Those who seek to adopt and those who have adopted don’t want to read about unsuccessful adoption stories or hear from adult adoptees who are at odds with their fate of having been given up for adoption. It’s easy to understand why that’s so. After all, parenting is the one science for which there are no guidelines. My childhood, as the only black pearl among white ones in Guatemala City, was undoubtedly a happy one.
Going to town with my parents was always a special occasion for me, especially when Vati, my German father, allowed me to tag along and keep him company while Mutti was at the beauty parlor. Sometimes we’d go to a cafe where delectable European pastries were offered. Those visits when I was five, six or seven years old remain a fixture in my memory. The Cafe was called La Casita. The delectable pastries were rolled by on a cart for the guests to select. Typically, the fare was chocolaty, or filled with nuts, the sort adults prefer. When I was really small,a few items were added to the cart for me. Invariably my choice was a green frog filled with pink raspberry cream; I can still taste the flavors as they melded in my mouth. Once I chose a swan made of baisers and whipped cream, only because it was all white and looked so immaculately perfect. When the pastry cart was rolled away with the little green frog still on it, I felt like a traitor. I wish I could remember the owner’s names; I know they were German Jews and I remember them as very refined and kind. I return with fondness to those times as I’m driving through the Arizona landscape and Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik comes on. The title has “little” in it, so I thought it was a melody for children… a melody for me. (I also thought Beethoven’s Für Elise was mine because I’d been told it was written for a little girl.) Such were the gentle tunes that floated into the ether as we sat in La Casita and Vati and refreshed himself with a cup of coffee and a lemonade with a bright red Maraschino cherry at the bottom accompanied my cake.
What makes memories of my childhood so pleasurable is that I always felt, in spite of my young years, that I was treated like an adult. People did not ask me silly questions with obvious answers. The owners of La Casita, for instance, remembered what I had told them the previous time they had seen me. They showed interest in knowing if I’d finished the handicraft I’d been working on, and if my friends and I still stopped traffic on the Reforma to race our bikes. They took the time to engage me and listen to what I had to say. In caring for my opinions and listening to me was treating me like an adult.
Having a happy childhood is never based on the amount of things to play with, or how many activities can be crammed into a day. Seems to me, part of a happy childhood is being listened to, really listened to in a meaningful way.