Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Intergenerational Disconnet

As mention in my previous post about the movie Juno, it is about impermanence of relationships...and yet it is more than that.

I wondered over and over why the young character in the movie went ahead with her plan to allow the first couple she interviewed adopt her son, even after learning that the husband decided he wasn't ready to be a father - or even a husband. She allows a newly divorcing mother to parent her child alone. Why, I wondered. Because she was obviously richer? Would this woman be able to maintain that lifestyle without her husband? Was a nice house all that mattered?

My daughter enlightened me by stating her belief that she did it because she herself - Juno - had been raised in a "broken" or single parent home, being abandoned by her mother. My daughter guessed that the character felt it had been OK for her, so why not.

That got me thinking about the intergenerational familial disconnect represented in the film - and in particular the lack of mother daughter bond.

The 19987 book "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant is a fiction based on biblical times told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis). The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. It has been described as "a biblical sorority of mothers and wives." Dinah's mother and Jacob's three other wives initiate her into the religious and sexual practices of the tribe.

How far we have come from a sisterhood of women offering compassion and support, wiping one another's brow during labor and birth, and passing on womanly and maternal secrets and advise. Not only have many of us in middle and upper-class white society lost relationships with grandparents who are sent off to nursing homes, but even mother-daughter bonds are virtually non-existent as portrayed in this film. At best, we learn childbirth in classes and "the womanly art of breastfeeding" from totally non-related women in lactation classes or at a La Leche League meeting.

In the film, a sixteen year old - who is considered unquestionably by those around her and her one internalized messages to be "ill-equipped" and unable to be a parent, is however, equpipped and able to make life and death decisions for and about herself and her child with no input from any parental figure. Instead she announces to them what she has decided and they simply go along for the ride, after she alone ruled out terminating the pregnancy and decided on adoption. There is not one discussion or thought about the loss of a grandchild by either set of parents (though it is unclear whether the paternal grandfather exists in any way in the life of the baby's father or not).

There is utter and total disconnect. A teenager is allowed to make a life-changing decision with zero input from anyone. She decide son adoption, chooses the new parent s (who turn out to be a parent), decides against an open adoption...all without one word explained to her about her rights or options what to expect in the future. The baby's father is non-committal throughout. Her one confidant - a friend her age - likewise offers nothing but agreement to idea of abortion or adoption. Neither is discussed by anyone at anytime in terms of aftermath. She chooses a closed adoption - believing incorrectly it was how Moses' adoption was carried out -- and choses not to see the baby at birth. All of this because she is under the impression thta it help her "put it behind her and go on with her life." And though thse words are never stated aloud, it is the clear implication of the film.

Juno, the movie, may not be a Greek or Roman myth but it it is classic Adoption Mythology 101, and act one in a life-long tragedy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Juno is Not Just a City in Alaska

As we learn during the powerful movie, Juno was named for the wife - and older sister - of Zeus. Juno is the Roman version of the Greek Goddess Hera. Hera was born of Cronus and Rhea, and was abruptly swallowed after birth due to a prophecy that one of Cronus's children would take over his throne. She was goddess of marriage, presides over the right arrangements of marriage and is the archetype of the union in the marriage bed, but she is not notable as a mother.

Myths about the namesake of the main character of the four times Oscar nominated and very popular film include that Zeus and/or Hera herself were disgusted with her son, Hephaestus' ugliness and threw him from Mount Olympus.

Juno is modern day Greek tragedy about a teen abandoned by her mother who -- without any input from family, the baby's father, his family, a social worker or counselor -- hands her newborn son to a woman she finds in a Penny Saver, even after the woman's husband leaves her after seeing himself through Juno's eyes and wanting to return to his "rocker" days instead of being a jingle-writing yuppie Dad.

The characters often spout mouthfuls of truth, but ignore their own words, such as Juno's father raising concern that she doesn't get "ripped off by nuts" and sadly assuring her that she'll have another baby when the time is right - trying to keep the hope alive for himself as much as for her.

While not Greek or Roman, Juno is so filled with hackneyed adoption myths it's almost satirical at times. Juno's step mother, who is pining for her to leave so she can have dogs, suggests that adoption is a "blessing from Jesus" and someone says Juno might be "canonized for her selflessness."

And the ultimate quintessential cliche "pretend that this has never happened" is also uttered. This, perhaps that relates to the ironic fact that mythical Hera was also worshipped as a virgin who renewed her virginity annually, in rites that were not to be spoken of.

The most ironic scene involves an argument that erupts with the ultra sound technician who upon learning that Juno is planning to loose her child to adoption says: "Thank goodness for that." Juno suddenly speculates that the adoptive parents could abuse or mistreat her child while her step mother shouts angrily: "maybe Juno could do better."

In this FOX version, Juno and her boyfriend go off into the sunset together "as if it never happened" allowing the curtain to come down long before the reality of what she has done sinks in and likely destroys the relationship she believes to be the "the one." But then, impermanence in relationships is a theme from start to finish.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Personal News

On my daughter Alicia's 40th birthday this past July, I received a wonderful gift.

A friend of hers from H.S. found the MySpace page I created in memory of my daughter and contacted me. Marlene sent photos and shared with me tales of a dear friend whom she liked and cared about. Any shred of evidence that she existed...any memory of her is so cherished, as I have far too few of my own.

Now, a week after my birthday I received a belated gift: a friend of Alicia's from college found me the same way and is sharing her remembrances.

Her college friend, Sandra, has shared happy accounts of laughter shared about "jerks" they well as Alicia's darker times when she withdrew in depression. Each email is a tiny piece of the puzzle. I am learning about Alicia like the blind men learned about the elephant: each describing the unique part that presented itself to them, but none comprehending the whole.

Each friend in turn helps me track down more friends...each of whom loved my precious daughter, who some recall having a loving family and others tell me had a troubled relationship with her adoptive mother. All pieces of the puzzle and part of the elephant.

Alicia was an artist. I have never seen any of her artwork, but I am acquiring glimpses, brush strokes, colors and they vary and go through stages like the work of all artists.

I am most grateful and appreciative of these gifts. What words are there? How does one describe bringing a ghost a life? Is learning -- not of one ancestors but of a decedent -- "genealogy"? It is for me the repair of a limb broken from my family tree, perhaps then it is...human horticulture.

Alicia speaks to me through these friends. Each story shared with me brings a living leaf to my tree and I am joyful.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget