This weekend we went to a birthday party for the three-year old daughter of some friends of ours. I jump at the chance to attend any outdoor function at their house. They own a landscaping business, and standing on their perfectly manicured lawns always makes me feel classier than I really am. Eating in their (gorgeous) yard in back of their (gigantic) house, I imagine myself as part of a home and garden magazine feature, instead of the "before" picture in a "Give This Mom a Makeover!" article.
It was a big party--all sorts of grandparents, aunts and friends in attendance. Our friend's sister is a first mom to a 9-year old boy, and he was there, too, with his family--mom, dad, and little sister.
I shared a dinner table with the little boy, his sister and (adoptive) mom, and his (birth) grandma. I noticed the two siblings were wearing souvenir shirts from a landmark in the South. "I took a trip to North Carolina last month and visited there," the grandmother told me. "I brought back a t-shirt for each of my grandchildren."
"My grandchildren." Not just the little girl in curly pigtails whose birthday we were celebrating, the parented child of her eldest daughter. But also the boy who had earlier mugged in front of her camera, the placed son of her youngest daughter. And also his younger sister, no blood relation to anyone gathered, but who she considered her grandchild just the same.
I know there were years of effort behind her words. The first few years of the adoption were rocky, as an adoptive mom's lack of confidence clashed with a first grandma's strong desires and a young first mom's grief. But everyone hung in, and their agency helped, and by the time the couple adopted their second child, they had become family to one another. And so that little girl became family, too.
One family, formed by choice and by chance. That is what open adoption can be.