Monday, March 05, 2012

Carefully Crushed

I told some of you that I auditioned for the NYC Listen To Your Mother Event last week. As promised they got back to folks today and the news, for me, was bad. The up side is that I can share the piece I wrote for them here without giving away my own punch line.

Do you know this song?

You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
Before you are 6 or 7 or 8 ...

We have to be taught. We have to have the important behavior modeled for us until it sinks into our bones.

This is my Auntie Blanche. 

When I was young she would take some of us kids on beach outings in the summer. She packed green grapes, the seedless kind, because that’s what we liked and she made sure we didn’t eat so many that we got stomach aches. She took us, and our friends, out to the Dairy Queen on the last day of school for one item each of our choice. When I was a toddler my mother and Auntie Blanche took a drive out along the beach on a coldish spring day with me in the back seat. They only had enough money for one small order of fried clams. That was fine, they just wanted a taste and I was a kid, I wouldn’t want any. A short time later they gave in to my whining and handed me one fried clam, figuring that’s all I’d need. I loved fried clams. I still do. And I chowed down most of that tiny box. Still haven’t lived down the story.

Auntie Blanche and me? Our DNA is not related even a little bit.

She met me when I was a few days old. She worked with my father and I became one of her adoptees. As were my parents. As were many of the people I knew. We weren’t her first or her last but we held cherished places in the core of her chosen family.

I don’t know about Auntie Blanche but for me it has been mostly a conscious choice not to have kids. I never had that feeling that if I didn’t get “one of my own” my life’s grand check register wouldn’t balance correctly. She carefully taught me that you never can tell what dictates love, you just don’t let it pass you by.

This is Rosa. 

We also share no DNA. I have known her since she was a few days old. Her parents and I were dog park friends and then, in June of 2001 she came along and we are friends, too. She is not my first Auntie Blanche-style adoptee, nor is she my last, but her space in the core of my chosen family is unshakeable.

We go to brunch and museums and bookstores. We love bookstores. Last winter we shared a first for each of us and went to the top of the Empire State Building at midnight. We have two stone-set traditions. For Rosa’s birthday in June we march in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade (hence the makeup). We wear costumes of our own devising and, coincidentally, we often eat a few fried clams as our “meal” before we dive into the chocolate cake I have made for each of her birthday celebrations.

In December we go to see Santa Claus at Macy’s. This year we discussed how we felt about continuing to go. Though I call our traditions set in stone, I do realize she’s growing up and I don’t know that she’ll always want to do these things. Her mother and I said that we never felt we’d be too old to visit Santa but we wondered how she felt. After some truly respectful thought she said, “No, I still want to go but…you guys need to come up there with me. It’s getting kind of creepy sitting on the old guy’s lap.”

Auntie Blanche died a few years ago, just a week after her 98th birthday. For that last birthday a group of family members, not one of us related to her by blood, gathered for chocolate cake, subdued chit chat, and even a short sing along around her nursing home bed. I believe she had made her final plans weeks before but she waited to walk us through one last celebration because she loved us just that much.

When people ask me if I regret not having kids I wish I was brave enough to explain because this is as important to me as being pregnant or adopting is to so many other people. If I can carefully teach Rosa, and my other kids, and, hell, everybody else on the planet, the value of having another adult firmly on your side, someone who chooses you, every day, the way you do with love then I think, I hope, Auntie Blanche will be proud of me.


  1. Rosa is one lucky girl.

  2. Crap! Sorry, but don't give up. You should definitely try again.

  3. I love this story so much, except about not getting the part :-)

  4. It's really terrific, and I'm sorry it didn't win a chance at an even wider audience. And you, too.

  5. fabulous, love every word. sorry it didn't get the audience this time. aunt blanche knew it well, and choosing is powerful stuff. means the world, and then some.

  6. I love every word.

  7. Really beautiful writing. And don't give up sending your thoughts out there to the universe! Sometimes the universe at large takes longer than the rest of us to clue in to really good stuff.

  8. Miflohny2:09 PM

    Well said, as always!