Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Rescuer’s Path



I was 27 when I became pregnant, while seeking to open myself up to new people and new ways of life and love, and to stop the war in Viet Nam, during the late-1960s antiwar movement in Berkeley, California. I was working for an “underground” newspaper, covering the “peace beat” so my skills might be of use to saving lives, when a brave, flamboyant, handsome, and utterly committed activist came in one evening with a story of an “action” he was doing, and I let myself throw off all barriers and took him, for our brief time, to my heart.

The “rabbit test” came back positive on the same day “our” country first bombed Hanoi and Haiphong. This was a time of massacre and war—yet also, in this country, in our Movement this was, as well, a time of hope and change. And, among us, there was no shame to being pregnant—to the contrary—though there was fear, of course, to be pregnant and alone.

I came to great new self-esteem in recognition of my love for others, in this time, and the loves and hopes of those days are now twined in my soul. But I did not yet understand that a woman alone can indeed raise her child. So, believing this for his sake, I gave my child for adoption; like so many of us, I believed that adopting parents would be nearly perfect.

And then, I determined, I would go on, "as if." Just like the Movement's "as if"—to make a better world by acting as if that world was already present and was possible.

Only, my child wasn't with me.

But he was out there.

Many years later, I had another child. It was a different time, the women’s movement had crescendoed, and I raised him on my own.

Many years after that, on the cusp of another war (the first U.S. war on Iraq), the adoption agency sent a letter, rather vague and formal, noting that I had, when my child was 18, sent a letter indicating I would like to meet him if he came searching. Enclosed with their note was a "waiver form" and explanation that "waiver forms signed and notarized by each party is necessary before identifying information can. . ." There was no indication given as to why they were writing at this moment.

So I went all over town searching for a notary, signed and got notarized the form, mailed it with hands I told myself weren’t trembling, and waited. And after that, piece by piece, the colors came back into my world. And he did, my first son.

He was, and is, whole and well raised; he is intelligent, sensitive, empathetic, a joy. I love him, and I love my other son, whole now after the long struggle to get past the harder struggles of a working-class, single-parent upbringing in a far harder period.

These are good kids. They love me—love that makes me joyous to my very heart. And, old lady that I am, I still lift up my green peace-sign banner and stand out upon the roadways with their peers—and mine—of Occupy and the long, continuing, nonviolent struggle for a better, peaceful world.


Paula Friedman teaches fiction and memoir writing in Hood River, Oregon, and edits books for university and trade presses. She founded and managed the collective literary magazine The Open Cell and has run poetry readings and writers workshops in the Bay Area, Paris, and elsewhere, and has recently compiled an anthology of West Coast Jewish women’s poetry. Active in peace and justice issues, she received the 2006 award of the Columbia River Fellowship for Peace. Paula Friedman’s honors include Pushcart Prize nominations and New Millenium Writings, OSPA, as well as Centrum and Soapstone residencies and fellowships. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous print and online literary magazines and anthologies. See her website: http://www.paula-friedman.com

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