Today it was the tutor we've hired to teach us ASL. She walked into my house, and while I was meeting her for the first time, she not only knew my daughter, but she also knew her story, and therefore part of my story.
It's hard to know how to react to that. On some level I wanted to ask her things about my child that I don't know, that surely this stranger must: what was she like at 3 years old, did she have any pictures of her from the birthday parties she attended or the school gatherings she took part in. I was also tempted to question her on the birth family that I don't know, but is forever entwined with my family.
But, I can't ask any of those questions. How, as a mother, do I ask a stranger intimate details about my own child. My child, who has spent less than half her life in my arms. My child, who I feel like I know so well, but have known for so short a time. I just smile, say (or rather, attempt to sign) how strange it is, and carry on with the intention of our meeting.
Yet, here I sit, hours later, still thinking about her, and about the relationships that my daughter had before she was mine. How do I honor that past, when I know so little about it? How do I help her understand her path, when I've not been walking beside her all along?
Do you know what I do? I try my hardest to keep a safe place in our home for those memories and years that we weren't together. Despite not being together, the time before the adoption in both our families belong to all of us. The memories I have of my past are collective memories that she gets to share, and the sweet, and increasingly fleeting, memories that she has of her life before foster care I hold sacredly for her, so that when she needs them, they will be around.