Poem – Lost mothers, daughters

 

We all

are daughters

searching for our mothers.

We all

are mothers

searching for our daughters.

We all

are lost,

and have lost.

 

Sometimes our arms

have to wrap around the shoulders

of someone else, someone

we are not related to

to comfort ourselves

and to comfort them.

 

Sometimes we have to be

for each other

what we don’t have

for ourselves.

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Twins.

two

Their mother had always wanted twins, but not like this. Carol’s biological clock was winding down about the time her life was picking up. When she finally had the time, money, and energy to have children, she’d gotten too old to even consider having multiple pregnancies. She wanted at least two children for the same reason people brought home two puppies or kittens – they would always have a playmate. With time slipping away on her, having twins seemed like the best option.

She never even considered adoption. The children had to be hers. She knew that down to her bones. The idea of “family legacy” was so firmly imprinted onto her identity that taking in somebody else’s unwanted children was out of the question. It wasn’t even on the table. It wasn’t even in the room.

She couldn’t afford to chance it. So she went to the local medicine/miracle worker. The gnarled old being was a fixture of the community that everybody knew about but nobody talked about. She? He? Who knew? At that age it was impossible to tell. His? Her? voice was raspy and the clothes were baggy enough to conceal whatever shape s/he might have. Nobody knew, and everyone was afraid to ask. “Doctor” was the being’s title as well as name. Fortunately this language didn’t differentiate gender in its words or it would have been more awkward. Undefined gender seemed somehow appropriate for this profession, one of yes/and, of greys, of liminal spaces, of betweens. The Doctor’s shop/office/home was like that as well, beyond definition.

Carol had written a letter asking for an appointment. This was how it was done, how it always had been done. The Doctor felt that websites were too fiddly, too impersonal. The message would get lost. Even phone lines were eschewed.

Ideally, the client (never “patient”) would happen to meet the Doctor while they were both out doing errands in the village markets. A lot could be done to further the desired outcome if both of them were on the same time-line. Never quite syncing up was a bad sign. But, communicating by letters was a good second choice.

They agreed upon Wednesday the third, at 11:30 in the morning. The Doctor arranged visits by feel, rather than by any usual method. It was the same as how a safecracker worked, or a dowser, or a chef. It was all by feel. No astrology charts or Ouija boards or runes. No Day Planners either. There was never a receptionist or assistant. The Doctor’s motto was do it all yourself, or don’t do it at all. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and all that.

Carol left her house that Wednesday morning very excited and hopeful. She wore her favorite red jumper and galoshes even though the weather forecast promised a partly sunny day with only a 10% chance of snow flurries. They were her favorite galoshes, purchased used at the corner Oxfam three years back. She’d always had great luck when she wore them, so they seemed to fit the bill for the day. She even asked off from work for the rest of the afternoon so she could get started right away on whatever course of action the Doctor recommended.

Everything the Doctor did was by suggestion or recommendation – never an order, never even a request. Everything had to be voluntary. The client had to be a part of the process, never acted upon, but with. If the Doctor decided it was possible to effect a change there was always a list of recommendations. It wasn’t always possible to obtain or do all of them, either due to the time of year or available resources. The client, if accepted, (not a given) would then go out armed with that list.

Instructions could include such varied examples as “Stand barefoot on a newly harvested field for 10 minutes, facing west. Be sure not to be noticed. This must be done sometime between the hours of 8 AM and 3 PM.” Or perhaps something like: “Buy and eat some kind of fruit you have never eaten before.” Or maybe even: “Write down your greatest hope for your future on a piece of borrowed paper. Set it afloat on a stream.” Generally, at least two of the three options must be done, in whatever way the client could. The “how” was up to interpretation, and was part of the cure.

Wearing a certain color for a week (at least) was a common request, although the color changed with the task at hand. Often this was how other people in the community knew you were under the Doctor’s care. They never would ask, though, out of respect, or perhaps fear. It was difficult to not be noticed when someone started wearing shades of teal or salmon or magenta, especially day after day.

Almost immediately after having sex that Friday night a month later, Carol knew she was pregnant. She didn’t dare breathe a word of it to her partner for fear she might jinx it. She didn’t even go to the pharmacy to get a pregnancy test for the same reason.

She wasn’t sure where her self-imposed superstition came from, and that might have caused the aberration. Maybe it was the galoshes. Maybe the orientation of her bed. Maybe she didn’t follow the list correctly.
Later, after the birth, the Doctor consulted with Carol. They both looked at the babies (baby?). They went over everything she did, everything she ate, everything she thought. She was sure she had the right intention during the act. It’d been all she’d been thinking about for months, so how could it be anything else? Twins. Two babies in one pregnancy.

The Doctor had been very insistent with her that intention was important for all pregnancies, but especially for hers since it was so specific. The Doctor explained that ideally, people would have sex only when they wanted to have a child, and then they would do it mindfully and prayerfully. The moment of conception was when the soul chose to incarnate. This is a delicate and perilous time. There were many souls about, of all kinds, waiting to enter a body. Some entered at conception. That was ideal.

Others chose to take up residence afterwards. This resulted in what psychiatrists called “multiple personality disorder”. Priests called it “possession”. New Agers called it “walk-ins”. It was all the same thing, and it was all less than desirable.

The Doctor explained that ideally the potential parents would pray before having sex, alerting the souls, the beings-in-waiting, that an opening, a doorway if you will, was being created for them. The parents would meditate on the characteristics and personality of the child that they hoped to welcome into their lives. They would speak about what kind of home they could provide.

In a way it was like a blind date, or perhaps more like an arranged marriage. They were going to be together a long time. It was important to do this well, rather than leave it to chance.

The trouble is, too many people didn’t think it all before having sex. It was as if they were swept away, like they were in a stagecoach, and the horses got spooked. Before they realized what was happening, they were where they hadn’t planned on being, because they hadn’t planned. Sometimes they got stuck there. Just like with marriage, it is a good idea to choose wisely before this long-term commitment.

Too many babies were being born without souls properly attached to them because of this. Some had very weak souls and had sensory or neurological disorders because they weren’t fully in the body. Some souls weren’t even human.

But that wasn’t the problem here. Carol and her partner had prayed for two souls, alright. The only problem is that they somehow ended up with two souls in one body. This wasn’t uncommon, but could take different forms. The obstetrician had explained that sometimes twins are conceived but one is absorbed. The result? One baby, but it might have its twin as a vestigial part of its body, in the abdominal area, for instance. Or if the fusing is complete, it will have chimerism. Or in this case, conjoined. The obstetrician couldn’t explain why this had happened, but the Doctor could, after consulting with the souls of the twins.

Twins were wanted, and twins came. They were twins in the truest sense this incarnation. They were two, but one. When they were in spirit form, they were separate but they wanted to always be together.

In their previous incarnation they had been twins in the usual sense. That family had also wanted twins, but shortly after their birth the father had gotten laid off from his job. The economy had taken a downturn and he had difficulty finding another job. Months went by and the savings grew smaller. Their mother grew more and more exhausted with caring for them and with worry. Finally the decision was made. It was the same decision that some families made about their pets under similar circumstances. They were “given away to good homes”. Unfortunately in this case, they were separate ones. The children always felt that half of their very being was missing from that point onwards.

After their death, they had waited a long time to find another family that wanted twins. This time, they wanted to make sure they couldn’t be separated ever again.

Edward and the turtle

2

Edward had always been an unusual child. His teachers expected him to become an unusual adult too. His parents? Well, that was another matter entirely.

They never said exactly how Edward came to them, or even how he came to be. Bea and Charles, Edward’s parents as far as the world was aware, left town for a year a while back. When they returned, they had Edward with them. He was just over a month old they said, but some who looked in his eyes knew, just knew deep down in their bones that this child was far older in all the ways that counted. “He’s an old soul” they said, not knowing how true those words were.

Of course, not everyone could see the whirling abyss of time in his eyes. It was like looking into a dark disused quarry filled with rain water. You couldn’t see the bottom, and to some that was so frightening that their minds simply refused to look, to even get near. Those hidden depths spoke of secrets, of danger, of loss.

For some, Edward himself was invisible simply because of the dangerous unanswered questions that lurked like unwelcome promises behind his eyes. Their minds couldn’t accept their challenge, so they simply refused to acknowledge Edward’s presence, his very being. What Edward was could not be to them, so for them he was not.

Bea and Charles could see him better than anyone else, and they were grateful. They’d prayed for such a child, a “gift” as they called him, privately, fervently. The home they were living in now was a gift too, provided upon the introduction of Edward to his grandfather. For years they had scraped by, living with friends, or in trailers, or even in the library during the day and their battered Range Rover at night. The arrival of Edward had turned their lives around for the better.

A grandchild was all Bea’s father wanted from her. He promised her the house, paid off, furnished, utilities, the lot, on the day she and Charles married provided that they gave him a grandchild in due time. He made sure to explain it wasn’t just any house on the table, not one of her choosing. It was to be the house by the lake on the family estate. Her sister Eloise already had the woods house, and brother Tom had been gifted the one by the cold gray boulders. Only the big house remained, and it was occupied solely by Edward’s grandfather, known simply as “The Grandfather”, made so by the births of all his children’s children, now gathered like chicks on the family land.

Edward would have no siblings. The cost was simply too high. No money had changed hands for his conception. Money was just paper after all, just the promises of dead trees. Those who had brought Edward into the world needed something more solid than that.

Bea and Charles had been desperate to have a child, and the cost was nothing in comparison to the debt they were in. Who counts the expense when you stand to gain everything? It was like floating a check right before payday – something they knew very well.

They still didn’t understand what was to be expected of them for this “gift”, even though they’d signed a contract. There were fertility tests the doctors did beforehand, to make sure the couple didn’t have to pay such a price, could conceive on their own, but it was to no avail. Bea suspected some of her cells were taken then, for some other cause, but she didn’t dare to think about it for too long. All that mattered was that she had her child now. What happened in the future would just have to wait until then to be worried about.

Edward was always cold. Outside, on a warm July afternoon, he always wore a jacket or coat. Charles got his tailor to make a blazer for him out of the thickest tweed he could find. The colors looked like the bracken and gorse that surrounded his Uncle Tom’s house. When he was inside, a fire was always going in whatever room he was in.
At first, he insisted in his own way that all the fireplaces would be working all over the house, but Bea and Charles soon realized his subtle influence over them and set some boundaries. Even as a baby he was able to make people do his will. Even without speaking he could turn them, bend them. His parents didn’t realize he was influencing their minds until the fires.

Edward had never seen a fire until he was a year old. Before that his parents bundled him up in sweaters and blankets to stop his shivering. They simply hadn’t gotten around to having the chimneys inspected in that old stone house, so they had no fire out of fear. The moment they were able to light one, Edward wouldn’t leave the room, delighted with his newfound unencumbered warmth. When Charles tried to remove him from the room at supper time, Edward howled and kicked Charles in the shins. Not wanting to get into a fight with his son, Charles desisted and instead brought up a tray. They all ate supper together that evening, sitting by the fire, seated on the antique Persian carpet, the arabesques and swirling flowers in the design dancing all the more by the flickering firelight. Bea thought it was charming, like a picnic.

The charm wore off after week when Edward still refused to leave the fireside. They drew him out only after they lit fires in all the other rooms. Only then would he venture from his toasty lair. After a few months though, Bea and Charles had grown tired of the constant work involved in finding seasoned wood in town and then chopping it to size. Grandfather would not allow them to cut down trees on his land, not for Edward, not for anyone. They explained to Edward that it had to be one fire from now on, in only one room, and he could wear sweaters like before if he needed to wander anywhere else in the house. He sulked for a month in that room, unwilling to get cold.

They’d not wanted all that heat, especially going from spring into summer, but Edward did, so he simply placed his thoughts over theirs, like how a voodoun priest exerts his will over a zombie. He didn’t realize they would break free of his influence, his control of their actions, and certainly not so soon. For the longest time they thought they too were cold and needed the heat just like he did. It was only when Charles passed out from heat exhaustion one Tuesday that they started to question their actions, realizing that they didn’t want the house to be at 92°.

From that point on they questioned everything they thought. They wondered what passed through their minds was their thought, or Edward’s. He tested them to see how far his influence went. He tried simple things, like food cravings. For one week they craved bananas and they ate them like they were going out of style. A different week it was strawberries. That was a mistake, Edward soon learned, because Bea was allergic, had been since she was a child. She knew she wasn’t craving them, that it had to be Edward’s doing.

He had to figure out another way to get his needs met. He finally, reluctantly, decided to let them teach him their language. That dry chittering sound grated on his ears. It was so unlike the warm liquid sounds he knew as his native tongue. His mouth ached with the effort of shaping the sounds for them, but it was the only way.

When he was three they took him to get a pet. Bea decided he needed a companion. A dog was ruled out straight off the bat – the warmth Edward needed would make it lethargic at best, dead at worst. A tortoise, a Galapagos tortoise to be precise, was decided after careful and discreet inquiries with the local librarian. She explained how they are cold-blooded so they need warmth, and how they live for many years. This added quality helped to tip the scales.

The elders who had helped them hinted that their true age was far beyond their appearance. Their kind were old at birth, having already lived half a human lifetime in a middle dimension, one where they were spirit only. This gave them certain advantages. They could learn quite a bit without the bother of a body. No colds to catch, no growing pains, no accidents, no trips to the doctor or the emergency room or the morgue. They even got to skip all that awkwardness of puberty while they were learning. Only when they had gathered about 50 of our years worth of knowledge did they bother to incarnate, and only then into a bespoke body, tailored to their temperament and needs. Certainly then there were the usual risks of being embodied, but by then they knew how to navigate safely through those obstacles.

Bea and Charles only suspected at the truth behind their benefactors, the ones who had given them Edward. The Grandfather would never know. For him, Edward was of his flesh and blood and that was all he needed (or wanted) to know. No matter that Edward was decades smarter than any of his other grandchildren. If he’d known the truth about this cuckoo child, he’d throw him and his parents out and never speak their names again.

Edward was their child in deed if not in act. He never grew in Bea’s womb, but he did share her DNA, as well as Charles’s. The elders didn’t mention there was a bit more to the mix than just the two, however.

It was kind of like fruit juice. How much actual juice was necessary for it to still be juice? Perhaps there are vitamins and minerals added to improve the quality. Perhaps other things to make it last longer. Sure, at the end it still looked and tasted like juice, but really only 50% of it was straight from the vine. It was kind of like that with Edward and his parents, but in their case it was more like 5% than 50%. They’d never be the wiser. Edward was theirs, and that was all they cared about. And of course, they were parents in the way that mattered most – they loved him, took care of him, and make sure he was happy and wanted for nothing.

Well, they didn’t give him everything. That would spoil him. And after all, they still had to make sure he wasn’t using the old mind push on them.

Meltdown

All people want to be noticed and loved. All people want to have their needs met. This is especially true in children. They are helpless to help themselves in many situations. They have not been taught how to take care of themselves, so when they wear out they tend to lose that thin veneer of calm.

I was making a cart of books in the workroom the other day and I heard a loud wail. It sounded like some child was very upset. It kind of sounded like a child was being harmed in a permanent kind of way. I waited a little bit and wondered what was going on. Surely the parents would come soon. The voice sounded like it was coming from a small child – too small to be in the library by herself. The wail continued. There was no Doppler effect – the child was staying in one place. So she wasn’t running around trying to get either to or from parents. So she would be easy to locate. Why weren’t the parents doing anything? Why wasn’t a person-in-charge (the manager on duty) doing anything?

So I did something. I had no idea what was going on, but I had to do something. This child sounded like she was in killed by this point. I was pretty sure she wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Generally people don’t do such insane things in public spaces. If nothing else, she was definitely disturbing the other patrons. She was certainly disturbing me. So something had to be done – and since nobody in charge (parents or staff) was going, it was time for me to do it.

I went to the low wall that surrounds the children’s area. It is like a little fortress. I looked over and saw the child lying on her back, waving her feet and arms. The chair was upright – so she hadn’t fallen out of it and hit her head. I called out to her “What is wrong?” I said it in a sing-song voice. Sometimes that alone is enough to break the spell of the meltdown. I got nothing out of this. Then I looked nearby. What looked like her grandmother was sitting across from her, hands in her lap. She smiled at me, like this is normal, like she can’t do anything about it. I looked next to the grandmother and what looked like the child’s Mom was there. Same body language. They didn’t look like this was a total surprise. But they also didn’t seem to want to do anything about it.

Their child is their responsibility. Her well being is their job. If she is wailing like that, something is wrong. Their first concern should be to soothe her. The second concern should be the fact that she is being very loud and disturbing in a public place, and most especially a library. Being loud just isn’t what you do. If they fixed the first issue, the second issue would sort itself out. But they were doing nothing.

So I did. I went around the low wall and went up to her. I crouched down next to her and just started talking to her. She looked like she was about 2. I could tell from looking in her eyes she was very tired. It was around 4 that all of this was happening. I’m willing to bet these clueless guardians hadn’t thought to let her have a nap. Children can only handle so much. They aren’t short adults. They need more rest. They don’t know how to take care of themselves. That is why they have guardians – who are supposed to help them. These two were less than useless.

Even if you don’t know what is going on, at least pick your child up and hold her. Even if you don’t know what is going on, start with the basics. Give her some water or food (NOT sugar). Talk with her and ask her what is going on.

Sometimes children are so worn out that they can’t tell you what is wrong. They know something is, but they can’t figure it out. They are too young to know what the problem is. They just know they don’t feel well and the situation is getting worse. They yell and scream as a way to ask for help. In theory, the parent should be self-aware enough to prevent this from happening by ensuring the child has enough rest and exercise and water and healthy food.

A child who is “acting out” isn’t a bad child. It is a sign of a parent who doesn’t know how to take care of a child. Sometimes it is because that parent was in turn raised by bad parents. How can you learn how to take care of another person when you were raised by selfish people?

While I was talking to her, her mom and grandmother just stared. They didn’t intervene. I wear a name tag, but I’m not an expert. But something had to be done. I talked to this little girl. I suggested some things – “Are you tired?” “Are you thirsty?” “Are you hungry?” hoping that either she would respond to one of those or that it would wake the guardians up – maybe there was something really simple going on. Maybe they would listen to what I was suggesting and learn to ask the same questions in the future. From their lack of interest in the situation I think that this wasn’t a fluke situation. They didn’t seem surprised by her outburst. So, in a way, I was trying to help their daughter but also to teach them to help her in the future.

She calmed down, got up from the floor, and went to the bookshelf. She pulled out a random book and brought it to me. She wanted me to read it to her. I didn’t have the time for that – and she had two guardians there. I pointed to them. “Have your Mom read it to you” I said – and Mom smiled and waved the child to her.

She was quiet the rest of the time there, which was about an hour. She just wanted some attention. This isn’t being needy. This is being normal. I can’t tell you how often I see parents sitting in the same area with their children but they aren’t interacting with them. They care more about their cell phone than they care about their child.

They are there in body only. They expect the child to do all the work. The child cannot learn to read just by picking up a book.

Don’t have children if you aren’t ready to raise children. If you aren’t ready, then put them up for adoption. There are hundreds of people who want children and can’t have them. Or find a parenting class. There is no reason for a child to be emotionally abused because of the immaturity of the parents.

I’m not a parent but I have the basics figured out. Feed them. Give them water. Let them have a nap. Let them go run and play. Do this every day, several times a day. And spend time with them. They need love and attention. Children are just like plants. If you don’t nurture them, they grow up a little stunted and warped.

Poem – adoption, alone

We are all adopted. We are all lost, drifting.

No matter how your parents
are related to you
biologically, legally
makes no difference.

We are all just trying to find our way home.

People who are dying often say they just want to go home,
even if they are in their living room at the time.

We all want to go home. We are all lost.
We all crave belonging.

The gang member, the biker, the kid in the black trenchcoat,
all are trying to find themselves.

We are all shuffling, rubbing up against each other
saying the secret passwords of our tribe
hoping they will let us in.

Every one of us suffers from a little bit of abandonment

now and then

every one of us
wonders where we fit in.

Even when we are
together
with family
we know
deep down
we are all faking it.

We all have to find our way
out of here
and back to where we belong.

We all have to find ourselves.

We look to others to do it.
We hope to see our own reflection
in them.

We join clubs, we go to conventions,
and momentarily
we feel home.
Momentarily
we feel that we are understood.

But when we get back from the meeting
back from the show
we are left
by ourselves, alone again.

If we are not happy
by ourselves
we cannot truly be happy
with others.

We are all faking it,
this connection.

We are always trying to go home
By going somewhere we are not.

On adoption.

I’ve met some people with some pretty unhealthy ideas about adoption.

I know a lady who became a grandmother accidentally. Her son and his girlfriend learned that they were expecting. I had written that “he got her pregnant” but that makes her a passive agent. It takes two to get pregnant. They had sex before they were able to handle the possible repercussions. They might or might not have been using birth control – it doesn’t matter now. She got pregnant. It happens.

It happens a lot more than it should. It is stunning that America, a nation that has free education, that we are so ignorant about how to not get pregnant. It isn’t rocket science.

Having sex is like playing Russian roulette with your life. It can be fun, or you could die from a sexually transmitted disease. Or you could end up pregnant, which will end life as you know it. The risks are too high to play the game if you aren’t ready to deal with the consequences.

According to the CDC, the amount of unintended pregnancies in the United States is nearly 50%. Also according to the CDC, women who get unintentionally pregnant are more likely to be very young, unhealthy, and undereducated. They are already at a disadvantage and getting pregnant puts them even further into the hole.

Let’s go back to the couple from the beginning. They are both in their early 20s and they fight constantly. They don’t make enough money to support themselves, so they live with the boy’s parents. The girl’s parents do not provide any money or support at all. The son works in fast food and the girl works as a part-time bartender. They share a car. This has gone on for over a year. The tension in the house is to the point that the grandmother goes for counseling now.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I suggested adoption and the grandmother recoiled at it. No – this was her grandson. Strangers won’t be raising him.

This can’t be better. I’ve never seen this child smile. Just because he is with his birth parents doesn’t mean they are the best for him. It doesn’t mean they are qualified to be parents. They still need parents themselves. They are too young, too immature, and too selfish to be good parents.

I knew another lady who said that if she ever got unintentionally pregnant, she would have an abortion rather than put the child up for adoption. She admitted that she didn’t like the idea of a stranger raising her child. So she would rather kill it. This makes no sense at all.

I think for some people, putting their child up for adoption is like admitting they made a mistake. Their pride gets in the way of making a good decision for the well-being of their child.

Adoption provides a loving home for a child. Adoption means that the child is welcomed and wanted and provided for. Adoption means that the child has the best possible chance of a happy life.

Putting a child up for adoption isn’t a mark of failure. It is putting your child first. It is pride to keep a child in poverty and misery just because you are too stubborn to admit that you can’t do it all.

The weird part about the grandmother in the first example is that she adopted her son, the one who is a father now. She understands what adoption is like from the other side. She understands how long adoptive parents wait, and how relieved they are when they finally get that call that tells them they have a child. She understands all about the background checks and the tests that prospective adoptive parents go through.

Adoptive parents aren’t strangers. Sure, they are strangers to you, but they have proven their merit. It isn’t like the adoption agency pulls some random person off the street and hands them your child. There are a lot of tests involved.

The tests that prospective adoptive parents go through should be mandatory for anybody who thinks they want to have children. There are physical exams. Psychological exams. Financial exams. They are tested and probed in every way possible to determine if they would make fit parents. They are tested to see if they have what it takes in every way possible.

Love isn’t enough to raise a child. It takes a lot of money and a lot of maturity. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit that you don’t have enough of either. Why compound a problem by making it worse?

Ideally, there would be no unintended pregnancies. Ideally, everyone would get pregnant only when they are ready to. Until that time comes, adoption is a loving response.