After thinking so much about donor siblings, the meaning of family, and the role that genetic connection plays in one’s identity, it was refreshing to spend the long weekend with family that is unequivocally our family, no matter biological ties. We packed up for my folks’ house, which is a ferry ride away, and spent our days exploring the tide flats and exploiting grandparent babysitting. I made a blackberry-peach pie, dug up a moon snail on the beach with Baby J, went hiking in the national park with Uno, wrote, and slept in. Uno’s mom came up to stay, as well as her brother, who is visiting. Hilarity ensued. Our mothers love each other, perhaps because they are so different. My stepdad, who has never spent much time with a baby pre-J, adores J so much that he waits impatiently for him to wake up from his nap so they can play. Their dog, a doofy golden retriever, came along for all of it. Baby J kept yelling her name and looking for her if she wasn’t around.
Baby J was in heaven from the moment we arrived. He always is. He starts clapping the moment we turn off the main road and up towards my folks’. He calls my stepdad “Papa” and my mom something that sounds like “Damma.” (That will evolve to Grandma, one hopes.) He is obsessed with his Papa, in particular, which is a win-win, as my stepdad spends endless amounts of time following him around and letting him do whatever he wants, including play with the computer, my teenage brother’s drum set, the vacuum cleaner….
My cousin, practically a sister, came along with her mom and grandma to have a big dinner and Balderdash night. We put the extra leaf in the table and roared at my aunt’s raunchy jokes. Baby J ran around naked and periodically climbed up on our laps. I love that he gets to experience the big family ruckus and camaraderie that I had, growing up (with hopefully, you know, less dysfunction).
It occurred to me after we left: not many of us, in the above scenario, are genetically related. Yet we’re family. Simple. For instance, my cousin, her mom, and her grandma are not biologically related to me at all; her mom married my uncle when we were toddlers. Biology aside, I have known these women my entire life. They’ve seen me through scrappy childhood, awkward adolescence, and beyond. They’re MUCH more my family than my bio-dad’s family, with whom I have only recently reconnected (and mostly via Facebook). I do think that genetics are important. I speak as someone who grew up wondering about her bio-dad’s family, and I will understand Baby J’s curiosity about the other half of his DNA in whatever way it manifests. Yet obviously, genetics do not trump that which makes a family a family, and it feels like a gift to get such a reminder of that this weekend.
I think I am more freaked out / curious about the world of donor siblings than Uno because of my position as Baby J’s NGP. After all, is it possible that these genetic “siblings” have more a stake in his life than I do? As I type that out, the answer is obviously NO (duh, right?) yet it helps to name that tiny, secret, underlying fear.
Now for some pictures of our weekend.
Yoga with my mom:
Hanging with Georgie:
Chilling in a beached sailboat:
The Baby J is TWO YEARS OLD today. I know, I can’t believe it, either. He gave his moms an awesome present by sleeping solidly through the night and all the way until NINE a.m. I don’t even know what to do with all this good rest in my bones. Well, besides clean house, prep for a birthday gathering, cook, etc., while Uno has him at the park in an attempt to wear him out. In this brief quiet moment I thought I’d put up a few pix to commemorate this most wonderful, spunky little man, who has changed our lives in every possible way since August 24, 2010. We waited for him with so much hope and sometimes frustration, and we have loved him so fervently from his first wild moment on earth, when he flew out yelling after a mere hour at the birth center, during a thunderstorm, no less.
He’s been surprising us from day one with his firecracker personality, his gut-punching gaze and his strong preferences. He’s small in stature — quick and tiny, fittingly impish – but tall in spirit. This kid was made to live big, I think. I’m sure he’ll be leaving his moms in the dust in no time, though we’ll do our best to cheer him on from the sidelines.
Today, Mr. J, we’ll shower you with cake and company and macaroni and cheese. We may even let you skip your nap. We’ll keep singing the Happy Birthday song because you can’t get enough of it. You’re the best. More than we ever could have dreamed.
Thanks to all for your lovely and supportive comments r.e. the wedding and my sadness over my grandma not coming. As it turned out, though she stayed away, many, many of my relatives did show up. As did friends from all over. I still can’t believe it all happened! Everything went perfectly, pretty much, thanks to a crew of pals who took it upon themselves to decorate, coordinate, dance, cook us brunch the next day, and generally be awesome. Uno’s mom made me laugh when she said to my mom — these two are about as different as can be, i.e. Uno’s mom is bi and an artist and dyes her hair shocking colors, and mine is a nice Catholic girl — that if you want to get something done, you need a bunch of dykes to do it. True that. Anyway, it was a sweet, sunny day, full of good cheer and wine and toasts and flowers. It’s all a blur, though certain moments stand out in clear relief:
-My long-time friend frantically applying our makeup in the rattly old house we were renting. Same friend showed me how to use lip gloss in eighth grade. (I probably still need a tutorial in that department).
-Driving down into the woods towards the ceremony, running late, all dressed up and with Baby J strapped in his car seat behind us. To quell our nerves we bellowed Brandi Carlile’s “Dying Day” while Baby J crooned along in imitation and made hilarious frowny faces.
-Uno and I walking down through the trees and seeing everyone seated there, snapping photos. Cousins! Uncles! College friends, grad school friends, my grandma’s best friend, cousins’ babies, you name it.
-The sun, trees, view of the water, Uno’s raspberry colored dress, the tears in her eyes.
-Putting the ring on my baby’s finger. In front of all and sundry. And then kissing. Whoa.
-Baby J shoveling jellybeans into his mouth during the ceremony (our distraction tactic. Worked!)
-Uno’s dad’s toast, which was filled with more feeling and sheer words than I think I’ve ever heard from the man. Yeah, a few glasses of Malbec probably helped him along, but it was shockingly wonderful to hear him emote.
-The toast in which our friend – her words – “gayed it up.” Asked everyone to vote yes on Ref. 74, which is our gay marriage amendment in the fall. Joked that the first time she met me, she thought I was flirting with her and Uno’s other friend. (Okay – MAYBE I was. I was, you know, twenty-three). What was remarkable was knowing that my uncles, Uno’s dad, grandma’s friend, my niece, etcetera, were all hearing this too. Hello, Life. Meet the Other Part Of My Life.
-Our after-party. Yes, we’re hard core. Friends piled into a rental house in the middle of nowhere. Leftover eggplant caponata, wine and amber ale. Meteor shower. Could it get better? Probably not.
So, now we’re home. Friends have left. We’re recovering. Moving slow. A bit off-kilter, including Baby J, who has been more tantrumy these days than usual. I suppose that’s all par for the course, given the big build-up, and I know that we’ll settle back into routine and normalcy soon enough. I love the ring on my finger. I understand now, much more clearly, why marriage is what we want. Not a civil union, domestic partnership, legal agreement or whatever: we want an actual marriage. Called that. Celebrated like that. Recognized like that. A few years ago I was uncertain about doing a full-on wedding, wasn’t sure we really needed one, but now I’m relieved and thrilled that we went for it. Having everyone gathered there as witnesses: that’s not something to be taken lightly, not something we’ll – or they’ll – forget. Our parents, who have been supportive of us, really stepped up. Even Uno’s super religious, Southern Baptist grandmother, who couldn’t make the long trip, SENT US A WEDDING CARD. Uno and I used to joke, a little bitterly, that it was too easy for our families to write us off as “the girls” – nice friends who don’t actually kiss, right? We no longer run that risk. Plus, Baby J will have the photos now, if not the memories. He’ll be able to refer to his parents’ wedding day. That’s everything, as far as I’m concerned.
Now, if only the vote goes our way in November. GAH.
A few more pix:
Sleep through the night? What’s that, guys? Been harder since I’ve been back teaching. Eyes heavy as I type this. But isn’t he cute? He’s got four teeth now (finally). I call him snaggletooth. He loves playing with his food, he gurgles and babbles and shrieks and giggles, and he’d rather be outside than almost anything. I miss him when I’m away, but I enjoy being away, too. (Not grading papers, though – not so much that). He’s also walking with aplomb.