“If you could give one piece of advice to an adoptive parent, what would it be?”

Yesterday I woke up  hungry and late. My husband was home, the kids had no interest in going out – it was, literally, freezing, and so I decided to head off to Kripalu – a yoga/meditation center ten minutes from where I live. Why? Because they have a marvelous lunch.

I sat down at the only empty table, but within a minute was joined by two women. We started talking. One of the women lived in Illinois and had left corporate America to become a psycologist. The other was a teacher from Connecticut.

“Why are you at Kripalu?” the psycologist asks. 

“I’m a writer. I recently finished the first draft of my new book and am awaiting feedback. It’s an anxious time, so I am treating myself to lunch.”

“Have you written anything we might heard of?”

“My first book’s called The English American. It’s about an adopted English woman who finds her birth parents in the United States.”

I waited one second and – yes – there it was. “Oh,” said the teacher, “I’m about to adopt three siblings.”

This happens all the time. Almost everyone I meet knows an adoptee or a birth mother or is thinking about adopting a child – or their sister or their cousin is.

“If you could give one piece of advice to an adoptive parents what would it be?” the woman asked.

I looked carefully at her. She was an older woman, with a kind face and high expectations as to what her life will be like when the kids she’s adopting arrive in her house. I think of the kids and wonder how they will adjust to her set of rules and expectations and hopes and plans.

“I wrote a song,” I said. “I won’t sing it now, obviously, but here are the lyrics.. It’s the best answer to your question that I know how to give.”

When I was done she was smiling and she had tears in her eyes. “I get it,” she said.

“I’m glad you’re adopting then,” I said.

Then, sending a prayer up for the ‘three older siblings’ whose fate would be so closely tied with hers, I  headed off to get my second helping of seaweed salad, chicken soup and passion fruit tea.

CELEBRATE – Lyrics by Alison Larkin, Music by Gary Schriener.

To download Alison singing this song, go to I-Tunes or CD Baby

You’ve been waiting and waiting for your kid to arrive,
She is young, she’s been left all alone ,
And because you were number one on the list
It is with you that she’s going home

Your own Mom will now become the one she calls Grandma
Your crazy sister in Texas her Aunt,
And as the years pass you will find I am sure,
There are many things that you can do that she just can’t.

 But if your kid is nothing like you
Celebrate
Love him or her for who they are,
If you like math and she hates counting
If you’re fat and she is thin,
If you’ve always hated opera
And she really love to sing.

If she breaks your China,
Celebrate
It’s not your fault, it’s in her DNA
If she’s really good at sports
And you’ve always hated games
And you’re at your hundredth hockey match
It’s her genes that are to blame.

If she can’t shut up and all you want is silence in your house
It may be against her nature to be quiet as a mouse.
Don’t be angry or impatient just you wait
Remember that you child has her own genetic fate. 

So if she wants to be a poet
Celebrate
Don’t shake your head and say “God no!”
She didn’t choose you as her parent
She really needs to know,
That being who she is is A-Okay
You’ve got to tell her so!

 If your kid is nothing like you
Celebrate
If she drives you crazy
Celebrate!
She’s a kid and you’re her parent, help her be who she must be
Help her know that it’s okay!
That you love to hear her say!
You may be you,
But I am me!

Copyright Alison Larkin

www.alisonlarkin.com

 

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Kin

You know when you find your kin. Sometimes kin is related to you by blood, sometimes not. Sometimes you recognize your kin in the smile or words of a stranger. I think adopted people know immediately when we brush against our own kind. It’s a bit like feeling the breath of God – for a second – easing things.

The Singing Author – my very first blog – for Powell’s

As I’ve started to blog it occurs to me that I should post all of them. So here it is. My VERY first blog, written a year or so ago, for Powells.

The Singing Author

When The English American was published in Spring 2008, I was invited to give one of my very first talks at Powell’s, which was the perfect place for me to begin my tour. I felt immediately at home in the wonderful multi-story bookstore that reminded me of Foyles in London, where I used to spend my weekends browsing, long before I ever thought of writing a novel myself.

During that first talk at Powell’s, I told the audience of about 40 people that, like Pippa, the heroine of my novel, I was born in the U.S., adopted at birth into a happy English family, and raised in England. Then, when I was 28, I found my birth mother in America, moved to New York, and became a stand-up comic.Then, when I was 28, I found my birth mother in America, moved to New York, and became a stand-up comic.

“You went from being a serious actress and playwright to doing stand-up in NY? How did that happen?” came the first question.

Soon after I met my birth mother, in the throes of “I’ve just found out I’m really an American” euphoria, I found myself in a comedy club in NY.

“Hallo,” I said, in my very British accent, “my name is Alison Larkin and I come from Bald Mountain, Tennessee.”

People laughed, so I carried on: “I think everyone should be adopted. That way you can meet your birth parents when you’re old enough to cope with them.”

“As far as the side effects are concerned, the key to dealing with a fear of abandonment is to date people you don’t like, so if they do leave you, it doesn’t matterthe key to dealing with a fear of abandonment is to date people you don’t like, so if they do leave you, it doesn’t matter.”

When people discovered that I was actually telling the truth, they’d ask me, “What was it like meeting your ‘real’ parents?” To me, my ‘real’ parents were and always would be the parents who raised me.

So I wrote a one-woman show, to show them why this was true for me. I played a comedic version of myself, my ultra-English adoptive mother, and my American birth mother — her diametrical opposite. The show combined stand-up and theatre and led to CBS and ABC developing sitcoms for me to star in and a run in London.

It was heady, exciting stuff, but I knew I had still only touched the surface of the deeper, funnier story I wanted to tell one day. One which might help people understand, at a gut level, why someone from a happy adoptive family might feel the need to learn the truth about the people she came from. And how that journey might ultimately bring her closer to her adoptive parents — while answering key questions about her identity.

I finally found the right form for it when I figured out how to write a novel.

Even though The English American contains a universal love story that’s as much about the hilarities of the Anglo-American culture conflict as anything else, no one who has read my novel has ever suggested that Pippa’s adoptive parents are anything other than ‘real.’

That first talk at Powell’s was followed by my first Q and A. There were the usual questions about how much of the novel is fiction, how much isn’t — while the heroine’s emotional journey mirrors my own 100 percent, the rest is fiction.

Then a 40-year-old woman in the front row raised her hand and told me she too was adopted. Unlike myself, she was unable to find her birth mother owing to the fact that in all but seven U.S. states, adopted people are routinely denied access to their original birth certificates.Unlike myself, she was unable to find her birth mother owing to the fact that in all but seven U.S. states, adopted people are routinely denied access to their original birth certificates.

Knowing that 94% of birth mothers actually want contact, I stopped cracking jokes and listened to her story, which turned out to be the first of thousands of similar stories I have heard since.

The paperback of The English American is coming out November 17, and I’m off around the country on another book tour. I’ll be entertaining again. And I’ll be ready for the more serious questions.

Do I think that any human being should be denied the right to know the truth about their own genetic history? To hear my answer to that question, google Alison Larkin DNA song to hear me singing my DNA Song at the end of a keynote speech I gave earlier this year:

Who am I? It depends on when you ask.

‘To blog or not to blog?’

That is the question I’m pondering as I head out of Bizen – the best Japanese restaurant outside Tokyo – in my home town of Great Barrington, MA. ‘It might be fun,’ I say to myself,  ‘but on the other hand my time is tight.’

With two kids and a husband who can’t take over except at weekends, shouldn’t I devote my writing time to the second draft of my new novel?

The small mountain town in which I live is filled with delightful eccentrics  so I don’t pay much attention to the woman shouting half a block away.

My thoughts meander on. Do I have time to pick up a Paul Newman’s Four Cheese pizza from Price Chopper before getting the kids off the bus? Should I finish my short horror story for children – The Boy Who Watched Too Much Television. Should I agree to help someone I don’t know expand on her brilliant idea for a screenplay? If I do that will I get distracted from my book?

If I’m looking for distractions from my book, how about writing a blog?

I’m jolted out of my reverie by a woman with white frizzy hair standing right in front of me. She looks vaguely familiar and she’s laughing at me. What’s funny? Is my coat buttoned up wrongly? Did I spill something down the front?

“You’re the comedian!” the woman says.“I saw you performing at the Aegean Tuesday night.”

“Oh!” I say. “Right!”

A couple of weeks ago a new friend of mine was holding a Ladies night in a local Greek Restaurant to help launch a new business and asked if I’d tell a few jokes to warm things up.

“Sure,” I said. Apart from anything else, it was a great excuse to get away from writing Book Two and, besides, I love Falafel.

“You’re the comedian,” the woman in front of me says again.

“I used to be,” I say.

“You’re funny!” she says again, walking across Railroad street. “I love it! A comedian!”

I haven’t been called a comedian in awhile. But it is one of my identities. It certainly used to be. I started in stand-up soon after I found my Southern birth mother in the United States. I’d been an actress and a playwright in England, but when you’re adopted by Brits and find your birth mother in Tennessee what else do you do?

Talking about the experience – comedically – I became a regular at the Comic Strip in New York and the Comedy Store in LA, with jokes like “I’ve always thought of infidelity as wrong, but if my birth father had not cheated on his wife, I wouldn’t exist. So if there are any couples here tonight having an extra marital affair, I encourage you to breed.”

I wrote a one woman comedy about my adoption and reunion. It was a highlight of the London Comedy Festival and it led to sit-com development deals with Jim Henson Productions, CBS and ABC tv. I did comic voices for tv shows and movies in LA. I made it on to the back cover of Variety. Comic An Evening with Alison Larkin performances have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity around the world.

Then I had kids and my identity changed from comedian to a Mom who had fallen head over heels in love with the first genetic relatives she had ever lived with. Not wanting to miss a minute with them I looked around for something to do that wouldn’t take me away from them at night.

When my book The English American came out, I was referred to as a novelist. When it was optioned for the movies, a screenwriter. When Audible hired me to narrate the Arthur Ransome series, I became an audio book narrator.

“You’re the Mom of a fifth grader,” a friend said to me this morning. “Of course you get everything wrong.”

Right now, I’m a blogger. Tomorrow morning I’ll be a skier. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be a Mom and a friend. Next week, when I start work on the second draft of Book Two, I’ll be a novelist.

And in April when I perform “Lunch with Alison Larkin” at an adoption conference in MA, I’ll be a comedian again.