Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Scarlet Letter - Another Playground Debacle

Do you remember the classic, The Scarlet Letter, by American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne?

Wikipedia summarizes the novel succinctly: The Scarlet Letter (1850) is a novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is considered his magnum opus[citation needed]. Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt.

The Scarlet Letter inspired many films, TV , theatrical adaptations, and music. Wikipedia lists 14. Many U.S. students read this classic as a part of American literature in high school or college. It is a favorite of mine, and refreshingly different from the Puritanical literature earlier in that century.

The title of the novel referred to a scarlet letter "A" for adultery Hester Prynne wore on her clothing across the breast and her lover, a minister, had burned on his chest.

I provide this background for international bloggers who may visit my blog.

As regaled in Monday Musings - My First Friend, I was not skilled in school playground interaction and had limited social interaction with my peers in my early school years.

I'm not sure what provoked the playground skirmish. I probably stoked the defensive fires of passion once the hurtful names began to zing like arrows, piercing all our little hearts. When provoked, I could be an acid-tongued, sarcastic, snotty-nosed kid, if I felt threatened.

At some point a boy, yelled back at me, "well, you not so smart, you're adopted." As the epithet echoed over the playground, an eerie silence settled over the usual cheerful, carefree voices of children at play. Another boy picked up the mantra and said, "Yeah my parents told me that, too."

Some of my peers were mystified as I; others snickered. Whatever the WORD meant, it must be a no-no WORD, a subject not to be spoken or discussed.

I was old enough to use a dictionary. I went home and found the WORD in the dictionary, not saying a thing to my parents. Not knowing the "facts of life" also called the "birds and the bees," I pondered about the WORD's meaning. So it was a mysterious WORD, but to me almost, like my first friend being called a Nazi. My parents never used that WORD.

My parents sometimes would not discuss some subjects with their children. We respected them and erroneously put them on a unapproachable pedestal, a statue to be admired, not questioned. I kept the secret WORD to myself.

In this time period I had a new best friend I met in the second grade. We walked home together daily. One day I said to her, "I think I am adopted." I guess she had "the discussion" at home with her parents as she had witnessed the playground skirmish.

She very quietly said. "Well, your parents really wanted you with all their hearts, if you are adopted," which was soothing to a little troubled heart.

For a long time I felt branded with an "A-WORD." As I and my peers matured we had more important issues; the WORD faded into my background.

I don't remember when my parents enlightened me about adoption; they eventually did. There seemed to be a stigma associated with adoption in the '30s, '40s into the early '50s. There was the shameful "born out of wedlock" birth certificate. and the slurs describing persons of unknown parentage. Fortunately those words were not hurled on that fateful day.

Most states have passed laws that issue a replacement birth certificate when a child is adopted. The original is sealed in court records. My parents exchanged my birth certificate as soon as Texas passed that law. The date, time of birth, city and attending physician all are the same but the adopting parents are listed simply as parents.

More often than not, women, who did not marry were placed in "maternity homes" and often forfeited their infants for care received. This practice allegedly "saved face" for her family and herself,. In the late '50s women began to keep their babies, regardless of marital status, when movie stars publicly started the trend.

Whether to keep or relinquish a child would seem to be a very private, personal question where the decision has no right or wrong answer. From information I know about my biological mother, she had no option; the alleged father would not marry her. She was in a poor family of 10 other siblings--no room for one more mouth to feed during the Great Depression.

As my parents talked more to me, I realized just how special I was. They told of parking several blocks from the maternity home, covering their license plates and entering the home through a special door.

Daddy let Mother decide on which baby they would accept. In those days there multiple babies available for adoption. Mother, who wanted a girl, told of having a choice of seven babies! She slowly circled the seven cribs, each adorned with a blue or pink ribbon designating the sex of the baby.

Only one baby was awake and "talking," not crying. Mother picked me. I was two weeks old. Daddy said, "you were talking then and never stopped talking!" [My husband agrees!!!]

In September, 2000 I learned my biological mother returned to the maternity home twice, trying to find out where I went. She died, not knowing. I visualize her and Mother comparing notes in heaven...

Today I wear the "A-WORD" with distinction. On occasion I have to explain to physicians and others, why my family history is not applicable to cancer and certain hereditary situations. Now I do know some of this information, but until age 63 I did not.

Today the "A" WORD has many applications. We adopt animals - Luckie and I have a common bond. We adopt ordinances. There is Scripture which refers to us as "sons by adoption" to God. I don't intend to miss out on that!


Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

This is a wonderful post! You were a blessed child of God!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I feel so honored that you have shared this!!! What a story!!!...and I love the way you tied Hawthorne's story to this...it truly helps the reader understand your childhood emotions and questions...I agonized with you as you talked with your friend in the second grade...this is a wonderful post!!!! Thank you; thank you! And yes, I think your life experience gives you a very special understanding of our relationship to God! This post is truly profound! All my love to you~Janine XO

Renie Burghardt said...

What a beautiful, touching post. You are a very special woman, and were so blessed.

Now, I hope this comment will go through.

Hugs and blessings,


PS. The little animal is a woodchuck, or commonly known as a groundhog. Thank you for coming by.

Renie Burghardt said...

Woo Hoo, I think it worked! It went through!



Kelly said...

Thank you for sharing that. It is such a beautiful post. You are a gifted writer.

Pat - Arkansas said...

What a special baby you were then, and what a special person you have become. Your adoptive parents must have been led by God to pick the child that was meant for them. I believe in my heart that although your biological mother did not get to know you in her lifetime, that she now knows and appreciates the person you have become. Thanks for sharing this very wonderful story with us.

Arkansas Patti said...

What a beautiful post. You definately were chosen and your adoptive parents were blessed with that choice.
Can't help but feel for your birth mother. She was a victim of the times and circumstances and the fact that she tried to locate you twice, means so much.
I like that you feel the two mother's are together. You are being watched over and cared for, no doubt.

Amber Star said...

That was a beautiful post and heart rending, too. I felt your pain on the playground through your words. You were indeed very lucky to be adopted during the Depression. My dad worked in a CCC camp. I used to think it was to provide him with food so he could survive, but heard on a movie or show that the people working in the camps were paid. He may have been sending his wages home to help out.

You were chosen and not just born by your "real mother". It is sad that your birth mother had to give you up, but your life has been better for her act of love for you.

Silver said...

Thank you for sharing this post. It touches my heart and those pictures especially the one of the Madonna pose when you were 4 months old was just absolutely beautiful.

One Day at a Time with Silver

Liz said...

This is a beautiful post, nitwit, a story wonderfully told.

I was born in 1952 to an unmarried mother and after struggling for many years can now admit that fact proudly, but when you're young, you just long to be the same as everyone else, don't you?

jinksy said...

What a dear little baby! I'd have picked you too!Thanks for such a brilliant , honest post today.

Amber Star said...

Just in case you don't make it back over to my blog:

Oh...NW1 we have visited Hot Springs and had a fun time there. Hopefully it won't be too hot. Wunderground is saying about 90 to 92 degrees for the weekend and next week.

It is supposed to be near 100 degrees here duing the same time period for us.

Hope you have a fun time.