Saturday, December 08, 2007

Stones in the lake

Extended metaphor: Sometimes I view my life as a deep, still lake. And at the beginning of things, early on, large heavy stones were thrown into my lake -- their entry into the peaceable waters caused waves and ripples to reverberate from the center out to the farthest shores, chaotic and white-capped waves crashing far beyond, and yet eventually things were calm and the surface of my lake was pristine and blue and clear. And yet: the stones thrown into the lake remain, tumbled at the bottom in the mud and vegetation. Sometimes I will dive down and look at those stones, smooth as they are by now, and yet undeniable and a part of me: the currents change and refract around them, the fish and plants and life underwater have incorporated these stones into their homes and shelters, the shadows of these stones on the lake floor are topography as recognizable as any mountains you can see. You can dive down and touch the stones, you can even pick them up and throw them through the still water, you can send them cascading somewhere else, dirt and silt blossoming from the lake floor as the water churns about, until it too subsides and things are calm again. Sometimes I go down to see the stones, I might touch them and feel the familiar cool hardness, something that cannot be denied or changed. Sometimes I will roll the stones along the murky wet earth, sometimes I will upend them, sometimes I will hoist the stones onto my shoulder and pitch them up through the surface, lunging forward and breaking the placid surface with my effort, and yet when the stones land they tumble back down into my lake, in a new configuration, a new way to see and understand them, but they are always there. Sometimes other people try, it's not even me, someone comes along to rile the stones at the bottom of the lake, and the water may be white-capped with the motion and energy churned up from below, but no matter what happens the stillness of my lake will be restored. Two truths emerge: the calmness always returns, and no one will ever get those stones out of my lake.

Tonight we saw this movie, "Juno," about a wisecracking 16 year-old who gets pregnant, plans on giving up her baby to a nice yuppie couple desperate for a child, endures various trials and tribulations, and eventually has her baby and sends him on his way into the world. This movie was great, very funny and sensitive and smart, and it hit me hard. I couldn't speak for a while after it was over. I thought about the closing images of the movie (spoiler alert, dudes), of the adoptive mother with her new baby, of the young girl weeping in her hospital bed with her gangly college boyfriend, the biological father of this kid, lying beside her in a tender and ungainly way, and the thought struck me: this is the best possible way it could have happened. If you moved this scenario back in time 30 years, this is the ideal thing I could have hoped for. And that idea was hard for me to bear, and it's hard to explain why.

Earlier this week, we spent the last session of my family law class talking about adoption. I was appalled by some of my classmates' comments. They were completely ignorant and stupid, seeing adoption as little more than an 18-year babysitting assignment rather than something full of the mystery and joy and unconditional, undeniable bond of parenthood. In that class I was literally trembling with anger and emotion. I didn't trust myself to speak, and I wasn't willing to put myself out there for their judgments and small-minded proclamations about what it is to be a parent or a family. Fuck them, I thought - they are not worth my story. Which was a sad thing to think about, really.

This movie tonight really touched me deeply with its compassion and mercy. It presented things in a new way to me, yet the overall narrative was so familiar; my own book of Genesis. To see this movie, with hundreds of strangers beside you, and to reach the end of the narrative, when the adoptive mother is full of joy and the birth mother is weeping but with her friend beside her, loving parents waiting outside and a promising future for all the players -- to see this and think, I hope this is how it was. This was the best it could have been. This is the ideal.

That is a lot to bear.

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