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.
Mom and Dad!
I love you both
more than you know.