It amazes me that I never before made this connection – some of my very favorite stories and/or movies of all time are all based upon the theme of adoption. Annie, the musical (the version with Carol Burnett, Alan Finney, Bernadette Peters) was basically the soundtrack to my childhood. I played my cassette tape soundtrack to that movie to its breaking point. Even at the ever-so-mature-age of 13, when visiting my future all-girls high school, standing on the fourth floor, I peered down over the stair banister (seeing all the way to the basement below), and I could clearly picture our entire student body bursting into, “It’s a hard-knock life for us!” as we scrubbed the stairs and slid down the banister on dust cloth-butt-skateboards. And just the other day when I walked through a torrential downpour into the Montessori School where I teach, I dropped my bags of musical instruments on the floor (not a subtle or quiet gesture, mind you) and with a sweep of my arms, in my most robust chest-voice-belting burst out with a truly moving: “The sun’ll come out tomorrow!!!” (Um, it’s possible that I was slightly disruptive to the Montessori-genius-children who were hard at work, but whatevs, they needed a little sunshine in their day). And if that little orphan Annie doesn’t inspire you with her never-give-up plucky little red-headed self then nothing will!
How about one of my favorite books of all time?! Anne of Green Gables! Anne Shirley convinces sweet Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables to pick her at the orphanage (instead of a strapping lad to help on the farm). Anne is the definition of pertinacious and strong-willed; making a life for herself.
Then there’s Heidi – an orphan who must go to live with her crotchety grandfather – who, in the end, of course, transforms both of their lives.
A Little Princess – Sara Crewe, a well to-do little rich girl, suddenly finds herself poor and alone.
Harry Potter, for crying out loud! Now, there’s an orphan who makes a name for himself.
The more unconventional adoption stories must also not go unnamed. Who could forget the moving story of Buddy the Elf? Buddy (Will Farrell) leaves the safe enclosure of his adopted home and adopted father Head Elf – Bob Newhart – at the North Pole and is forced to find his way in a mysterious land called New York while connecting with his cranky birth father, played by the gravelly-voiced James Caan. Obviously, Buddy the Elf has the added gift of Christmas magic and cheer on his side, but how can you not believe in miracles with this little flic?
Then there are the really, really unconventional adoption stories – where the strongest families and bonds are formed from the most unsuspecting parties. There was KoKo the gorilla who fell in love with a kitten named All Ball. The touching story of Owen the baby hippo and Mzee, a 130-year-old giant tortoise epitomizes the idea that love can be found in the most unexpected places. Owen was stranded in the terrible Indian Ocean tsunami that hit just after Christmas 2004. Owen was rescued and provided a home at Haller Park. The scared 650-pound hippo immediately grew attached to Mzee, cuddling and cowering behind the old male tortoise as if Mzee was a mama hippo.
More recently, I’ve been given a picture book that moves me to tears every time I read it: Horace. Horace is a spotted-cat that’s been adopted by striped-cat parents. He doesn’t understand why he looks different from the rest of his family. He even tries to connect his dots to turn them into stripes! After trying to find a place to fit in, Horace discovers that the very thing that makes him so different is what makes him so special.
As part of our adoption home study process, we’re required to read at least three books (or watch three videos) pertaining to adoption. Well, months ago I received a box full of adoption books from my aunt (who spent 40 years working in the adoption biz). So, while I’ve already done plenty of research on the topic, I never even realized that I’ve been preparing for the adoption my entire life. I’m not saying that knowing every word to all of the Annie lyrics makes me an expert or that rereading Anne of Green Gables every couple of years prepares me for raising an adopted daughter, but, well, it is extra credit and it sure couldn’t hurt!