—written by Carolyn C. Holland
A decade ago our family ate “leftover” Turkey the day after Thanksgiving. Nothing unusual, you might say. However, this leftover turkey never made it to the oven on Thanksgiving Day. As I was preparing it, my husband Monte and I received a phone call that caused us to return the turkey to the refrigerator, get in our car and drive forty-five minutes to a hospital in an adjacent county.
We spent the holiday sitting in the family waiting room of the Westmoreland Hospital maternity ward. While there, we gratefully satisfied ourselves with meager Thanksgiving Day trappings in the hospital cafeteria, and even unsuccessfully tried to locate an open store for some better fixings.
For a month we had been on “maternity call.” Every activity we planned had the preface, “If we don’t get the call, we will be there—but if we do get the call, we won’t make it to” the engagement.
Grandparents understand this.
“The” call came on Thanksgiving Day. Our daughter, Sandra, and her husband, Greg, were expecting our first grandchild to arrive. We waited for the birth with the other set of grandparents.
While at the hospital, I reminisced about another time, when another food was put aside for a baby’s arrival…
Sandy’s birth and entrance into our family was very different than Jordan’s was. Monte and I weren’t even present when Sandy was born on May 17. We didn’t even know about the arrival of our daughter for two weeks! And even then we were informed that her low birth weight kept her in the hospital neonatal unit. Did she feel abandoned? How well was she cared for? I can only speculate and be assured by the fact that maternity ward staff truly care for their charges, and that they would love her just because she was who she was. I wonder if they “named” her or just referred to her as “baby girl.”
On June 10, a warm, sunny day, I traveled from Pennsylvania to Ohio to pick strawberries with a close friend, Shirl. While bent over picking the ripe red fruit, I told Shirl that I was going to contact the agency when I returned home, because I felt they weren’t sharing enough information with me. I needed to know something about the tiny baby girl we were going to title Sandra Nicole.
Upon arriving home, I placed 35 quarts of strawberries in my kitchen and called the agency.
“Where have you been?” they inquired, slightly agitated. “We’ve been trying to call you all day to tell you that you could bring the baby home today.” This was the era before cell phones.
The agency director told me that we would have to wait until the next day to bring her home, but some swift talking by me convinced him to let us to pick her up later that afternoon. Unfortunately, there were no caseworkers available to accompany us. Since I was employed part-time in an adoption agency in another county he decided we were capable of proceeding without a caseworker.
We left the fresh picked strawberries in the kitchen and took off to Pittsburgh. We were meeting our daughter! Sandy was coming home!
We weren’t allowed to dress Sandra. A maternity home staff member took the tiny blue dress a church member had given us (she said she knew how small premies were) and we watched through the glass-walled cubicle as the stranger dressed our baby. Since this was the era before car seats, Sandra lay on my lap on the hour’s drive to our home. Enroute, I checked out her fingers, her toes. They were all there.
Oh, how Sandra and her numerous adopted friends yearned for genetic knowledge! We contributed her social history, but someone else left them with a mysterious biological history. These youth questioned where they fit in, in the puzzle of human history.
Eighteen years later, the agency contacted Sandy’s biological mother, who refused to talk to her. As prepared as Sandy was, she was devastated.
Our daughter has reconciled her adoption, marking her spot in history thorugh her nurturing family. This acceptance allows her to give “Sweet Pea” the greatest gift of all, a mother’s love.
Through Jordan we’ve seen Sandy, the good-natured child forever running headlong into life, loving it, cherishing it, but always pushing for more.
During the past decade Jordan has loved “baketsball,” trains, horses and dogs. As a one-year-old, she expressed great dismay when removed from a basketball game being played by high school boys. As a two year old, we had picnic breakfasts on the swing on the lawn in front of Connellsville’s police department, which conveniently faced four railroad tracks on which rode numerous trains. She’s moved on, and talks about becoming a veterinarian, even though she doesn’t like to read. She exhibits the same compassion for animals that Sandy had for people who were sick or injured.
Jordan connects Sandy with the future in a way she is not connected with the past, a special gift Jordan is not aware she has given. She will be ten years old this Thanksgiving—er, five days later, since Thanksgiving comes early this year.
This thanksgiving we celebrate the year we ate leftover turkey, and the year that two college students housing with us prepared thirty-five quarts of strawberries for our freezer.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE BEANERY WRITERS GROUP!
November 22, 2007
—written by Carolyn C. Holland
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