An Unwanted Treasure: Part 1

I originally wrote this post in April, but didn’t feel like revising and re-posting it until Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. It’s a rare look into my untidy, emotional family melodrama. Some blogs work best when the writer is concise and snappy, I’m told. Well, this is not a concise, snappy situation, as you’ll see, which is why I split this post two parts.


When I read the story about a Tennessee woman who sent her adopted Russian son back to his native country on a plane, all alone, I didn’t feel the same sense of outrage as the rest of the country. My family has been living in the wake of a similar situation that unfolded four years ago, after Mommy did something similar to Little Sister.  I looked at this from the perspective of someone who had already passed  through several phases of a crisis and had become reconciled to how seriously troubled some people, even mothers, can be.

The long and short of it is that my mother adopted Little Sister, then mismanaged her, which probably caused Little Sister to rebel. Her behavior got so out of hand that Mommy eventually got fed up, flew Little Sister back to her native country and left her unexpectedly with her birth mother. Then Mommy walked away and never looked back. She never checked in on Little Sister, never made arrangements for her schooling and financial support, and months later she said she didn’t want anything to do with the girl anymore. Little Sister was almost 13 years old when that happened.

Can you imagine how rejection by two mothers would devastate someone emotionally? Even in the best of times, 13-year-old girls are full of angst and self-consciousness, but to be basically thrown away, and by two mothers?

While all of this was happening, Hubby and I had been married less than two years, and we were settling into a new house. Despite everything that was going on with me personally, I could not pursue my own interests in working, traveling, writing, decorating the house while Little Sister lived a life of deprivation and possible abuse overseas. We were getting unsettling information about her living situation. Little Sister’s biological mother did not want to keep her, and strenuously reminded me of that several times. “This is not my child,” she would say sometimes. “I gave her up for adoption, and this is not my child.” So I, along with Hubby, had to doggedly pursue Mommy to give us the child’s passport and other critical documents, so that we could pull her out of that situation and bring her to live with us.

The process of getting Little Sister to live with us was horrendous, because my mother was firmly set against it. She wanted to wash her hands of Little Sister, leave her in Jamaica and never look back. For four months, she was belligerent, dishonest, uncooperative, and she subjected Hubby and me to a series of ferocious tirades. It was exhausting.

We eventually took in Little Sister, filed for custody and eventually made Mommy contribute financially to Little Sister’s upkeep. That last part, about  financial support, sent Mommy over the edge of civility and elevated the conflict to the point where it opened up a chasm in the family. Some people allied themselves squarely with Mommy, and strenuously tried to impress on me just how fundamentally messed up they thought Little Sister. They either defended Mommy’s decision to desert her or came up with weak rationalizations for her actions. (“So what if she overreacted?” on aunt wrote in an obnoxious letter, which I’ve since shredded.) The names and analogies that some of my cousins thoughtlessly used to describe Little Sister should not be repeated. From what I can gather, the people who think ill of me believe I should have left Little Sister to rot in that third-world country where my mother returned her. But what would we say to people who would ask, who must ask: “What happened to the little girl that your mother adopted?”

While we were preparing to take in Little Sister, Mommy quietly moved from Florida to South Carolina. She left us no forwarding information at all. She didn’t even program her phone to inform callers that the number had been disconnected. There I was, calling the house in Florida over and over, not realizing I had been brushed off—again. (I should have suspected, after a long period of being on the receiving end of those sorts of tactics.) When I became suspicious about the phone line, I asked my aunt if she knew what was going on. She said, “Your mother moved to South Carolina, about two weeks ago.” It became very clear, after several months, that Mommy wanted to wash her hands of me, Little Sister and anyone else who stood up to her for making potentially destructive choices with her life. Mommy might have wanted to forget she ever had two daughters and start fresh, but as she—and I—quickly realized, clean breaks are hard to accomplish when little concerns like morals and ethics get involved.