Singer/songwriter/guitarist Kate Wolf died much too young, from leukemia in 1986 at age 44. I heard her in concert only once, about 30 years ago. One line from one song has stayed with me:
“Sometimes the strongest love hangs by such a slender thread.”
I’ve long thought that gentle sentence describes the connection between first families and adoptees, whether they were born and placed in Maryland, or arrived at 8 years old from Korea or Ethiopia.
Adoption is full of strong loves and slender threads.
That’s been true for quite a long time. In the 1700’s, in the midst of devastating poverty, mothers left their children at London’s Foundling Hospital, often hoping to return to get them someday. They would also leave some small token: a bit of fabric, a ring, even a hazelnut. Those memory tokens would be sealed away in the child’s file. When (if) the mother returned, she could use that to identify herself, and reclaim her child.
“Threads of Feeling” is a new exhibition opening at Colonial Williamsburg May 25. It will include a display of the Foundling Hospital swatches of fabric and other bittersweet items that were the only connection between a mother and child: such small objects, ragged and dirty perhaps, with such enormous significance.
My children arrived with various items from various sources: a soft blue bunny, a hand-crocheted baby blanket, black patent leather shoes, a sweet snowsuit. We know the stories behind some of the items: humble, valuable treasures. To think whose hands have held them, and chose them, and made sure they accompanied small children to unknown places.