A Name

mary and jacob and a beagleAccording to my mother, I was a late talker. Not because I lacked the ability—I could holler “MOM” at an ear splitting volume from the age of sixteen months—but because I had an older brother who handled things for me.

Jacob was a year and a half older than I and seemed to enjoy reading my gestures and translating my needs to adults. He ensured that cartoons were viewed, cereal was served, and that all bubbles were stirred out of any remotely bubbly beverage intended for me. In our one-bedroom apartment in southern New Jersey, we didn’t have many toys. But I had a big brother and Jacob had a baby sister. We were ignorant of all the pressed plastic playthings we didn’t have.

My favorite way to show my affection for Jacob was peeling his eyelids open in the morning so I would never spend a moment of my waking life without him. Or I’d squash his face between my palms so his cheeks squeezed into his eyes in a marshmallowy way that made me laugh. This type of manhandling was not, however, supported by our cat, Anna, an ancient grey-tuxedo colored feline with ideas. Continue reading

The Only Way is Forward….

I am officially one month away from the launch of my debut memoir, and if I am honest, I am as excited as I am terrified.

My story touches on ideas of family, love, identity, and separation. Putting all of those things together has the potential to make some people uncomfortable. So I am bracing myself, and my family for negativity (that I hope never appears).

When I first set my story to the page, I had one goal; to create a place in the world where my siblings and I could be together. Continue reading

Sisterly Suggestion

meg convo

the struggle is real, you guys.

For the first day of November, a.k.a “National Adoption Month”, here’s a bit of advice:

When you get together with your long lost siblings, try to take some group photos without all the significant others.

Nearly a decade since my siblings set has been complete, we still do not have a single photo of all seven us alone/together.

By National Adoption Month 2015, it is my mission to rectify this issue.

#AdoptionProblems.

My Sister’s Father

my sister before I knew her

my sister before I knew her

The first time I saw the man was in my mother’s living room.

[And here is where the qualifiers begin.]

The first time I saw the man was in my birth-mother’s living room, not the living room where I spent hundreds of Saturday mornings watching cartoons, or where I practiced piano for one hour every day. This was a living room that was only vaguely more familiar to me than it was to him in the autumn of 2005, when we met. I was twenty-two years old. If he hadn’t been so uncomfortable that day, I don’t think he would have left an impression on me at all.

But it was clear from the way he adjusted his glasses. How he remained standing when everyone else sat. His laugh so tight that it could have been a cough. He was uncomfortable. And his discomfort became graver when his daughter who was also my sister smiled into the pages of an old photo album, seeing for the first time her features displayed on the faces of her ancestors. Something her adoptive father could never give her. Where once he had gained a daughter when I lost a sister, the poles of that event were now reversed. At twenty-two years old I lacked the capacity to appreciate the similarities of our situations. I couldn’t believe that an adult might be just as confused as I was by the way adoption can spin your emotional compass.

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For Becca. On Her Birthday.

for becca

Me and Becca (her favorite photo)

For the past nineteen years, my sister Becca has told this story every time she introduces me to her friends. I guess to show them what our relationship is like. The take away as far as I can tell is that I am a person who backs up my words with action (so watch out), and—I hate to say it, but it’s true—sometimes Becca doesn’t know when to shut her mouth.

It was a summer afternoon. Becca was twelve and I was thirteen. Old enough to know better but not yet capable of controlling the surges of hormones and terror that allow an adolescent girl to do things she never imagined she would be capable of.

In the above ground pool in the backyard, Becca and I had run in circles long enough to create a whirlpool and were now slung around flotation devices, letting the current tug us around the sides, under the ladder. The sun was setting and all we had to look forward to once we got out of the water were the indignities of piano practice and washing dishes.

Then out of nowhere Becca started hollering about this boy I liked—Mary Loves Paul Agostini!—and my stomach jumped into my throat. She was just guessing at the name of my crush, but once she saw the look on my face, she knew she’d got me.

So she kept going.

Mary Loves Paul—

Her voice echoed down the street. Anyone could hear her. People on their front lawns. Neighbors grilling dinner. Drivers passing by with their windows open.

Stop it— I said.

I disentangled from my Fun Noodle and tried to cross the pool to dunk Becca’s head under the water, but the current tugged me off course and all I could do was splash her. She was two inches taller than I was, anyway. No previous dunking attempts—even without a whirlpool—had ever been successful.

MARY LOVES PAUL.

Shut UP, I said.

MARY WANTS TO SEE HIS PENIS–

I DO NOT

MARY LOOOOVES—

Her mouth was the problem. If only there was a way to stitch her lips together…and suddenly I heard my voice say:

If you don’t SHUT UP, I’m gonna SPIT….IN. YOUR. MOUTH.

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Things You Pick Up in Public Restrooms

dranks

It’s been years since I have been in a bar bathroom this foul.  You need to be much more intoxicated than I currently am not to mind the splintery plywood stalls, the once white ceramic tile yellowing like teeth, the toilet paper and paper towels stuck to the floors and countertops like confetti to sweating skin.

I mince my way through the puddles on the tile to find a stall that has a functioning lock before I sit. I have never been the kind of person who hovers above public toilet seats. I wonder if I should be.

It’s a sort of hubris, in the face of so many headlines on websites that I never click on; “The Twenty Places You can Catch Bird Flu”, “How Microbes Will Kill Us All” “The 12 Germiest Places in Your Life (Number 4 will shock you).” I don’t read them, but I am sure that public restroom toilet seats make frequent appearances on such lists.  Even with that certainty, I apply my thighs to the ceramic seat in this horrible bathroom, acknowledging that my lack of care in an instance like this could lead to my downfall. Continue reading

The Video

mom-mom-toasts

There is a video.

A video that a distant biological relative who I will never know posted on YouTube. It’s from before my Uncle Mac accidentally shot himself in the head; a time capsule from a moment when my family was a vivid, magnetic thing.

The video is from 1982 or 1983.  Thirty-two minutes into the footage the camera finds my mother’s face.

My mother, with her brown hair feathered around her forehead, beams in an eggplant sweater.  Her bangs fall into her eyes, graze her plump cheeks.  Underneath her purple sweater she is pregnant with me or Rebecca, with one of us, depending on if this is 1982 or 1983.  Maybe no one else in the room knows, maybe that is what her smile is about when the camera lens finds her.

Or maybe she isn’t pregnant at all.  If this is September of 1982—it could be September of 1982—then I am two months old and my mom is not yet pregnant with Rebecca.

I could be reading more into it because I want this thing to be laced with as much meaning as possible, I want to make it a secret message that the universe preserved specifically for me.

Continue reading

Late Bloomer

contact-sheet-cut

My hair is piled on top of my head. I am dressed like a 19th century peasant.  I lose count of how many bobby pins I used. A sleeve of them, a pocketful, and yet my hair still insistently wisps around my face. It is the week before Christmas. I have been caroling at hospitals in Oklahoma City all day as part of the community outreach that the vocal music department of my performing arts high school does this time of year.

The trick on a day like this is to try to stay out of class as long as possible once you have returned from the performance. The dressing rooms behind the stage are perfect for eluding hall monitors and vice principals.  Since it is not a hallway and sometimes serves as a classroom no one is sure who is responsible for policing the space.

During the holiday season, when the band, orchestra, drama groups and dance ensembles are in high extra-curricular demand you are likely to run into the best and brightest of those departments planted in the same area, involved in the same subterfuge.  Impromptu collaborations erupt in those moments, counter tops are drummed, songs are sung around a piano in the hallway.  Sometimes the harmonies and dance steps are captured by a skulking photography student, but more often than not these things leave no trace that they ever occurred.

It is after one o’clock in the afternoon; there is little more an than hour left in the school day.

My fellow carolers had piled into someone’s car and snuck off campus to get burgers. I was too scared to actively break the rules and stayed behind, pacing the wings of the stage, re-wrapping my shawl around myself, contemplating un-pinning my hair and just attending the tail end of my Anatomy class. But ditching of this nature only works if no one goes back to class.  The minute one person breaks through that boundary, the other teachers get suspicious—if this one is back from the performance, where are the rest of them…? Then referrals get written and parents get called.

And I am not ready to remove my costume. I like the way the boots make me stand, the way the skirt brushes against my calves and the floor. I am not me in this dress, in this spot, right now.  I can float in the possibility, silence the constant buzzing in my head, and let the costume inhabit me, let it be Me for a moment. I pace the wings of the stage because it seems too pathetic to cower in the dressing room alone.  Even for me.

Thin vocal strains of the women’s chorus waft from a music room on far stage left.  A drama class performs monologs from A MidSummer Night’s Dream in the stage right classroom and, between their competing voices, the tinkling of a solo piano player can be heard from the piano in the hallway outside the stage doors.

The auditorium itself is empty, lit only in the aisles and by the functional light that spills through the glass in the classroom doors.

Behind me the stage door from the parking lot squeaks open, cutting a sliver of sunlight into the black walls. It is too soon for the other carolers to have returned from their drive unless they got caught and re-routed.

A boy’s voice, not one of the burger-getters, says Hey.

He must be talking to me; I am the only person here. I turn to see a body framed in the light from the doorway, a semi-familiar shadow suspended in sun.

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Here.

you-are-hereIt was a school day.  It was sunny, but crisp for April.  The weather at the beginning of Tornado season was always unpredictable. I was in the hallway, passing from Mrs. Pearson’s English class to Mrs. Pitt’s pre-algebra class. I held my regulation 5-inch binder close to my chest, just like the sixteen other girls in my seventh-grade class.  The boys in our grade had recently created a game in which points were awarded for slapping binders out of girls’ hands during passing period.  The snap of flesh on plastic, then the smack of the binder hitting the floor, loosening it’s rings and spewing paper shrapnel down the hallway was their glory and our mortification.

I happened to be one of the girls—bony, be-spectacled and Chiclet-breasted as I was—for which the most de-bindering points were awarded.

So I hugged my binder tight against my ribs.

It was a rowdy passing, as all passing periods are in middle school even a small parochial school like Holy Redeemer on the south side of Oklahoma City. We were crammed in the hallway with the sixth grade and the eighth grade classes between 9:00am and 9:02am, when the BOOM rattled the building.

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