Return to Current Issue Cover Page

Image for Body, Blood, and Adoption   
PROSPECT PARK CAROUSEL
Original photo courtesy of BRIDGEANDTUNNELCLUB.COM 

Body, Blood,
and
Adoption


Transubstantiation

In the evolving darkness of the oceanic blue-white sky, I twist my gaze upward to the universe, point to the moon, and tell my daughter, mėnulis. As I carry her little body, she turns her oval, alabaster face to the cosmos in an eager quickness, dangles her finger forward, and utters in response to my syllables of comforting familiarity, didelis (big). All of this takes place in a moment, and while the word moon is delightful, listen to the long, drawn-out, rotundity of mėnulis didelis. First there is feeling, an experience, the groan and cleft of utterance, and then meaning evolves into understanding.

For our daughter, who only weeks before had been cold in an orphanage in Vilnius, Lithuania, such a discovery of realizing one’s warm world anew through another language, a process of translation that has occurred repeatedly for different peoples and ethnic groups over centuries, must be accelerated and happen in months.

We are asked to believe in something, anything; yet, when I tell people, who in conversation imply that my daughter is a separate entity because she is adopted, when I say that she is now of my flesh and of my blood (kūno kraujas) they look at me with disbelieving, opaque, plate-glass eyes. Like the Apostle Thomas, they want not to believe unless they can touch. They desperately want to say (obvious in their consternation), “How can this child be yours if she did not come from your body?”

Here am I, and here is she, and we are as one and you can touch us as a unit. Feel my wounds and know she is of me. We have created a likeness to Kucia, her true and not biological parents, a geometrical unity that translates beyond biological reproduction; there is also adaptation and osmosis. We have become one by virtue of bio-spiritual processes, the creation of a family by melding together tangents. By osmosis (and the touching of external layers) Kucia has literally become part of our flesh and blood and bone, not by virtue of bio but through the human metaphysics of logos.

Consubstantiation

11 September 2001. Kucia cozily nested in Peace Daycare, my wife at work, downtown Manhattan, within blocks of the World Trade Center. By now, each day has become a triangular circuit, an invisible electrical synapse spiritually connecting us as mother-daughter-father while we move about in separate places. The course of each day would pull at us, savagely wanting to tear.

Jarred from my work by a disturbing telephone call, the terror is real in my wife’s fear, her concern for our new daughter. The terror rattles my concern for my wife’s safety. How can she escape and return home, to complete the circuit that has now been interrupted. Now we are separate and separated.

Down along the dust-dirty streets of lower Manhattan, a shroud of soot penetratingly thick, she wanders in desperate tears of expectation, the Baltic amber beacon of her daughter’s face guiding her. The city collapses around; the end is near, palatable, choking. New shoes prove ineffective and are abandoned to the rubble and remains of others’ shoes lost in the rush of the madding crowd; she walks in sponge-foam sandals hastily grabbed from a street vendor. Descent into the maelstrom of hell. For this she has labored in pain for over three years, waiting and fighting for her daughter. Anger. Is her life now to end, just as her daughter’s begins? Despair.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, Whitman’s child of two boroughs, span of ages past-present-future, she bears witness to the collapsing end and reckons in the falling pebble of one second her daughter. A small stone dropped from aloft into the rushing waters below. Gone. Fears of an exploding bridge—the massive crowd throbs backward to crush her in the noontime shadow—but fortitude and hope recover the amber-image face, the Lithuanian butterfly aloft for which she reaches. The moment is not lost, and she is transfigured body and soul across the bridge, walking for hours, bloody-blistered feet, her face and hair and clothes encrusted with the ashes of all that remains of those lost that day. She is ferried by faith and adrenalin to be reunited with us.

Faith

Ultimately one grasps, feelingly and intellectually, the geometry of life, the inevitable juncture of the puzzled shapes and parts. Carousel, Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Outside the octagonal-shaped structure there are fuliginous thunder-clouds that lean their roaring opaque weight, while inside, the giant wheel turns in soft but rapid revolutions to the gentle tapping of percussive music. Stiff, bright lines of éclat sere the sky in crashing jolts, rivet downward, and then the music of nature crushes the gay rhythm of miniature cymbals and diminutive drums.

Like a giant sunflower (saulėgraža) we are round and colorful and revolve. Kucia, my wife, and I are on the wooden horses, we who have braved the threatening day, our faces wet from rain blasted in through the large-opened doors, our faces lit by the lambent incandescent bulbs, our faces pellucid and shook with sudden gleams of lightning. The agonized expressions of the brightly painted horses, Jung’s symbols of transformation, teeth twisted and mouths contorted in the wild August thunderstorm, the frosted-hair operator of the great machine-wheel like a madman from Oz, all sounds and movements invigorating the smell of ozone biting freshly through our nostrils to penetrate our muscles.

The rounded curving motion of the great carousel flows without cessation, while we, wild with giddy laughter, in the surreal afternoon of crackling, electric atmosphere, refulgent sunshine super-charged with magnificent electric rhythms in the sky, become for a moment a great wheel of connected life and light, preternatural at present, yet reaching to the future. This nearly mythological moment governed by the Lithuanian lightning god Perkūnas is granted to us again and again in memory as a symbolic awakening, as a blessed sign of happy events and warm feelings preserved and to come.

Copyright © 2007 by Gregory F. Tague

divider

Gregory F. TagueGregory writes:
"Body, Blood, and Adoption" was inspired by a number of events during the course of less than one year: In early 2001, my wife and I finally, after a three-year struggle, brought home from Lithuania our three-year-old daughter, destined to connect with her in deeply spiritual ways; then the events of 9/11, when my wife, working in downtown Manhattan, not only had to witness the tragedy but also, terrified, had to walk home over the Brooklyn Bridge nearly convinced that her life was to end before she had spent one year with her daughter. The spectacular carousel ride at the end is true, too.

Gregory F. Tague, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, St. Francis College (NY). As a scholar, in addition to individually published essays, he has written two books: Character And Consciousness: George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence (Academica Press, 2005), and Ethos And Behavior: The English Novel From Jane Austen to Henry James (Academica Press, 2007). As a literary writer, Gregory's nonfiction essays have appeared (or are forthcoming) in notable journals such as: St. Francis College Review (2000); Lituanus (2002); Mars Hill Review (2003); The Midwest Quarterly (2004; Jan. 2009); The Healing Muse: A Journal of Literary and Visual Arts (2006); and The Arabesques Review (2006).

Return to Nonfiction index