Security. I thought about security for the first time in a long time on the airplane ride home from Oklahoma this past Tuesday night. Security for kids is in the day-to-day being there of parents for all the little things: meals, carpooling, homework, scraped knees, bedtime routines, and so on. Young kids don’t understand the need. Older ones don’t appreciate it. It’s easy to forget how important security is because it gets lost in the daily battles that punctuate the parent-child relationship. We remember it only when it is threatened as, for example, when the child of parents who are divorcing asks, “Where will my bed and toys be?”
I thought of security on the plane, sitting next to Journey, when I noticed her shoulders and facial muscles relaxing. We had just been to visit some of her relatives in Oklahoma. It was a wonderful visit with people who love her and sing her praises. But she had been “turned on” for them for several days. As we ventured back to our daily lives, to the routines she knows, Journey physically relaxed.
This was a big trip for Journey. Although our adoption of her had been open, we had lost touch with Teri, Journey’s birth mother, for a number of years. At the time of placement, the rest of Teri’s family did not know Journey existed. When we couldn’t find Teri, I was tempted to contact other family members whose identity we knew from the health forms. Ultimately, I resisted the urge. For whatever reasons, this was Teri’s secret to tell, and my loyalty belonged to her.
When we reconnected with Teri two years ago, we discovered that Teri’s younger sister, Kristi, had been told about Journey. Getting to know Kristi and spend time with her was and is joyous! Last spring, Kristi received Teri’s permission to tell their mother, Marty, and Journey’s half-sister, Samantha, about Journey. For complicated reasons, Samantha was not told until very recently. We knew, going into this trip, that Journey might not be able to meet Sam, but we were thrilled to know that Journey would meet her grandmother.
On our first day in Tulsa, Kristi met us for a warm welcome.
The next day, Marty drove up from Oklahoma City to meet Journey and to spend the day with us. Journey’s relatives surprised her with a belated celebration of her birthday with gifts.
Marty also brought photo albums, and we poured over historic family photos of many of Journey’s other relatives. (I was able to take pictures of some of the pictures to bring home to create our own album.)
This is a picture of Teri in her high school graduation cap with her sister Kristi, mother Marty, father Jim, and brother Ryan.
Toward evening, we decided to surprise Teri on her actual birthday. The four of us took Teri to Sonic for food and conversation. I had made her a blanket with pictures of Journey as a present.
The following day, Kristi, Journey, and I spent more time together painting pottery.
Although Samantha was not yet ready to meet Journey, it was a great trip, overflowing with love.
This is a picture of Teri with a young Samantha
Security in open adoption is a little different than in typical families – if there is such a thing as a “typical” family anymore. Whereas I might put up my guard if Journey were spending time with others we do not know well, I find myself relaxing in the company of her birth family. Maybe I’ve been programmed to be “open.” Or, maybe I have an intuitive knowledge that birth family members mean no harm to a child who is one of their own as well – a piece in their puzzle. I trust them in a way reserved for family because they are family. I’ve discovered that instead of feeling threatened, I feel enriched by this increasing abundance of family love.
As I was preparing for this trip to Oklahoma and putting together a history of Journey’s life to leave with her relatives, I came upon an email that was sent to me a few months before Journey’s birth. The first few lines caught my attention:
God has created me to do some definite service.
God has committed some work to me which has not been committed to another…
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connections between people.
Surely, the last 21 years of my life have suggested that this is so. If I am nothing else, I am an important “link in a chain” connecting people who might otherwise be separated from one another by law and circumstance. I have been determined in my pursuit of connection, even when it hurt, even when my link in the chain was pulled in two or more directions. Perhaps this is yet another definition of security in open adoption. No matter how tough it gets, I will not let you go. You can count on me.