Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Hellmans

Rachel and T. J. Hellman had an adoption party for their daughter, Gloria, at Madelaine and Muna's house here in Chelsea. It was a glorious day and a glorious party. I brought along a camera, always handy for me because it allows me a diversion, but hopefully it also allowed photographs that Gloria's family might like. But none of that is relevant. What was important is how touching this whole event was...seeing Rachel and T. J.'s parents, their huge collection of friends, most of whom speak Spanish as native speakers or not. I assumed that T. J. was a native speaker until I met his parents from Ohio and realized that he's learned and permanently adopted another language and the culture, as had Rachel, because of their social and political experiences. I find that admirable.
It's strange to look back on my life, what was, what won't ever be, to think about other choices I might have made if I'd been healthier emotionally, knowing that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't be. I went into therapy seriously when Krissy was about three, my third therapist. I had the hope that I might be able to straighten out enough to provide a decent role model, to figure out how to earn a living effectively, to establish a nurturing family for her even if it wasn't with her biological father. Maybe if I'd stayed in New York, with that particular psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon, I might have managed, but the job offer at MIT intervened about three years into the process. At least I'd been able to free myself from some strange, sad dependence on Krissy's father who traveled back and forth to another woman on the West Coast. We were both trapped, unable to let go. And I did manage to figure out how to make a living so that I have a small, but unexpected, given my history, pension.
All this was brought more to mind when Muna asked where Krissy was and I called her and she came along to the party. She's in the middle of making big decisions about living in New York again, going back 'home' to the city that is so important to her. And she's weighing decisions, thinking about her life. So, what was really interesting is how much she learned about Rachel's family, her parents who live in Ohio, who have seven children and twelve grandchildren, and who seem so remarkably happy.  They are, as she immediately said, great role models. She's very clear about what it has meant to her not to have had a father, how much it's effected her life, how hard it is to find a good relationship because of this real emptiness in her childhood. When she mentions this, I feel guilty, of course, defensive. It's almost inevitable for parents who recognize how much their own troubled childhoods have effected their children. I know I did the best I could, but it's hard to look back on my own inabilities to form a supportive relationship with a loving man, for Krissy's sake, for my own sake. I'm glad that Muna asked about her, that I drove over to get her, that she had a chance to be at that party, to meet Rachel's parents, to add another role model to her list.
As she said on the way home, few of her friends from those ratty old, well remembered, difficult days in New York, have found good marriages. Many are still single. A friend of mine once suggested that I do a book of interviews of those children whose mothers had escaped from their troubled suburban childhoods, fled to the Lower East Side of New York, lived in considerable poverty, in tenements, a close knit band of women who helped each other. 
Gloria certainly has a solid group of people around her, friends and family. I'm glad that I met T. J., who designed my website and lives here in Chelsea and, by through that, got to be part of this celebration.

Normally I would have been at Suffolk Downs on Derby Day, the first day of live racing. And I definitely would have been watching the Derby, but I didn't. I took photographs, ate and talked instead.

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