Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Judy Budnitz - "Nice Big American Baby"

This story tells of the woes of the separation of parents and children on three different occasions – first, the mother of seven sons and one daughter, Precious; second, Precious and her son; third, the son and his adopted parents.

The mother of the seven sons and one daughter:
"There was a woman who had seven sons and was happy.  Then she had a daughter.  She loved her sons with a furious devotion.  But she did not love her daughter, even before she knew it was a daughter.  She could feel the baby sitting low in her belly and she did not want it...Then she looked at the tiny wrinkled face and felt ashamed.  She resolved to love her daughter as she did her sons.  She named the girl Precious, to remind herself." (Budnitz 96)
"Precious: always remembered, but always as an afterthought." (96)
"Now the daughter she didn't want was all she had...All the furious love the woman had lavished on her sons she now poured on her daughter...The daughter cowered under the assault, after the years in her brother's shadows.  She had been accustomed to being invisible." (97)
Precious and her son (whom she takes over the border and is taken away from her):
"Empty, deflated, she sits alone in the back of the van...She's hollow, she's still floating, they forgot to attach her head to those rags and remnants that were her body.
"But it's what you wanted, isn't it?  Wasn't that the whole plan, give birth and leave him here with a new set of folks?"
"I never even got a chance to hold him...I want to stay," she whispers. "He's mine."
"You an always have another."" (106)
The son and his adopted parents:
"Maybe children these days grow up faster than they used to, the hopeful parents told themselves.  We should have studied the child development book more carefully, they thought.  They did not voice their doubts, fearing they'd reveal their inexperience, their ignorance." (106)
"They were charmed by his curiosity.  Privately they fretted over the way he stiffened whenever they touched him.  He was remote, as patiently tolerant as a teenager suffering the whims of unhip parents.
He just needs time, they thought, to get used to us.
What does bonding mean, exactly? the new mother wondered." (107)
"The parents tried to dispel the son's fears, but with less and less enthusiasm as time went on.  They worried that if the nightmares stopped, the tenuous intimacy with their son would be gone forever.  The mother, in her heart of hearts, secretly made contingency plans - if his nightmares stopped, she'd simulate them (a Halloween mask dangled from the roof, say). (107)

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