Yesterday I attended the world premiere of the new documentary Closure. The event was held at the Langston Hughes Art Institute here in Seattle, and the audience included the filmmaker Bryan Tucker and his wife Angela, who is also the subject of the film.
The film follows Angela’s journey from Chattanooga, Tennessee, as an African-American baby born with very tight muscles, spending a year in foster care, and receiving a prognosis that she probably would never walk. Walk, run, play basketball–she did all that and more.
Angela was placed as a baby with white parents in Washington state. She grew up in Bellingham (along with 7 adopted siblings, in a loving, diverse family), went to college at Seattle Pacific University, and now works as an adoption specialist for the agency that placed her, Bethany Christian Services.
Like many adoptees (and perhaps specially like many transracial adoptees), Angela had thought about her birth family while growing up, but didn’t start her search until she was over 18. She had little to work with: 3 pages from the adoption agency describing her birth family, with last names whited out. Still–it was enough. Between that, and the doorway that is the Internet, Facebook, and Google, she was able (relatively easily) to put the pieces together.
Note to adoptive parents, whether your children were placed from the US or from anywhere in the world: Increasing numbers of adoptees are searching and/or being found via the Internet, Facebook, and Google. It’s almost inevitable.
Over a couple of years, Angela met her birth father, who hadn’t known about her existence. Wow. She attempted to meet with her birth mother, who initially rebuffed her. Wow.
Not that these scenarios are unusual in adoption.
Angela talks in the film about how much she valued having her adoptive family accompany her on the journey, not just providing moral support but going with her to Tennessee, more than once. The footage of Angela’s adoptive mom, dad, siblings, in-laws, and husband is powerful because it reflects the real emotions of search and reunion: fear, confusion, doubt, deep love, empathy, hope.
In fact, the role of siblings is enormously important here, not only in Angela’s adoptive family but absolutely in her birth family. I think sometimes we adoptive parents focus on the birth family’s presence and/or absence, and can easily forget the role of siblings for adoptees–and also cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles.
A big shout out also to the role of loving foster parents in adoptees’ lives. Seeing Angela reunite with them was among the film’s more moving parts (and there were many). Her foster mom had never forgotten Angela.
Angela’s husband Bryan clearly is a big source of support for her. As a non-adoptee, he may have worked hard to understand and help her with her questions and decisions; his love and empathy are quiet and tenacious. This is his first film. Wow again. When I talked with him yesterday, he told me that the film happened somewhat by chance–wanting to document conversations and initial forays toward reunion (some taped on cell phone) evolved over time to an awareness of the value and uniqueness of the journey.
In the q&a after the movie, Angela said that while the movie’s called Closure, she hasn’t reached closure. An important point again for us adoptive parents, and for anyone involved with search and reunion. Thinking about searching, doing the search, meeting birth family–questions may be answered, but there’s often still a long way to go. That’s okay. Angela’s observation (like Angela herself) is honest, compassionate, and insightful.
It takes courage to start journeys sometimes, and courage to document them, and courage to share the very personal journey with others. We in the adoption community are fortunate to have this documentary. I hope it gets widely seen and shared, and creates a lot of conversations. Many thanks to Angela and her families.