December 2, 2010
Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey
This past Thanksgiving gave us many things for which to be thankful, not the least being that Ben Franklin was not able to talk Congress into making the Wild Turkey our nation's symbol.  Franklin thought the Bald Eagle lazy and piratic ( (more on that in a future column) and the Wild Turkey smart and resourceful.  If the latter had come to represent our country, the former might well be extinct now.  Of course the domesticated turkey we all ate last week bears little resemblance to the native wild turkey that Franklin knew.

Our son prepared the turkey last week for a family reunion and finally, after all these years, I met the boy's mother.  The boy and my wife, whom the boy calls "Mom," had already met her, but I had missed that first meeting.  It is difficult to find words to describe a meeting envisioned and practiced for nearly a lifetime, envisioned and practiced since a time when the only assumption could be that meeting was unlikely to ever take place.  The coming dawn was just a promise brightening the eastern sky, but I wore my sunglasses anyway, knowing I was going to tear up.

Who can say, looking back over the perspective of forty years, why a couple already raising a biological child decides to adopt.  Most likely it was many things that seem so complicated now in retrospect, but seemed so simple then.  Imbued with the idealism of the Kennedy sixties, we saw adoption as a small, personal tilt at the windmill of an impersonal world spinning out all manner of social ills.

Estranged from my own mother my entire lifetime and being something of a romantic, I suggested, when the boy reached adulthood, that he should try to find his birth mother and that we would help him if he wished.  It took a few years for this idea to fully capture his imagination.  In the interim we discovered many families had adoption stories, most of them precautionary tales about all the things that could go wrong in the search, the initial contact, and the final outcome.  If there were a hundred ways these affairs could turn out, it seemed ninety-nine were worst case scenarios or dead ends.

Maybe our family is The One.  Maybe Thanksgiving is for the lucky.  The boy, an accomplished chef, fixed the turkey for fourteen celebrants, his mom, his mother, his mother-in-law, and his own son among them.  We are all blessed.  The boy, now a successful adult, talks of how surreal this whole scene feels to him and how he still has trouble putting words to this new friendship with his birth mother.  I suggest he just enjoy it and attach no labels.  There's no question how she feels.  Through all these years she had left her maiden name on all her legal documents, hoping against hope.  Me, I just sat in a corner all weekend, taking it all in, never confident about taking off my dark glasses.

Ben Franklin should be thankful too.  The bird that he admired most has become the symbol of a tradition that celebrates all that is right and good about our country, a smart and resourceful country woven together by the warp and weft of family and friendship.