When I was in high school, I babysat a little boy, and the summer he was four, I watched his blue blanket slowly disappear. He was starting school in September, and his parents were afraid that the other kids would tease their son for being like Linus, for dragging his insecurities and need for security so openly behind him.
The blanket was filthy and smelled like dirty socks. Wet dirty socks that a dog had been chewing on for a week. It wasn’t so much a blanket as it was a rag. And kids don’t bring rags to school. So, at night, the parents took scissors to their child’s blanket and snipped off pieces and buried them deep in the trash. This went on for months.
The boy knew something was wrong. He’d be sucking on his blanket and fiddling with the edges with his fingers, and his fingers would search, and where there should have been blanket there was space. But the blanket was still there, and so the boy started to distrust his hands as well as the blanket. How could something he loved and had had since birth be disappearing? It made no sense.
I watched him sit on the couch one morning, processing, touching the blanket, processing. He was both watching TV and not watching TV. “Hey,” I said, “Do you want to go outside and play?” He didn’t look at me. He shook his head, sucked on his blanket, felt the edges of the dirty rag like one might touch the gap of a recently lost tooth.
In a month he would be in school. He would be a big boy. He wouldn’t have his blanket any more.
This morning I talked with Adam Pertman. He wrote Adoption Nation and I love how his mind works, and so I bug him; I get him to talk to me so I can hear his ideas. Today he and I talked a little about normalizing the word adoption.
Afterwards, I was thinking about who I would be if the word adoption held no charge. If, in the way I can say I am divorced and feel no shame, feel nothing of note, I could say “I’m adopted” and not watch the face of whomever I was talking to shift, uncertain, while the person tried to decide if we were talking about a good thing or a bad thing. The fact that I am adopted could just a fact, like the fact that I’m blonde. (Okay, fake blonde but whatever. I live in California. It’s not like it’s even a choice. The hairdresser basically does it without request.)
But what I realized after talking with Adam is that if the word “adopted” were normalized, if it held no charge, I would lose my blanket. Part of who I am is the fact that one woman and man created me and another woman and man raised me. Part of who I am is the sadness of knowing I was not wanted. Part of who I am is the joy in knowing that I was chosen.
If we take away our stories, then we are just ourselves. Our body in this moment. The peace of presence may be worth clipping away at the blanket. I’m thinking about it.