I spent last Saturday afternoon from 12-3 signing "The Other Sister" at B.Dalton in Columbia Mall here in Grand Forks. The book signing was a delight; three hours passed in what felt like less than one! In the course of this, I saw many wonderful friends and also met alot of interesting new people.
It's fascinating to me how the subject matter of "The Other Sister" prompts people to share with me their own stories of the ways in which adoption has touched their family, and I always appreciate that.
One striking aspect of many of these family stories is the discretion (and oftentimes secretism) of earlier generations when it came to the sensitive subject of an illegitimate or surrendered child. In many of the stories I've heard, family members knew of the existence of the child, but no one spoke of it for forty or fifty years. Sometimes the 'child' grew up only a few miles away in a neighboring town, creating the potential for a chance meeting. One adoptee told me, "I saw her in the dimestore and I was certain that she was my mother, but neither of us said a word to each other." I have another friend who just learned from his 87-year-old mother that he has an older sister. While she says, "I never wanted to know what happened to her," she also commented that she thought about the girl 'every single day of my life." One wonders whether the former remark is a reflection of the way she was 'supposed' to think, while the latter reflects the feelings of a mother wondering about her child. If nothing else, there's obviously some ambivalence there.
A far cry from the 'open adoptions' we hear about today!