Sunday, October 28, 2012

First Hello - Part Three: Redemption

 Long before customer Rewards cards, there were S & H green stamps. Retailers wanting to build consumer loyalty would offer them with every purchase.

 I remember checking out groceries at the Alpha Beta store with my mother. Bea, our usual cashier  would smile her red lipsticky-smile, hair all in a 60's 'do', wish my mom some cliche farewell and hand her a receipt with a couple sheets of green or blue stamps.

My chore as a child was to lick and stick them in little 4x6 inch booklets. If there was an extra large stack of stamps,  I might get a wet washcloth in a saucer to save my tongue.

After collecting a good amount of filled booklets, then off to the local Redemption Center we would go. The cavernous store offered new merchandise in exchange for a bunch of green and blue sticky rectangular pieces of paper stuck in skinny books. We would walk out with a boatload of new merchandise like an electric mixer, badminton set, or everyday silverware.

That was my earliest experience with the concept of Redemption.

To Redeem:

To turn something of little worth into something of true worth. 
Offset the bad effect.
Exchange for something of value.
To free from the consequences of sin.
To repair, restore.

Most of the time the word sounded archaic and church-y to me. Other than with blue chip stamps, I had trouble relating to it.

                   But now I treasure the word.                  

I sensed it when I first gave my heart to Jesus, around the same time as my daughter's relinquishment. For the  difficult situation that a teen-age pregnancy presents, there seemed to be a lesser-evil-of-an answer than terminating. I wish I could say the thought never entered my mind. But Psalm 139 changed it and by adopting out I was able to provide a child-less couple with a baby and find myself a fresh start. All the things that had brought me to this place were left behind. And I thought that was it. A new life in exchange for the old.

I never expected God to continue the redemption of adoption well into midlife. He had given me so much already in a great husband and another beautiful and practically-perfect-in-every-way daughter named April, plus 4 great boys. That was enough blessing. Enough restoration.

But then, Surprise!! He knocked me out with a phone call on my 50th birthday that brought the daughter I had given up 32 years before, back into my life.

And 5 years later,  
The First Hello.

The chance to finally see her, face to face and take another step in that relationship, was more than I ever dreamed of; more than I deserved. Oh and she has 2 beautiful children. I met grandchildren I never knew I had.

Grace is like that.

Yeah, that's just like our Jesus. Surprising us with something spectacular 

just when we've settled

into the tattered couch of just ok.

God is even extending restoration to other parties in the story: the father of my daughter has since come to faith. And oh,  that my daughter will heal from the inner difficulty they say adopted children struggle with.

Deeper levels of healing are ever open to us, ever waiting for us to reach up and grasp.

And redemption knocks so quietly at first
Inviting us, igniting a deep thirst
To be whole again
Find our soul again

Me, Robin, Aaron, Daughter

Daughter and husband

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair
 - Crystal Lewis

I'm trading my sorrows
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying them down
For the joy of the Lord
-Darrell Evans

When only Love could make a way
You gave Your life 
For a Beautiful Exchange
- Hillsong United

I'll be always taking those sticky stamps of mistakes and mis-steps to my Blessed Redeemer.

Yup, this girl has done made a trip to the Redemption Center ...
                                                                 ... and walked out with a truckload of joy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

First Hello - Part Two: The Dance

One of the lowest times in my early marriage was during a stint of dance lessons my husband reluctantly agreed to take with me at the local Park and Rec. The instructor also taught kindergarten. So we fit right in.

We made a great effort to learn the box, the Lindy, waltz and other basic steps.  With each weekly lesson,  it was becoming far less than the romantic experience I'd fantasized about.

"Your hand is too high on my back"
"Your hand is to low on my shoulder"
"You're not counting the beat"
"The right foot goes first!"
"No, it's the left!"

About the 4th lesson, these dribbling criticisms accelerated into a thunderous shouting match from the dance floor, all the way through the parking lot and out to the car.


Of course, the accusations were very telling; and in other areas besides dance steps. We had issues about roles that existed in much more significant places than our feet. And it has taken years and tears to figure it out. Still working on it.

That's the way my first visit felt with my estranged daughter. (Not the arguing part, but the dance lesson part) I found myself second-guessing each step, bereft of rhythm and clumsy. The roles were all fuzzy and undefined.


At the top of the brick steps, the two met me with smiles on their faces at the front screen door, my daughter and her husband. She gave me a quick shoulder squeeze. He turned my offer of a handshake into a welcoming hug.

That was a little better than expected.

Turning toward her adorable children, age 2 and 4, I was introduced as Angela. Not grandma, mom or Bella, which is what my other daughter April's boys call  me.

Thus the awkward dance began.

Here my identity crisis commenced and role confusion set-in. Like a bad dancer, I fumbled. Am I guest? Or separated-for-three-decades- birth-mother?           


I couldn't stop staring. She was so beautiful to me, more than in any pictures she had sent. I searched ferociously to find features in common while she was singing 'Rock-a-Bye Baby' to her son in the rocking chair. But finally surrendered to the fact that she favored her father, my high school boyfriend. Maybe there's a gesture, a look in the eye, her love for fabric, her rippling laugh. Something there had to reflect my gene pool. Yes, I think it was the eyes. His were more almond-shaped than mine and hers are oval. She has my eyes, I reached.

pivot-spin-rock on heel

Having just moved in the week before, she apologized for the boxes and clutter. "Your kidding me, I said, "You just moved! I'm just glad you let me come over during such a hectic time."

Then came the house tour, from bottom living room to the rooftop deck that overlooked the bay. She lead me up a ladder to a see a breathtaking 360 degree view of ocean before and mountain behind.

Her husband was on his way out to get the last truckload of items moved, but lingered. He seemed to  understand the significance of the moment for both of us. Or maybe he was there just to support his wife during a potentially emotional meeting. It was sweet and I was happy she had such a loving and sensitive man as he.

But it was not emotional.

 It was not, Lights, Camera, Oprah with sob ridden "I've-Been-Waiting-All- My-Life-To-See-You's." 
After all, this was real life, not some scripted talk-show.

Slide, turn, correct move.

Lunch was a bowl of fluffy rice, black beans and fresh spinach leaves. The dog came in, bounded up the stairs and the little ones ran to catch him. Up and down, up and down while I sat and ate like a good guest.

But suddenly, as if a switch flipped in my head, I went into mom-mode and I felt it my duty to help her corral the kids and dog, so I got up to tend to the kids at the bottom of the stairs.

"You can sit down" she firmly said over her shoulder to me.

 Pivot hard, back to the table.

Switched from mom role back to guest-role quick!    

Totally missed the moves for the line dance, here. Two left feet.

It was obvious that nap time was near as the children were exhibiting that last burst of energy, running around with the dog.

Trying to be useful, I suggested I help put them down with a story, unabashedly going for the grandma role. But my offer was met with a 

"They usually just want their mommy," she said. The words snapping me back into being guest.  

Wall flower.  

I so wanted to cradle her face in my hands and reassure her that my relinquishment many years before did not mean I didn't love her. But that moment never presented itself during this first visit. We were far from it.

As we said goodbye on the brick steps, the best I could do was casually slip in a "love you." And just as I turned my back to walk down the steps,  I heard her say

the same!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First Hello - Part One: The Drive

There I stood at the Enterprise car rental counter with the last words of my architect brother ringing in my ears as he dropped me off.
"Get the Mustang convertible," he had shouted after me, the black sporty thing we spied in the parking lot.

So how much is it, I asked?

$$$ a day, the handsome shirt and tied young man replied.

I had reserved the Chevy Aveo which was

$ a day.

I could rent that black beauty for 2 days...but... I'm a frugal girl. Besides, I'm not trying to impress anyone. The last thing I want to do is appear pretentious; especially as a first impression.

Anything in between $ and $$$ I asked? He offered a Volkswagon whatever, which looked just like the Chevy Aveo.

A picture of my hair blowing in the wind on this perfect October California day, temperature climbing toward 80, making my way up the 405 for a long anticipated personal reunion, dissolved as common-sense won over and I acquiesed to accept the Chevy at $ a day. 

Silence, as he punched the register keys.

Tell you what, he said, (it was 1/2 hour till closing at noon), I'll give you the Mustang convertible for

 $$ a day.

Ok, I said.  For 20 dollars extra, I thought, I'll treat myself to experience the full glory of the semi arid, bright sunshiny California climate that I grew up in, that my current semi-tropical Florida life had shoved to the back of my mind. I was eager to re-live those West coast days.


I left my dear friend's church before the sermon ended the next summer-like morning, the pastor's last illustration was about the importance of a mother's unconditional love. Uncanny, a divine message? I thought, as I was about to drive to see my daughter I had adopted out 37 years ago, face to face, for the first time.

She must know, beyond a doubt,  that I love her. I need to make that clear to her. I hear that adopted people struggle with  feelings of abandonment- even into middle age. 

With that resolve, I said goodbye to my friend with a prayer on our lips, put the top down, twisted my hair into to tight bun and headed north on the 405.

405 Northbound through Huntington Beach

I could not wipe the smile off my face. I sang, I praised, I fairly exploded from happiness, tripping up the freeway. Passing familiar buildings through Newport Center made me feel at home.  Even the golden haze (smog) on the horizon further into OC was a comfortable sight.

Changing freeways, I entered the port area of Long Beach. There's the Queen Mary, where my husband and father of my current 5 children (7 years after this one) proposed to me after a date there over 35 yrs ago.  There are the docks, cranes, and stacked cartons that make-up the industrial port where overseas products end their voyage and begin their land trip into our markets.

Two tall bridges

Two tall bridges afforded fantastic views of it all. The sun high and hot beat down into the black interior of my car, my black jeans. Why hadn't I packed my cotton, gathered hippie skirt that would have been much cooler? The wind whipping my hair, strands stinging my face, brought me back to the reality of my near destination, my long awaited reunion, my first hello.


A little drive into town, older streets, lots of signals, a store parking lot stop to re-apply wind dried lipstick and turn my bun into a braid.

Right turn,

Left turn,

Right turn up a hill, (the whole city is a hill). I count house numbers, looking left. Not that one, closer, closer,

THERE!  The address I was looking for was a white 3 story house with multiple balconies.

I look to park. An empty spot on my right. I shimmy from drive to reverse, drive to reverse, direct the wheels to the curb because of the incline, put it in park, and pull the emergency brake. Key off.

Only to hear that bubbly lilting voice I've heard only on the phone, call out to me,

"Just so you know, you're parked in a red zone!" were her first words. I turn to see a curly dark haired slender, young woman leaning over her balcony, head tilted slightly. 'Nice Car!' she added.

AAAAUUGGG!!!!! I was certain the whole neighborhood heard my inner groan of embarrassment.

Exactly the impression I wanted to avoid! Add my stupidity of parking in a red zone and you've got a smashing good start to a first visit, part comic and tragic all at the same time.

"Oh, I couldn't see it over the sides of the car," I stammered on and  "Oh and the car's not me, really. I just got a good deal." No words of explanation could recover a moment-gone-wrong and dignity lost.  I swung the wheel to park around the corner by a curb that was not red.

Walking the brick steps to her front door, I consoled myself that the visit could only go uphill from there.......

Monday, October 8, 2012

'Fall' in a Cup

It's nutty, sweet, like pumpkin pie, with an aroma that says colored leaves, crackling fires and crisp cool air all in one 'short' 8 ounce cup.

That's Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte.

 Here in South Florida, we take our 'Fall' in a cup.


Now if you are in the Carolinas, your October is a 'Tall' 12-ounce serving of the spicy delight, with clusters of auburn, gold and rust leaves dotting the gentle smoky mountains, a dusting of cinnamon color amonst the backdrop of musty green and leaveless nutmeg brown. Crisp morning air gives way to warmish days of part drizzle, part simmering sun.

Or you may get more autumn for your senses in a 16-ounce 'Grande' further north.

But, in Connecticut, Virgina and the Northeast, you order your Fall in a 'Venti' cup, and yes, you'll take it topped with whipped cream. 20 ounces of glorious burnt orange, showers of leaves and lavish sights of lemon yellow fluttering beeches, the foliage resembling a flock of Morning Glory butterflies, ruby red maples, and amethyst witch hazels. Perhaps you'll dress in sweaters and boots while you nurse your toasty drink.

My brother, Pete and his new wife Terry, will enjoy this beverage on their honeymoon next week.

Meanwhile, down here on the 30.24N latitude with our air conditioners still running at 78 to keep us from sweating, we turn to the green lady logo with exploding hair to get our only dose of 'fall'

in a cup.

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