.”

The voice in my head started rambling: “He’s got a point. I mean based on the black people you have come in contact with lately, and the black people you expose Luc to, it’s really no wonder he thinks that! But you can’t agree, because that would be affirming his prejudice! But you want to encourage his confidence and pride in being a cool black man, but you don’t want to push him into prejudice! Maybe a bus will swerve onto the sidewalk and take you out and you won’t have to answer this one.”

Me (finally): “I’ve met a lot of really cool black people. And I’ve met a lot of really cool white people.”

Luc: “Whatever.”

What can I say? I’m not good on my feet.