Friday, December 18, 2009

A Present for My Parents

  My mom at Christmastime.  Notice the clothespin reindeer necklace.

The older I get, the more I realize what wonderful parents I have.  Sometimes I read or hear of other people's childhood horrors, and it really drives home for me how blessed my childhood actually was.

I was adopted at 13 months old by Michael and Joyce Carpenter; I was their first child.  My biological mother was nineteen and single when I was born. I know a few other bits and pieces that the adoption agency provided, but this was back in the days of closed adoptions, so it's not much.  Apparently, she was a bit of a flake (something I may have inherited), because she left town without signing my release papers, and they couldn't track her down to get them signed until I was six months old.

People have often asked me if I'd like to find my biological mother.  I've thought about it, but don't have a driving urge to do so.  I think this is largely because for me, my adoptive parents ARE my parents.

There was never a time when I didn't know I was adopted.  I remember the book my parents used to read to me about an adopted family.  They would hold me on their laps and tell me I was special because I was CHOSEN.  I never felt weird about being adopted; it was just a natural part of who I was.

Mom, Dad, my brother Scott, and me.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been in a childlike mode lately, and this includes thinking about my childhood, especially our Christmases.  At the Quiet Day I attended last weekend, one of the participants talked about how sad she used to get at Christmas because of the way her family was, and it made me realize that a big part of why I get happy at Christmas is because of the wonderful childhood memories I have of past holidays.

My favorite Christmas picture ever.

This makes me feel very grateful toward my parents, and in turn, has led me to consider all the many things I have to be grateful to them for.  They have supported and nurtured me in so many ways over the years.

My parents always told me that I was intelligent and could be anything I wanted to be. They offered me the opportunity to participate in all kinds of lessons and activities:  figure skating, ballet, acrobatics, Brownies, squash, tennis, swimming.  They sent me to summer horse camp every year.  My parents observed my love of writing at a young age and encouraged me in it.  They surprised me by getting some of my poems published in our neighborhood newspaper, The Willowdale Mirror, when I was in second or third grade.  And now, almost four decades later, they are avid readers of my blog.

My father is originally from Birmingham, England, and he's got the dry wit to prove it.  He's excellent at crossword puzzles and he's a passionate gardener of both flowers, and fruits and vegetables.  He's happiest when he's out in the garden with sweat dripping down his face.  He's also an amazing tennis player.  He could have been a professional, and even played against Arthur Ashe once, in the Davis cup.  In my parents' house, there is a series of photos taken by a Toronto newspaper of him playing in a tournament.  But he chose not to pursue professional tennis, primarily because he wanted to always be sure he could provide for his family.  He used to love to play board games with my brother and me, and he read to me every night before bed.

 Dad reading to my oldest daughter, June Amber.

 My mother is the kind of person who makes friends in the grocery line, and can network and get things organized and done more competently than most people I've known.   When I was obsessed with the band, KISS, she called for tickets, and even though they were officially sold out, she somehow managed to get us great seats by being friendly with the ticket agent.  Then she actually took me to the concert.  (If you know anything about the band, you'll understand why this was no small thing for a woman whose favorite musicians were John Denver and the Kingston Trio.)  She never worked when I was young, because she wanted to be home with her kids, and she baked some kind of amazing dessert almost every night.  (Mom - I NEED your recipe for Lemon Pudding Cake!  I tried to make it the other night and it failed miserably.)  She used to hand-sew my Halloween costumes, throw elaborate themed birthday parties for me, and take me to all kinds of museums and gardens and parades.

Mom and me at the tennis club.

When I was a teenager, I thought my parents were boring and stuck in their ways.  This attitude lasted longer than I care to admit.  But I now realize that it was their practicality and commitment to domestic sustainability that has allowed me to grow and flourish in my own less conventional ways.

I can't even begin to tell you how much financial support my parents have given me.  As a single mother with four children and an inconsistent ex-husband, I've turned to them many times for help, and they've ALWAYS provided it, no questions asked.  This help has allowed me not only to survive, but to live according to my deepest values of being available to my children, and pursuing creative endeavors that don't necessarily pay as well as a "real job" - establishing myself in the ways I feel called to rather than being forced to work exclusively at a job for which I'm not suited.

There is no way on earth I can possibly pay my parents back for all they've done and continue to do for me and my children, which is why I'm writing this post.  Because what I CAN do is write, and it is largely their support that has allowed me to pursue this essential part of myself.  For this I have the deepest gratitude, and I want the whole blooming world to know it.  

 My beautiful parents.

Merry Christmas, 
Mom and Dad!

I love you both

more than you know.


  1. I love this on so many different levels. There is the humorous level: I love old family photos and you pointing out your mom's clothes pin reindeer necklace cracks me up!! I love your writing. And I love this sweet, tender tribute to your parents. That level leaves me speechless. Thank you!

  2. You are so very lucky to have such wonderful, caring and loving parents. And they are equally as blessed to have you as a daughter. This post is so touching. It's everything parents really want to hear from their children! Your appreciate and deep love for them shines with beauty. May you all have a wonderful holiday!
    PS Love the photos!

  3. The whole blooming world knows it now! That's splendid that you have parents such as you do. They're the best kind. Also good to know they're appreciated. I can identify with you here better than usual...I have folks just like this myself. Such treasures.

  4. Hi Polly

    I enjoyed your post and sharing the love and admiration that you have for your family. It was particularly poignant for me because we have an adopted daughter - our baby - now 19, was adopted at birth from Korea. So I loved to hear how you feel as I am sure my daughter feels that we too are her parents.

    Happy days

  5. What a lovely tribute to your parents' love! Thank you for sharing it; it's a great pleasure to read of generous, decent, and loving people like your parents. Your post is a gift to them and to all your readers, too!

  6. Thanks to all of you for expressing your appreciation for this post! I wrote it primarily for my parents, but it's good to know that others got something out of it too.

    Jenny - I'm glad you appreciated the necklace. After my mom read this post, we talked about it, and I guess, sadly, it's been missing for a while.

    DG - From reading your blog, it seems like this is the kind of thing your kids would say about you!

    Postman - It was partly reading about your family in some of your posts that got me wanting to write this.

    Delwyn - I love to hear about other adoption experiences. I've thought about adopting a baby from another part of the world before. I'd love to hear the story of your daughter's adoption some time.

    Dan - "generous, decent, and loving" - yup, that about sums it up. I only wish I'd realized it sooner.

  7. What a wonderful tribute to your parents, and I'm glad your dad was originally a Brummie, gives a little bit of transatlantic connection. And as for your John Denver-loving mum taking you to a KISS concert - the woman is selfless!!

    I, too, had a very happy childhood and I am so thankful for it.

  8. Thanks!

    It's funny that my dad's family moved to Canada when he was around the same age as I was when we moved to the US.

    My mom brought up the KISS concert after she read this post. We both remember it vividly - the kleenex hanging out of her ears, etc.

    I actually did inherit appreciation for John Denver! We used to have his Christmas album, which I'm missing right now.

  9. Really? Wow. I'm flattered. I don't mean to constantly turn the conversation back to me. Not all the time, anyway.

    Couple of things I forgot to mention: I think those are some adorable photographs of you. Particularly your favorite Christmas pic ever. I like your hair.

    Second: You liked KISS? How cool is that? And how cool was it of your mom to actually TAKE you there? Now THAT is something my folks wouldn't do. Well, KISS, yes, that's their generation. But, gosh, Coldplay? They wouldn't be caught dead in there.

  10. I'll go see Coldplay with you anytime. They're one of my very favorite bands.

    You LIKE my hair in that Xmas pic??? I hope you're being facetious.

  11. Polly,

    I began reading this absolutely delightful post Friday night, I got to the part about Kiss and the phone rang!

    Well, guess who it was? Amanda. (Again.)

    So, I'm still trying to read your post and talk to her at the same time.

    And then, the door! We had an activity planned with the family so I had to leave altogether and couldn't finish. I was highly irritated.

    Nonetheless, I LOVE this post about your parents and I LOVE the pictures. You are just adorable. What an adorable little girl you were!
    I especially love the pic of you in blue in your father's lap. And the one of your father reading to your daughter. And the Christmas one and the tennis one.

    Tony is also adopted. Both of his biologial parents were 16- and yet, he was adopted into a loving, supportive family just like yours. He feels exactly the same about his parents as you do.

    Give your parents a big hug and kiss from Entrepreneur Chick and tell 'em I said they did a bang up job raising you! The proof of the pudding is in the eating- you turned out yummy good!

    Too bad they didn't know George and Liz to give them a few pointers. You've never seen such two ill suited people for marriage- and by the time I came along, they were so sick of kids, I bet they could have spit nails.

  12. Thank you! I don't think anyone has ever called me "yummy good" before, but that's as good of a compliment as they get.

    I'm sorry your childhood wasn't so peachy. At least now you have a Tony.

  13. Polli, Just echoing what everyone else has said. We hear so many stories about dysfunctional families (every time I try to pick up a memoir it seems like it's about another horrific childhood) that it is so uplifting to hear about someone's parents who may not have done it all exactly right, but who came pretty darn close. My childhood was pretty bad and it used to be hard for me to hear that it could be so great for someone else, but now that I have worked through many things, I am so happy that there are LOVING people in this world who can help show us the way to go.

    I want the Lemon Pudding Cake recipe too!


  14. We had some dysfunctionality for sure, but it was minor compared to a lot of people's experiences, and balanced against all the good we had.

    I'll have to email you that recipe - it's too long and complicated to post in a comment!

  15. HECK NO! I'm not being facetious. I think the hair (and you yourself) are really cute. Call me antiquarian if you wish. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. And Polly said, sorry your childhood didn't go ideally. But look where you are and what you have now!

  16. Thank your parents for me, too, would you? The world needs to acknowledge the really good ones out there.
    My parents send me a card every year, but they don't even take the time to sign it. I've asked them to, but they just laugh.
    Hold your good parents tight, stay warm and safe, and have the merriest of holidays!

  17. Thanks, Kat. And I hope you have a wonderful holiday yourself, despite the absence of your parents. From reading your blog, I get the impression that you're probably very good at creating your own little nest of merriness.

  18. Aww, thanks Postman.

    I came over here to say to Polly-


    I have given you a week. I understand. It was Christmas. You have da childrens. But I miss you and so come back.

    Tell us how your holiday was and everything you did, with pics, please.

    Thank you.

  19. Merry Christmas Susan!! I adore this post and have tears welling up in my eyes. THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL! Bless your dear and beautiful parents for allowing you the room and experience to be exactly AS YOU ARE. WHAT A GIFT!!!!


    PS. I LOVE COLDPLAY almost as much as U2.

  20. Hello??? Polly??? Where've you gone? EC and I are getting worried! We miss you.

    Well, maybe THIS will make you come back. I've nominated you for an award. Check it out on my blog. And congratulations, you earned it.

  21. EC and Postman - It's so sweet that you guys miss me. I'm just now surfacing out of the Christmas mist, and will start working on a new post today. I need to get caught up with comments too.

    Jennifer - Merry Christmas to you too! Thank you! I teared up while I was writing it.

    I might like Coldplay even better than U2, although it feels almost sacrilegious to say that.

  22. No problem-o. Just read that new post of yours now, in fact. 'Tis a good 'un. I know all about that "surfacing out of the Christmas mist"...I made a big bowl of eggnog, put it out in my little fridge in the garage, and forgot about it! Still tastes good though...

    Coldplay would be gratified to hear you say that. They were inspired by U2, I hear.

  23. I am indeed. Thank you for visiting!



Related Posts with Thumbnails

Search This Blog