According 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
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
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.
I am glad that we’re not printing the manuscript out a million times for the editing process. Enough trees are going to donate their fibrous insides when the book is published.
I am also starting to get dizzy.
I’m switching from coffee to herbal tea.
On the next cup.
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.
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
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.
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