The Fox at Dawn


April 11 One of my lilacs is starting to bloom, my mother’s day gift some years back. The red buds are in their full glory, the jonquils are about done, some of the dogwoods are blooming or just about to bloom. There is no turning back from spring now.

J seems to me to be much better. She is coming back to herself. Happy even. She is playing music again and making music video edits. She is not horrible. She eats spontaneously, makes good meals for herself without being prompted. Still hyper body conscious and obsessed with how she looks. But happier. I am holding my breath, waiting for the blow, but another day goes by and the blow doesn’t come.

She is going to graduate.

We are planning a family graduation party. I find I have to convince myself that it is all really happening. Four months ago this did not seem possible. But it is.

April 20th Whoosh whoosh whoosh. J & I have been to Bowling Green. We spent the day at Western Kentucky’s orientation. All year I’ve felt that I was behind, a day late and a dollar short no matter how hard I’ve worked. I’ve been plagued with uneasiness that I’ve left really important things undone, that I’ve messed up, that I’m about to be called out, sent down to the principal’s office. I went down to Bowling Green worried that we’ve missed some important step that would cost us dearly, worried that I’d be hit with a sudden huge financial obligation I could not meet, or that the tuition bill would be far more than anyone could afford, least of all me. But no. We were treated like queens. I had done all I needed to do, so had J. We were made so welcome there, pulled into a new family. She already has her school ID, her class schedule, has met her advisor. We bought college sweatshirts. The school is so beautiful, so student centered, so safe. I feel in my heart that she will love it. She is a Hilltopper now and she feels proud of herself for the first time in a long time. In a few short months I’ll be dropping her off and driving home alone.

It all goes so very fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.

April 1, 2019

The first glimpse I had of my daughter came with the letter informing me that I had been matched with this baby, if I chose to accept her. Two small photographs of Chang Meng Ai at six months of age, a deeply worried baby whose name, given by the orphanage, means ‘dreaming of love’. No baby should look so worried. I’m sure the photographer was even trying to make her smile, after all, these photos were to advertise her as a good candidate for adoption. Smile baby, smile, no one wants a sad baby.

She had that worried look seven months later when the elevator door opened to release into the hotel lobby all the orphaned girls held by their caregivers. They stepped out, names were called, and one at a time we rushed up to receive our girl- which is mine? Is that her? It’s her, my daughter. That very first embrace. I can still smell her sweet fragrance in that blue onesie with the ghost bib. I cried, she cried. I was crying with happiness and overwhelming love. Perhaps she was crying from fear. She was thirteen months old and had passed through many arms. I wanted more than anything to let her know that mine would not let go.

All these years later, I find I am still trying to convince her. Failure is not exactly the word I feel. Daunted. Helpless. Seventeen years of loving her with all my might, putting her first in every consideration, protecting and nurturing and teaching her in every way I can is not enough to stop up that chasm inside her. Fear rises up through it like a sea monster spewing poison- you are not lovable, you don’t fit in, you are different, you are not beautiful, you are fat, your body needs to be thinner, only then will your boyfriend love you, only then will you not be left behind, your life is worthless, your mother would be happier without you. So cruel, those lies. And there are moments, almost whole days, when she knows them to be lies but then the sun goes down, or her boyfriend doesn’t respond or her mother is sick and nothing on earth seems more true to her. Drama, wild swings of happiness and wretchedness, self harm, anger, ugliness, tears.

Borderline Personality Disorder is the new name of the beast she is trying to learn to ride. Her eating disorder is an outgrowth of it, a lovely little perk you get along with it. She begins work with a new doctor soon. Meanwhile it is life on The Scrambler, for her, for me, for anyone who loves her. Dreaming of love, it is the hardest thing to love oneself.