Finalization

The freakishly severe cold weather couldn’t dampen her mood today.

April 8, 2001
There was an article in the local paper’s magazine/tabloid about Ray Liotta, the actor, who was adopted and who met his birth mom years later.

He grew up with parents who supported and encouraged his acting but said he needed to find his roots.

He said when he was younger he felt like damaged goods, which crushed Tara to hear. He maintained that being adopted affected me since he was a child. He was always searching for family.

He lived in an orphanage till the age of six when his adoptive parents got him. When he was three he got to “pick out” his little sister, also an adopted child.

Ben was also three.

Liotta got to travel the world as he and his sister got older and when he needed his dad he was always there.
He never forgot about being an adopted child, however. But meeting his birth mom helped him to finally understand the circumstances surrounding his adoption. Meeting his birth mom helped him to appreciate how the opportunities afforded him by being adopted helped him become a success.

Now a dad himself, his daughter is the first offspring of his family tree.

It was good that the interview went full circle regarding his meeting his birth mom and didn’t just leave it at “damaged goods.”

Tara was relieved when she finished reading it.

April 15, 2001
Easter Sunday
Tara didn’t know how she was going to sleep tomorrow night, the night before she was to see MacKenzie at the finalization of the adoption.

That morning Tara got an email from Veronica:

“We think of you always, even more as Tuesday draws closer,” Veronica wrote. “We just love you and ache for you and your decision. My joy in being Veronica’s mom is bittersweet as I know being without her causes you pain. I want to constantly reassure you that she is so very loved and cherished. Always.

We had a good Easter. Everyone at church commented on how cute Ben and MacKenzie looked. She wore a flowered dress, pale green with pink and yellow flowers with matching shoes/hair band, and cream colored hose. The Easter Bunny brought her a big stuffed bunny with baby bunnies in the front and a pull toy dog that barks and wags his tail and also a Barbie doll that she’s too young forâÂ?¦A couple at church brought her a stuffed rabbit also. I took pictures outside today, so hopefully some of them will turn out well for you to have copies.

In regard to Tuesday, the playground sounds like a great idea as Ben will be ready to run and we can bring a blanket for MacKenzie to show off for you. She’s sitting for long periods of time and scooting backwards – not quite crawling yet, but she’ll get there.

Thank you so much for the kind words and reassurance that you’re happy that we’re MacKenzie’s parents. I worry about you and just want you to be happy and have a good life. I too don’t want her to know what it’s like to be hungry or to struggle. I will try to remember to watch the Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Barbara Walters Special’ (on adoption).

I can’t wait to see you Tuesday! I’m not sure who all will be with us as my mom doesn’t want to intrude. My brother and sister-in-law are coming into town and I’ve invited them, but I think they want just us to have this time together.”

Earlier Tara went over to a friend’s for Easter dinner. She thought about MacKenzie all day and wondered what she thought of her first Easter and how she looked. She bet everyone made a fuss over her.

April 17, 2001
Tara got to see MacKenzie for the first time since Placement Day. Tara spent the night the night before with Susan so she didn’t miss Veronica’s call from the courthouse after the hearing.

Tara had kept waking up throughout the night but not because she was sad but because she was excited. It was like the night before Christmas. She tried to imagine what MacKenzie would look like and pictured her babbling baby talk. She couldn’t wait to see her.

That morning Tara got the call an hour early. It seemed they had finished up. She looked out and saw that a cold front had come in and it was sprinkling outside. Too bad, they had planned to go to the playground and take pix, the same one where they had placement.

She met them for breakfast instead. Driving there, she tried not to daydream and stay focused on the road. A cop was behind her and she prayed she didn’t get a ticket. Veronica’s brother, sister-in-law, Frank, Ben, and Veronica’s sister, and best friend were there. Veronica’s mother-in-law wasn’t able to make it.

Tara walked in with her usual bag of gifts and they exchanged presents as always. When she walked up to the table she didn’t see MacKenzie at first. Veronica was changing her in the bathroom.

Everyone welcomed her and Tara sat down after shaking everyone’s hands. She got to meet Veronica’s brother and his wife, MacKenzie’s godparents.

Then, she saw MacKenzie, coming toward her in Veronica’s arms, happy and laughing.

Veronica smiled at Tara and they hugged as she handed MacKenzie to her to hold.

MacKenzie was dressed all in pink with pink tennis shoe laces and a pink headband. She laughed and smiled all through breakfast. Veronica said MacKenzie waved to people all through court and was a Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½perfect angel.’ Ben had sat with MacKenzie on the podium during the hearing and the judge congratulated Veronica and Frank.

Veronica’s best friend came in late and greeted Tara with tears in her eyes.

“It is such an honor to meet you,” she said, hugging her. “I feel like I know you already. I’ve heard so much about you.”

“You, too,” Tara said.

MacKenzie stretched out in Tara’s arms, smiled, laughed, played with her hair, looked at the lights, played with her necklace and held her own foot.

Tara held her three times throughout breakfast and exchanged gifts. MacKenzie’s new pictures were beautiful. She looked good in anything.

She was mostly in pink when her pix were taken.

Frank was about to fall asleep because he’d pulled an all-nighter at work and only got three hours sleep. Tara knew after breakfast that that would be the end of their visit. But she was okay with it.

They asked each other questions and gave each other updates. MacKenzie smiled up at Tara often and played with a teething ring.

Frank lifted MacKenzie up and tickled her repeatedly and Tara thought of how her own dad would do that. But then the memory was overshadowed by the knowledge of his abuse.

Tara was so glad MacKenzie was getting a second chance.

MacKenzie now played with Frank’s watch and soon it was time to go.

“I’ll send you some more pictures,” Veronica promised and MacKenzie looked at Tara for a brief moment, seeming to make a connection with her.

People passed by and remarked about how cute MacKenzie was.

Tara helped Veronica and Frank carry everything out to the car and walked behind MacKenzie who was facing her in her carrier.

As Tara followed along behind MacKenzie, she saw her smile and laugh at her and each step she made forward, MacKenzie was making away from her, in Frank’s arms, laying in her carrier, playing with her toy, perfectly content.

And Tara was at peace.

They waved to each other and she kissed Tara on the cheek.

Tara was so glad MacKenzie didn’t cry when she held her.

MacKenzie now answered to Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½pretty girl,’ a tactic Veronica and Frank used to get her to smile when they took pictures of her since she didn’t like getting her picture made at first.

They loaded into the van and Veronica gave Tara a hug goodbye. Tara told Frank bye and she walked to her car, feeling good, knowing that she had left a real family.

It was MacKenzie’s family now, a safe, secure, happy family, full of love and support from many friends and relatives.

Tara knew so many people would love MacKenzie and she’d grow up to be so whole.

They followed behind her till they got on the highway, then they passed her, going to another exit as she took a closer one.

As she watched them pass her by she felt good. It was so different than Placement Day when she was a wreck.

She was truly happy for MacKenzie now. She was one of those birth moms who were at peace with their decision.

At last.
Now all the agony she had been in for months seemed so strange to look back on, like a foreign memory. It seemed weird to be sad about such a happy situation.

And she realized she was no longer sad about it because there wasn’t anything sad about the adoption any more.

MacKenzie made her want to be a better person.

The whole visit was only two hours and she could’ve gone into work even though Tara took the whole day off. But she decided not to and to just enjoy the time.

She didn’t know if she’d see MacKenzie again till she was 18 but she hoped so. Only this time she didn’t cling to that fantasy like a life preserver to a drowning person.

It was more like saying goodbye to a friend that you may or may not see again.

And it was okay.

Tara opened up the letter in the card Veronica wrote her and began reading:

“Well I just emailed you but I couldn’t get my thoughts together enough to say everything I wanted to. I’m at work now in triage which is surely the only place where you’ve given a breather from time to time. This card is so perfect because not a day goes by that I don’t think of you and Frank and I speak of you several times a week.

We continue to be in awe that you chose us, mere mortals; to raise your daughter. When I think of all the couples who have huge houses, lots of money, extensive education; we are so lucky/blessed to be chosen.

When I say we think of you I really mean it. I am constantly wondering how you’re doing, how your job is. I always worry that we won’t be worthy of your faith in us. A faith/a gift you’ve bestowed on us to raise your daughter. Speaking of worthy, there’s a hymn in church about being worthy of God’s love. He loves us no matter what, so when you say you feel unclean, that is true of all of us. Now I’m not the most religious person in the world but certainly am convinced that God was hard at work by providing not one, but two wonderful children for me to be a mother to. I am in awe that God brought us together with you. Had (has) a plan all along.

I love you very much.”
Tara wrote back:

“Dear Veronica,
That was the sweetest letter you put in my card. Your words meant a lot to me. I chose you because you were the best couple for MacKenzie. Lots of money and material things as well as education don’t mean anything if you don’t have love. I went out for a breather after watching the “Barbara Walters Special (on adoption). One of the birth moms from the Gladney support group has offered to scan any pix that birth moms want done to put on a disk of just to have for us.”

April 18, 2001
“Just wanted to check and see how you are and if you had a good afternoon/night,” Veronica wrote. “I was worried about you and hoping you weren’t alone yesterday afternoon and night. I was so glad to see you. You look great and were so calm and gracious to everyone.

They loved you. My sister says she saw you when you walked in and MacKenzie is the exact image of you. She thinks she would’ve recognized you anywhere!

I put the books you gave MacKenzie in her room on the bottom shelf of her changing table with the others. I’m so glad they acted well yesterday. Especially Ben, being three, you just never know what he’ll do. I’m really grateful that MacKenzie was so happy and alert most of the time. I would’ve liked to spend more time with you; sorry it was kind of rushed.

We’re planting a garden. Just a small one with carrots, lettuce, beans, onions, one tomato plant, and cucumbers. We had a huge garden when I was growing up. I still remember watering it all the time, all the lizards, but especially getting to pick fresh veggies for supper. I plan to park MacKenzie on the patio in her exersaucer to watch Ben and I plant and water. Then when she’s older they can plant and I’ll supervise.

Please email me when you can and tell me how you’re doing.”

April 22, 2001
Tara got an email from Veronica two days after the “Barbara Walters Special” aired about adoption:

“I cried and cried (about the show),” Veronica wrote. “MacKenzie kept looking at me like Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½What’s the deal with you?’

We talk about how special they are, especially at night as I want them to know from an early age how lucky they are. I kind of feel sorry for Ben because I doubt he will ever have a relationship with his birth mom just because of her problems. She’s always in a crisis situation and unable to really care for others as she’s trying to learn to care for herself. Anyway, it will be a challenge to explain why MacKenzie is so lucky to have a birth mom who cares so much, yet his story is different.

My whole family watched the show. We had my mom’s birthday today after church and they were all talking about the show so I couldn’t wait to get home and watch the tape Frank made. I’m so glad you’re doing well. I got the pictures developed (from Finalization) and they turned out really well. You look so happy and relaxed. I will send those to you soon as well as some extras of MacKenzie in the chair with the little hat on. I hope you’re loving your apartment and getting it fixed like you want it.”

April 26, 2001
Veronica wrote Tara:
“Just had to write and tell you that we got MacKenzie in the Jacuzzi today. She loved it!! She tried to jump from my arms she was so excited. Now Ben loved the water at her age, but never like this. She laughed and laughed. Thankfully this year Ben can touch the bottom so doesn’t require as much supervision. Frank and I both got in and are reluctant to get them both in alone. Anyway, she splashed and squealed. I should have taped it but when I remembered I was too wet but I will do it next time. Frank wants me to buy her a pink baby inner tube.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know she adores the water!

I leave in the morning for Florida for the weekend. I’m looking forward to it but dread leaving my kids. I’ve never left them before. It’s hard for me to go to work even though they sleep the entire time I’m gone. This will be a long time! Actually I think I’m afraid they won’t miss me as they both love their dad. I already have little gifts for them for when I return home.”

April 30, 2001
MacKenzie got her first two teeth. At first they thought it was only one.

Veronica assured Tara she wanted to get journal entries over email even though some were sad. She said she really did like reading them.
“I think of you constantly at the weirdest times and wonder what you’re doing and how you are. Nothing to forgive you for!” Veronica said. “I just read your December journal entries of your post-adoption journal. I hope and pray that things are much better. I knew of course that Christmas would be terribly hard for you but the journal reinforced what I figured. Please, please tell me things are better now. I just love you so much and want your happiness.”

“How exciting! She got her first tooth!” Tara wrote Veronica. “I felt guilty about sending you that post adoption journal and started not to. I really don’t want to make you feel bad. But I knew I’d also written some good stuff in it. And there’s more to come. The January entries you’ll get soon are much better, I promise.”

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