Category Archives: memoir

Breaking the Silence

 

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The painting, Silence, by Odillon Redon

This story highlights the aspect of secrecy in adoption. A secret weighs heavy on the heart. A secret can be found out. You mind your tongue, look over your shoulder, scan the room for a face with a knowing look. Your heart begs you to lift its burden.

Not long ago I was having lunch with new friends when someone asked the ages of my children.  The answer to this question always elicits raised eyebrows or a comment. “I had my son when I was a teenager,” I said. “He was given up for adoption, but I reconnected with him.” I always keep the answer short, but people want to know more. When I say that I searched for my son and found him, people think that I’m Nancy Drew, or that I’m super courageous, or a ballsy political activist. My answer is just, I had to.

And sometimes we feel we have to tell our stories. Here’s the link to Caitriona Palmer’s book.

“Just Kids” by Patti Smith

I’ve recently finished reading the memoir, “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. “Just Kids” is a relationship memoir recounting Smith’s more than two-decade long love affair/friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. The book is a moving exploration of the interplay between artist and muse–roles that were both filled by Smith and Mapplethorpe alike as they found their way to their respective versions of art.
I’ve never been a huge devoteé of Smith. I knew who she was, liked her music well enough the times I crossed paths with it. I read the book because I’m addicted to memoir and because I saw Smith read and sing at a local bookstore when her book first came out. I figured a poet and a songwriter would be a vivid writer–and she is.
I was stunned to learn, just a few pages into the book, that Smith gave up a child when she was 19. Sent away to a foster family because of  judgmental neighbors, she gave birth to her child as nurses ridiculed her for her immoral behavior. A bit later in the book Smith writes, “Though I never questioned my decision to give my child up for adoption, I learned that to give life and walk away was not so easy. I became for a time moody and despondent. I cried so much that Robert affectionately called me Soakie.” That’s pretty much the last we hear of Smith’s experience as a birthmother. Granted, relinquishing a baby is not the story this book sets out to tell, but I’d say Patti Smith just might have another memoir to write.
And while I liked the book a lot, that lost baby was, for me, a profound song left unsung. And it made everything else in the book ring ever so slightly less true.