Given my dream to become a mom, I had the final part of my ovary removed at 21 and soon after I registered with an adoption agency. While I wasn't ready to be a mom at 21, I also knew that the process was a long, drawn out process and I wanted to have a child in my life, so I figured I would start the process early.
At 25 I still had not received even one call from the first agency, and so I signed up with another agency, Adoption Star, which was out of Buffalo and was at that time a new agency. I connected with the owner of Adoption Star upon one of our first phone calls. As an adoptive parent who was out of the Buffalo area by the agencies requirements I had to be open to a biracial or African American child, and my biggest concern at the time was whether it was fair to adopt a child of a different race as a single person and then raise that child in the Jewish faith. The owner of the agency shared her story with me of her African American son who she was raising Jewish and shared that while it wasn't always easy, he was thriving and she encouraged me to be open minded. As I was surrounded by a strong community I registered with Adoption Star and soon after I received the call that Matthew had been born and needed a family.
I was just finishing up my first Friday at summer camp when the call came in. I remember leaving work quickly and driving to my parents house, I came in the front door and quickly started crying, "I'm too young to be a mom. I'm not ready". (odd sentiments from someone who had actively pursued parenthood for over 4 years at that time). My mom and dad and I talked through the realities, the challenges and then went shopping for all that was needed should Matthew be placed with me. On Saturday morning my dad and I then drove to Buffalo to meet with someone from Adoption Star to sign the paperwork. As long as all went well, we were then to drive to New Jersey on Sunday to meet Matthew.
My grandmother and great Aunt were coming to town that Saturday, but my dad and I had to drive to Buffalo. We ended up meeting them and my mom at a restaurant for dinner after our drive. I will never forget, my Great Aunt Sarah gave me a gift of awesome baby overalls and we talked and shared my excitement over dinner. I was amazed even then that my grandma and my aunt barely batted an eye as I shared that Matthew was African American and we did not yet know his HIV status. To these two women who were over 80 years old they had to be just shocked that this was happening, however to me all they shared was excitement and eagerness to meet my son.
As 80 year old women they had been adults at a different time in our country. I am certain that my grandmother was very worried about the struggles I would face having Matthew join our family as an African American child. However, while she shared some worries, from the minute she met Matthew he was her great grandson. She supported him and loved him from the start and welcomed his as a Bloom. To me this was always one of the biggest gifts my grandmother gave me. So many would have questioned my sanity. They would have wondered aloud what in the world was going on- I was single, working in child care and only 25 years old. She would have had every right to express her shock at my life choices, but instead Matthew was immediately her great grandson and as her granddaughter I was supported and loved!
As Matthew grew and his struggles became more apparent my grandma's love for Matthew continued to grow. She worried as he was a 10-12 year old who was really struggling but shared in every joy as he became a young teenager. When she learned that Matthew was mainstreaming in school she called me with such pride in her voice. To me he had succeeded in mainstreaming for art, but I wanted more. To her it was as if he was mainstreaming and thriving in calculus! She was so proud at how far he had come.
When in the past few years he got a job and started mowing lawns she continued to beam. Every single step in life that he made forward allowed her to brag on him more and more. She was so proud of the young, caring, kind man he was becoming. She always questioned what his future would look like and how he would grow to live independently but took such pride in every step forward he made.
Yesterday, on his 17th birthday, I stopped to think about how proud she would be of him. He is working as a maintenance person at a Jewish summer camp and truly thriving. He gets on the bus each day with happiness and comes home each night to tell me of the lawn he mowed, or the window he helped fix. He is learning skills and feeling pride at all that he is accomplishing. He is surrounded by the Jewish singing of the campers, and is working hard to play drums in the shabbat band at camp, he has found a place where he feels such pride and accomplishment.
My grandparents owned a day camp which is now owned by my Aunt and Uncle. To have my son working at a day camp fills my heart with pride. The maintenance staff at my grandparents camp was a very important job. It was a role that was depended on and the caretakers were treated like family. They worked at camp before the counselors each year to get camp ready and they ended the summer closing up the camp after the staff left. This was a role that was seen as vital because the maintenance staff work, while behind the scenes, allowed camp to function smoothly for the staff and campers.
In so many ways Matthew has brought our family full circle. He combines my love of Judaism and Jewish education with our family commitment to the camp experience for children. The Directors at his camp have allowed him to be a part of the camp community by seeing Matthew's strengths and allowing him to be an important part of the camp family by doing what he does best.
As you turn 17 Matthew I want you to continue to remember:
1. You bring joy to everyone you meet! You smile, and greet people with such passion, you truly make people smile.
2. You know who you are and what you love to do. Continue on being you!
3. You not only made your great grandmother proud, you make me proud to be your mom!
Happy Birthday Matthew! I love you! Thank you for making me a mom!