To Whom It May Concern

I got two emails from Ruth at the beginning of the month, two in a week, which is pretty unusual—the first to confirm that I will write them a letter of recommendation, the second to send me guidelines. I was a little sad about getting guidelines, since I had a pretty good plan in place for the letter, but I am slooowly adapting.

The guidelines include a list of points to address, one of those being “How would you feel about placing your child, or one you are personally interested in, with the applicants?” It seems likely that I’m not reading this question the way that it’s meant to be read; my first response was along the lines of “I would have lost my child, I would be heartbroken, why on earth are you asking me this?” I then decided not to answer it at all—now I’ve written a new response that sort of indirectly addresses the point, and I’m deciding whether to leave it in. My answer talks about how Mr. Book and I regret the adoption, but that seeing what great parents Ruth and Nora are is the silver lining. I don’t think Ruth or Nora will ever read the letter, but of course it’s possible that they’ll end up hearing details from it. I’ve decided that I’m okay with that, I asked Mr. Book and he’s okay with that—but ideally, of course, they won’t. I know that they don’t want to know, and I can’t really blame them. I also want to leave it in because I think it explains the conspicuous absence of “I am so happy with our open adoption” or “I’m so glad that I placed my son with the applicants.” On the other hand, I don’t want to ambush Ruth or Nora, so I’m open to advice.

I have to send this letter by the end of the month. I have a draft finished, I’ve tinkered with it a bit, but it still sounds a bit stilted. Go figure. I assume I’ll get another email from Ruth sometime this week reminding me of the deadline. My mom asked whether Mr. Book couldn’t write the letter instead, and I said that he couldn’t, because he doesn’t like them at all; it’s so weird that this is where we’ve ended up.

I Didn’t Start the Fire

Mr. Book and I have been participating in an adoption study since last May, when Cricket was tiny—so far we’ve each had two long interviews in person and one short, mail-in interview in between. The last one wasn’t long ago, and I’ve been waiting to write about it mostly because I wanted to see whether I’d feel differently about it after a couple of weeks. Not so much, it turns out.

Ruth, Nora, and Cricket also are taking part; from what Ruth tells me, I think they mostly have Cricket play specific kinds of games in their interviews. For birthparents, the interviews are a little different: we answer insulting personal questions for just over three hours at a stretch. We also take an intelligence test at the end. The questions assume some pretty unpleasant things about people who place kids for adoption, which I really should have guessed when they started each interview by handing me a printout of a couple of dozen crisis hotline numbers; gosh, researcher, now I know where to go if I ever need STD testing or rehab ASAP. Not that those have ever been concerns of mine. But really, thanks for the thought. The questions go in series something like this:

Have you ever started fires for fun or to hurt someone?

How many times have you started fires to hurt someone?

What was the last time you started a fire to hurt someone?

Have you ever been arrested for starting fires?

One a scale from one to ten, how much has your tendency to start fires interfered with: your personal life; your work life; your relationships?

—I probably shouldn’t defend myself, but I haven’t been arrested, committed any crimes, gotten addicted to anything, or otherwise shown myself to be a bad seed. But thanks for asking! For three hours. The other hard part of the interview is that if, say, I admitted to having panic attacks, the interviewer asks how many panic attacks I’ve had in my life. I have no idea, of course—she tells me to make a guess. I say “Twenty,” and then almost immediately realize that that number is way off, that I had more than twenty in a two-month period that one year in college, and how do I answer when she’s asking how many of those are due to: work-related stress; personal stress; no visible cause? Um, I guess I should try to get the proportions correct even though the total is way off! Okay, so…. And so on. The money we got for participating was enough to pay for our car insurance, so I can’t really regret doing it, but being interviewed in the morning really ruined the rest of my day. I was pretty sure that we were done after the last interview, but we got a letter in the mail a week later letting us know that our next contact would be another mailed interview in September. And we’ll each get twenty dollars for that. And we’ll do it.