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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Monday, August 07, 2006

Unicorns United


I was really into unicorns when I was little, and I think it wasn't just because a lot of little girls are into unicorns. It was because I felt like I was the only one of my kind: mixed-race, adopted, only child.

One of the most powerful aspects of Pact Camp this past week, was that a lot of people, including myself, got to feel like we were just a little less unicornish. I spent the week in a cabin with other adult adoptees of color, which was incredibly moving, powerful, hilarious and beautiful. Little kids got to see lots of other kids, and counselors, who looked like them. Parents got to hang with other parents who had adopted kids of color. That was one of the best things about this past week: a lot of people getting to have the feeling that they're not the Only Ones. One five year old girl said she wanted to live at camp "forever" and that she'd already forgotten what her house looked like, because camp was her real home.

One couple spoke at the end of camp and said that two years ago, they lived in a small, all-white community in New England. (their daughter is African American) Coming to camp was a huge revelation for them, when they saw how huge it was for her daughter to be with similar peers. They took a huge leap and a huge financial risk and moved to the Bay Area, to a much more diverse community. This year, they said, camp was great, but the remarkable thing was that it was no longer so different from their everyday lives.

I think about what it would have been like for me to come to a camp of adopted people when I was younger. I think it would have been enormous. I only knew one other adopted person when I was going through school, and we never really spoke about it. But my mother would point him out and tell me that he came from the same agency as I did. It made me feel like we had a little invisible bond, if maybe we "remembered" each other from that mysterious Agency place. One of my closest friends was a girl whose father had left the family when she was an infant, and I think I felt bonded to her because we both had something missing, something invisible in our families, in our histories. I think coming to adoption camp would have been huge for me. Which is why I'm doing this job now. It's STILL huge.

7 Comments:

Blogger melanie said...

oh Susan, it sounds like you're doing great work on so many levels - master of logistics for a great organization with a mission close to your heart (others' hearts, too).

i forgot the commencement speech that was going around via email a few years back, and who the author was...she said something like, you might want to do well in life, but more importantly, you have to do good. Sounds like you're doing both.

Monday, August 07, 2006 8:29:00 PM

 
Blogger papa2hapa said...

I can only imagine my life with culture camp as a youngster. I didn't see my first Asian person until I was in 4th grade. Imagine my shock!

Monday, August 07, 2006 9:02:00 PM

 
Anonymous bloglily said...

The other day, sitting in a cafe in Oakland, I realized how much I love living in the Bay Area. Of course it's possible to live here and be sort of a race tourist (by that I mean, you live within a diverse group without ever having any real congress with anyone who's not exactly like you and you congratulate yourself for living in such a racially diverse environment.) The Bay Area is a complex and interesting place, a place where you cannot really feel isolated, because there is always someone who shares something you do. I imagine your camp was a lovely experience of not being alone, and as camp always is just a ton of fun!

Friday, August 11, 2006 9:11:00 AM

 
Anonymous Mollie said...

Susan, You did a magnificent job of organizing Pact Camp '06. It was a huge undertaking, but the results resonate thru many families lives as we return home. I am grateful for the opportunities for adoptive parents to meet one another, provide mutual support, and prod each other further along in our parenting journey. Most importantly, my sons are gaining a peer group of adoptees that will continue throughout their growing up years. In my mind, you epitomized grace under pressure. Many thanks for your hard work!

Mollie

Friday, August 11, 2006 2:49:00 PM

 
Blogger Lisa Marie said...

You know, when we talked about this before, it didnt click in my head until now. You spoke about feeling like the only one of your kind, and making the connection to unicorns. As I was reading this entry, in my mind I suddenly saw the walls of my childhood bedroom - and realized they were covered with posters of unicorns. There was this one journal I've had since I was very young, that was so special because it had these amazing drawings of unicorns, and still to this day I have never written in it.

Friday, August 11, 2006 6:08:00 PM

 
Blogger Bustopher Jones said...

I'm so impressed that that family moved to the Bay Area so their child wouldn't feel like a unicorn. That's awesome. And I find it kind of sad that that girl wanted to live at camp - that says wonderful things about the camp, but I hope that girl will find her own camp in the outside world, like the girl who moved to the Bay Area did. Anyway, sounds like your work is making a lot of difference to a lot of people!

Saturday, August 12, 2006 9:32:00 AM

 
Blogger Susan said...

Papa2hapa (I LOVE that name!) - that is shocking. Fourth grade? Wow.

Mollie- thank you for the kind words re my work at camp. It is truly the most gratifying job I've ever had. I had a few minutes to speak with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, and she said (when I was reflecting on the teen program at camp), "Teens need meaningful work." Well, EVERYONE needs meaningful work, and I feel immensely grateful to be doing that.

LM - It was thrilling and moving to be in a cabinful of Unicorns with you and the others.

Everyone else, thanks thanks for the comments!

Saturday, August 12, 2006 9:01:00 PM

 

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