In the Introduction to my memoir, I, Too, Heard The Owl, I mention that I had longstanding aspirations to write a book. That book, for as long as I can remember, was always going to be a novel, not the memoir I ended up with, but I guess it wasn’t in the proverbial cards.
The closest I came to writing a novel really could have been something, I think, and it was inspired by, of all things, a DNA test. See, I was adopted at birth, and all I knew of my biological ancestry was that, like my adoptive parents, my birth mother was of eastern European Jewish origins. The story was that I was conceived during a one-night, no-names-exchanged tryst at a singles retreat in the Catskills, said retreats were pretty much attended entirely by Jews, so imagine my surprise when my DNA test reported my genealogical makeup as:
80% Ashkenazi Jewish
Mamma um… Papa Mia!
Long story short: an idea was born to write a fictionalization of my life journey, with two realities in parallel, one roughly resembling the life I’ve lead, and the other an imagining of what my life might have been like had I not been given up for adoption. The work began with a completely manufactured story of my birth mother’s background, leading up to and including the incident wherein I was conceived, at which point the story split in two.
Anyway, I’ve decided to revisit the writing I did manage to complete for that project before it was shelved, and I’ll be publishing some excerpts here at The Owl Journal, in no particular order.
Black Sheep: A Recipe
1. Take one human girl, aglow with a powerful zest for life, and upon reaching puberty shut her down, watch her every move, restrict her access to the real world, try to convince her that said world was filled with predators, while, during her time at school or synagogue or in other supervised settings, she sees many benevolent people enjoying their lives.
2. Combine the girl, now a young woman, with one handsome, sweaty, hot-blooded Italian young man.
3. Shake and stir and abruptly separate, yielding one zygote.
4. As the zygote divides, becomes an embryo and then a fetus, bombard the mother, and thereby the baby, with anger and shame, punish them with isolation, and threaten banishment if the young woman does not give the baby up for adoption.
5. Wait nine months, allowing the developing life form to absorb all of the mother’s anguish, regret, despair, and sorrow.
6. Hire a lawyer who makes a living facilitating the separation of babies from their mothers, extracting newborn boys and girls from their epigenetic habitats and implanting them into foreign and potentially hostile environments.
7. Immediately upon the birth of the child and the severing of the umbilical cord, swiftly whisk him or her away in order to prevent any post-womb contact whatsoever with the mother.
8. Keep the newborn in an aptly named isolette for eight days, with only intermittent contact with nurses, and add a liquid substance that in no way resembles the milk that had been waiting for the baby in its mother’s breasts.
9. In the event that the child is male, on the eighth day, obviously without his consent, restrain the baby’s arms and legs with straps, take a scalpel and slice off the foreskin of the boy’s penis. Allow 7-10 days for the penis to heal, during which time the tip of the penis will be red, swollen, bruised and sore.
11. The same day of this procedure, swaddle the baby and remove it from the only room it had ever known, carry it down a hallway accompanied by the lawyer, into an elevator, out of an elevator, toward glass doors blindingly luminescent, out into the wide world for the first time, where the baby is pummeled with bright light, alien noises like internal combustion engines, screeching tires, and car horns. Add a virtual blanket of hot, humid New Jersey in August air.
12. Upon reaching a seemingly random car in a sea of cars crowding the hospital parking lot, open the car door and hand the baby over to an alien man and woman, smiles and tears on their faces, with a curious 5-year old girl, the biological daughter of the man and woman, in the backseat, close the door, and walk away.
13. On the drive home, for the first of many times, say out loud, “It will be so interesting to see how different he is!”