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Response to John Sayles' movie, Casa de los Babys



Dear Mr. Sayles,

Shame on you for choosing to portray adoptive mothers as neurotic women who abuse their bodies, each other, and (potentially) their children. I am quite an expert on the subject of adoptive mothers and you missed a great opportunity to show the world that each child who is adopted is a wonder to her parent. Why, you never showed a child with her parent at all! What a loss! You could have filmed the mother I met who lived in Guatemala for six months with her one-year-old son while she waited for missing paperwork to be found. Or the father and daughter whose wife waited for them back in the states. Why, you could have filmed the hotel I stayed in during the five times I was in Guatemala City, visiting or bringing home one of my three children - a hotel filled with babies crying, coughing, laughing, staring, and sleeping.

You could have filmed the parents there. Strangers who sat for hours on the metal chairs in the restaurant and swapped diapers, baby Tylenol, local doctors' names, lawyers, embassy stories, photographs, clothes that they had brought that were too big or too small, hugs, words of support, and tears. Never, NEVER did they ever swap a mean word.

You could have filmed the tiny foster mother of Joseph, a gigantic ten-month-old, as she visited the hotel every day to wheel him up and down the narrow corridors before he went home with his new mom. Or filmed how we all took turns admiring his six fingers and toes, jolly disposition, and burping belly laugh. You could have filmed the couple from France and their six-year-old son. Focused on the way the father walked everywhere with the boy sitting on his shoulders. Noticed how every time the boy was let down he ran off down the city street that was his old home.

You could have filmed my mother, husband, and myself as we waited to meet our seven-month-old son for the first time. Could have filmed the lawyer telling us, through a translator, that Manuel was ours for twenty-four hours only, after which we'd have to give him back until our documents were ready weeks later. You could have filmed our faces then, or later, when the lawyer took him from my arms.

What is it like to meet your child for the first time? Mr. Sayles, you missed capturing a miracle. Your audience missed it too, since that is the story you should have set out to tell.

Let me take on that honor. Let me tell you now. Listen.

There are steps in the hallway that are headed for your door. You know that your son is near, know this as you know the back of your hands, the weight of your wedding band. Your heart pounds so loud, so fast, that you hold your hand over it in order to keep it inside. You think you will throw up or faint, but you do neither as you rock on your feet. Light streams in the dirty hotel window and shines on the floor the maid has just mopped.

You notice the brown puddle in the corner of the room. You hear the creak of the metal swing outside.

Times slows down, becomes sweet syrup on the tongue. Every second is an image recorded. You hear Spanish words, your mother crying, your husband saying your name, but no one can find you. You are chanting, "where is he, where is he, where is he?"

And then he's here. And he's all I can see. My son. Sweaty and overdressed. Don't ever think of taking him away. All smell and miracle of cheek and shoe.

There you are, my son. Oh, there you are.

Taika Brand-Matthews
Massachusetts

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