We’re thrilled to host the beautiful and talented Gloria Oren today on her virtual book tour. I’ve known Gloria for many years, dating all the way back to my Long Ridge days. She is a skilled writer who is always continuing to hone her craft. Gloria is the founder of the Facebook group Women Writers Editors Agents and Publishers (WWEAP). The group has move then 6,000 members and growing. She’s also an editor, book reviewer, and reunited adoptee. Her book, Bonded at Birth is about her own search as an adoptee and is an inspiration to others going through the same process.
Lori’s Review of Bonded at Birth
I always enjoy reading anything Gloria writes and was thrilled when she asked me if I’d look at Bonded at Birth for her. Although I am sometimes slow to work through my very long TBR list, I was chomping at the bit to finish this book.
Adoption is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I grew up next door to my two younger cousins, both adopted, and I can’t imagine our family without these two. What a gift and a blessing adoption was for our family, because we gained them.
“Reading Bonded at Birth makes you feel as though you were right there with Gloria Oren through every step of her childhood and journey to find herself and the story of her adoption. The author tells the story in an emotional way that keeps you turning the pages to find out more about the people who weave in and out of her life story. This one is a must read for anyone who has been adopted, birth parents, or who loves someone who has been involved in the adoption process. Ms. Oren is a truly skilled storyteller.” ~ Lori Soard, author of Dear Viking
Bonded at Birth Excerpt
Joys of Childhood
One day Daddy brought home two walking dolls, both just about my height. Since I had no siblings, I did everything with those dolls. I put on their pajamas when we went to bed, combed their hair in the morning, and dressed them. Mommy and I bought clothes for them at the same store that my clothes came from. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say they were the best-dressed dolls in the Crown Heights.
Somewhere around the time, I turned five; I came up with the idea I could grow watermelons in Carmel. So months before leaving for the summer, I asked anyone who ate watermelon at our house to save the seeds for me. I washed them, dried them, and stored them in a jar that in the end came with me to Carmel.
The big tree outside the kitchen window seemed to be the right place to put my idea to work. It kept the kitchen cool and had a good size circle of soil around the trunk. One morning I took my jar of seeds and a shovel and headed out the door. Stooping next to the tree, I dug small holes in which I placed the seeds, circling the tree. Suddenly, I heard Mommy’s voice from the kitchen.
“Well, what are we going to grow?” Mommy asked.
“Watermelon,” I called back.
“Good luck! You sure chose an odd spot to grow watermelon. But if we get any, I’m sure it will be the best I’ve eaten,” declared Mommy getting back to her chores.
I didn’t realize then that the tree would block the sun, and there was little chance that anything would grow. So much for growing watermelon! It was a fun venture anyway, and for a young child that’s all that mattered.
Aside from doing silly things, summers in Carmel with Mommy were never dull. It was when most of our mother-daughter conversations took place.
On hot days, Mommy and I sat under the umbrella on the back patio in the shade of the blue spruce tree. She’d tell me stories about things I did when I was a baby or toddler.
“When you were six months old, you loved playing peek-a-boo with your rubber squeeze doll,” Mommy said. “You were definitely a doll lover. You had many of them and the collection seemed to grow as you did.”
“Do you think I ever counted them? A whole shelf full in the city, and more here.”
“What else did I do?”
“You loved books. You weren’t the typical bookworm who enjoys and sometimes ‘reads’ books between the age of three or four. I read to you all the time. You had shelves full of books. Sometime between six to eight months, you leafed through books for the pictures. Never tore a page or scribbled them. In fact, even in your coloring books, Daddy brought you from the store, you worked hard to keep the color within the lines. Your patience was unusual for a child your age. As you got older, you no longer had to be perfect. As long as you did your best, it was fine with you and us,” she went on.
“I love books.”
“I know. That’s why I read them to you.”
“When you were a year old, we gave you a stuffed “Lambchop,” the little lamb from ‘The Shari Lewis Show’ on TV. You loved it very much and held it in your hand as you stumbled while learning to walk. Watching you waddle around with Lambchop was a pleasant sight and made me feel good.”
“I loved Lambchop. Where is he now?”
“I don’t know, but when we go home we’ll look for him, okay?”
“Okay.” I climbed off her lap and ran off to play.
“I’ll go get us some lunch.”
* * * *
“Gloria, get up! We have lots to do today,” Mommy shouted from the kitchen.
“I’m getting up, but what is so important that we have to do today?” I called back.
Coming into my room, Mommy walked over and helped me get dressed. “We’re going shopping to get you new clothes and supplies for school. Next week is September and you’ll be starting kindergarten at PS 189. You’ll meet new friends and your teacher will teach you lots of new things.”
The first day of school arrived. All my friends were walking to school with their mothers, and Mommy was walking me, too. PS 189 was a rectangular, flat-roofed, three- or four-story brick building with a huge yard. Outside it looked old and uninviting, but inside the place came alive. The hustle and bustle of hundreds of children, eager to find their classrooms and meet their new teachers, filled the hallways throughout the building. The rushing of teachers to their classrooms and parents stopping to chat with friends, neighbors, and newcomers portrayed a busy morning where chaos would lead to organized classes in session. My teacher was Ms. Adler, a young lady who greeted us with a smile. She moved around the room gracefully, stopping by each student, laying her hand gently on his or her shoulder asking us our names. She made me feel important, and I liked her a lot, right from the start.
There were only thirteen other children in my class. Sharing my class were my friend Melody, and my neighbors Lawrence and Rocky, so we walked to school and back home together. It was fun to trudge through the park every day with my friends and trudged through the snow when it snowed. Our footsteps left a trail of deep holes showing the path we took.
The daily schedule at school was chaotic, but we survived. First thing in the morning, Ms. Adler collected “milk money,” the quarters that covered the cost of a small container of ice-cold milk and tempting cookies served during snack time. The recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance followed. After that came a variety of subjects: reading, writing, arithmetic, penmanship, spelling, history, and science (animals), sometimes interrupted by a fire drill once a month. Noisy voices erupted in the hallway as we scampered to exit the building, as fast as we could. The fire drill offered students a change of pace. Our school days included extra stuff, too, like IQ tests, reading tests, Health Day, and the annual spelling bee.
Besides school, Mommy registered me for tap dance lessons once a week with Ms. Sharley, a middle-aged unmarried woman who loved children. Her studio was a huge room, with round bars lining the walls we used for ballet. We’d wear leotards and tutus and ballet slippers for ballet, changing into tap shoes (black shoes with metal plates on the heels) for the tap dance section of the lesson.
“Good afternoon, my wonderful darlings,” she’d greet us as we arrived for our lesson.
“Good afternoon Ms. Sharley,” we shouted as we hurried in to get ready.
“Let’s see who I’m missing today,” she’d take attendance. “Gather ’round the piano for our warm-up.”
Warm-up with Ms. Sharley was fun. She played songs she taught us, and we’d accompany her by singing them. Sometimes she’d quiz us.
“Who can tell me what song this is?” She asked playing a piece.
“How Much Is that Doggy…,” we’d shout out together.
“Wonderful,” she said. “What about this one?”
“My Favorite Things.”
“My, oh my! Looks like you’ve been doing homework. That was wonderful. Shall we get dancing?”
“Yippee! Tap and ballet,” we shouted getting into place on the floor.
“Okay, let’s start with a review of what we learned last week in tap, and I’ll teach you something new in ballet today.”
When the lesson ended, we left shouting a great big “bye Ms. Sharley, see ya next week.”
In June, I turned six and as soon as school let out for the summer, Mommy and I left for Carmel. That second Friday seemed as if Mommy was in more of a rush to finish her chores earlier than usual.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” I asked.
“Daddy is coming earlier today; he wants to take us somewhere tomorrow.”
“Where are we going?”
“Daddy wants to take us to Hyde Park, President Roosevelt’s home, and burial place.”
Daddy’s coming earlier for the weekend and the upcoming trip to Hyde Park was such great excitement I couldn’t sit still. I turned on my record player and put on vibrant music to dance around like a little butterfly fluttering in the air with wings. My arms, or should I say wings, spread out as I skipped around in no particular order, as I tried to keep up with the rhythm. It wasn’t too long before Daddy’s car pulling into the driveway drowned the sound of the music. I turned off my record player and flew out the door to greet him.
“Daddy, are we really going to Hyde Park?” I asked with disbelief. Other than Lakewood and Coney Island I had been nowhere else, so this was a real treat.
“Yep, and not only that but tomorrow night, now that you’re old enough, we’ll take you to the Annual County Carnival on the banks of Lake Gleneida in town.”
“Is that why all my friends are here this weekend?”
“I suppose so.”
I loved Hyde Park with its vast grassy lawns overlooking the Hudson River. We spent the day there, taking walks and picnicking on the lawn for lunch. Then we headed back to Carmel, so we’d be on time for a fun night at the carnival.
Saturday evening came and our division of five houses looked deserted as everyone left for a night in town. The sight was something to see. The carnival placed a huge Ferris wheel in the center of the lawn at the entrance to town. There were also lots of other amusement rides, arcades, and entertainment. The mixed aromas of freshly prepared foods rose into the air encouraging people to buy. Most popular, amongst the young ones, was the cotton candy, but they also had barbecued burgers, hot dogs, and tempting corn on the cob. During this weeklong carnival, the town came alive. From that day on, I went to the carnival every year with my friends, and we had lots of fun. It was a great way to end the summer before heading back to the city for another year of school.
Shortly after school began, losing my first baby tooth once again reminded me I was different. Or was I? I don’t know. Perhaps I was confused rather than different. Sadly, unlike my friends and most other children, I didn’t know about the tooth fairy (and my parents, being old school, probably didn’t either) as she never visited me to leave money under my pillow. But that didn’t stop my teeth from falling out with new permanent ones replacing them.
It was now I got my first pet, a black and white cocker spaniel. I named him Scotty. Scotty scared me because he was all jumpy and I didn’t want him to jump on me, but he later became my best friend. The first night Scotty was home, I climbed onto the table in the hallway where the phone sat in one corner. I sat shaking like the small tremors following an earthquake and ready to burst into tears. Scotty positioned himself head turned up toward me with a pleading look in his eyes, as if planning a strategy to jump up and reach the top of the table, begging me to come down and play with him.
“Aren’t you going to get off that table?” Mommy called from the kitchen.
“No, I’m too scared of Scotty,” I called back. But before long, the inevitable happened—I needed to use the bathroom. I faced a dilemma. Will fear and the embarrassment of peeing in my pants win or will the courage to descend from the table and walking to the bathroom with Scotty close behind win? I made a quick decision that fear will not win and slowly descended from the table and tiptoed to the bathroom with Scotty following right behind me. He did not jump on me and I got in and closed the bathroom door. Now the only thing separating Scotty and me was the closed door. Scotty lay down outside the door, whimpering while waiting for me to come out. You know the line from a show that goes “A funny thing happened on the way to…” In my case, it was … to the bathroom. I realized that since Scotty didn’t jump or growl at me there was nothing to fear. I could be friends with him. It would even be fun to be friends with him. When I opened the door, Scotty looked up at me sadly seeming to ask if I would consider being his friend. “Oh, you cute little thing,” I said, “You look so sad. I’ll be your friend if you won’t jump on me.”
Scotty got up wagging his tail, came up and licked my hand as if to say, “Okay.” Soon after, I returned from school one day and noticed it was quieter than usual. I didn’t hear the pitter-patter of tiny dog paws in the hallway coming to greet me.
“Scotty,” I called. “Where are you?”
Mommy came to the door, “Scotty got sick and is gone.” Tears streamed down my cheeks. No, this couldn’t be. He was okay this morning.
“What happened to him?”
“Scotty came down with rabies, and I had to call the ASPCA to come take him away,” Mommy explained.
Suddenly, I missed Scotty. Now, no one followed my footsteps with a wagging tail. I cried. From that moment on, I knew I was in love with dogs.
I told Mommy, “I want to get another dog.” Mommy looked at me sadly, hugged me, and went back to her chores.
To follow the rest of Gloria’s Blog Tour, visit http://gloriaoren.com/bonded-birth-virtual-book-tour/