From my years teaching memoir, I know the big stories students need to get out before they can tell any others: stories of physical, psychological or sexual abuse; the story of atypical sexual orientation; and stories of confused parentage – being adopted, having put a child up for adoption, finding out one of your parents is not who you think s/he is. Along with a death in the family and a devastating diagnosis, those are the big, big tales that block the others, until they’re freed.
Went to see “Philomena” yesterday, and thought of all the students who’ve told tales of adoption, especially the women who gave away a child and want to find him or her now. I thought especially of Debbie, whose whole adult life was geared toward connecting with the son she had to give up at sixteen. How incredibly cruel we were, as a society, to blame young women and steal their children. And now, my daughter the mother is happily unmarried and no one gives a damn.
I think of my friends too, Chris and Paul, who were adopted as toddlers and lost not just their birth mothers but their birth languages and names, losses that leave a permanent hole. Oh, it’s a lovely film, thoughtful, funny and moving with beautiful performances. Do not go if you are a fan of the Catholic Church, however, because its portrait of Ireland’s mendacious, life-denying nuns is horrifying.
A quiet Sunday. 6000 people still without power, and tonight the temperature will plummet and the sidewalks will be sheet ice. Quite a hefty load of winter and it’s not even January.