Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Lifebook for Adinah

Now I’ve done it.

After months of preparation (some would say years), a few false starts, and several delicate international treaties and conferences, I’ve finally started making Adinah’s lifebook.

Maybe you’ve heard about these things. It’s Standard Operating Procedure for adoptive families: a book for a child that tells her story. It can have text, photographs, ticket stubs, holograms—whatever media is needed to trace her life. It’s not about the adoptive parent—the book should begin with her birth to other parents—all other characters enter the story later. It should be honest, fair and sensitive. It should be a beautiful, engaging book she will want to look at over and over again for the rest of her life.

It’s a little intimidating.

I tried to start Adinah’s book many months ago. I bought a big pink photo album, and I decided my daughter and I should make her lifebook together. She should tell her own story, master her own plot, write her own plot, all that jazz, right? Wrong. It was a nice idea, but flawed in practice: armed with a pile of photos from every phase of her life, and blessed with 50 pink pages to fill, Adinah immediately took control of the project, destroyed the chronological arc of the story, and subverted all the major themes of the narrative. That is, she pasted the wrong fotos on the wrong pages, and she pasted them in crooked. Now it’s a big, pink, chaotic…photo album. Fine for her, but not a lifebook.

So when Anette took the kids to visit her parents this week, I decided that by God I would start and finish Adinah’s lifebook before they returned.

I had already bought a new, less pink album (actually it’s earth-brown), and over the last few months, during lulls in the action, I’ve periodically asked Adinah very open questions about various periods of her life. So my first step was to take these “interview” fragments and stitch them together into a frame of a narrative. Then I had to write more myself to flesh out the story.

It’s not so easy to tell a fair and sensitive story about international adoption, poverty, malnourishment, greed and loss, let alone to tell it from the perspective of a small child. It’s not easy to tell a fair and sensitive story about your own kid.

So that took awhile.

Then I had to choose papers and font sizes, gather all the materials, and plan the layout of the damn thing.

Finally, last night at eight p.m., I started pasting it up. I was immediately flashing back to my one college graphic design course, to days when I would wake up with bits of ChartPak stuck to my eyebrows. I was laying out and mounting pictures of Adinah in the orphanage, Adinah meeting Anette’s parents for the first time, Adianh with pneumonia, but I was thinking ‘Let’s see, can I separate two photos with a text block?’

I got about fifteen pages done. The album has fifty pages altogether. So I’ve finished up through the equivalent of Star Wars, Part Three. I’m going to get to the Return of the Jedi tonight.


Mast said...

You are such a good Daddy to do this for her. She will definitely appreciate and look at her Life Book for the rest of her days. The best part is that it was made with love from her Dad.

-Denise Mast
Adoptee With Her Own Life Book

Tricia M. said...

that sounds dreamy. i wish i could see it!