It's incredibly easy to judge people. I try to be non judgmental, yet I can judge others: Sarah Palin. The woman who yelled at me for not walking fast enough on the street. The fact a certain bookstore doesn't have a bestselling book. It's easy to say "What the hell? What's their deal?" But it's another thing to see the other person's point of view. My grandfather told me "Unless you walked in those person's moccasins, don't judge them." Which I forget to do. But there are times you have to remember it.
I've read Joyce Maynard's writing for about fifteen years now. There have been times I've been jealous of her, a eighteen year old girl on the cover of the New York Times Magazine? Geez, I was lucky to be on page three of The Smoke Signal. Yet Joyce's journey wasn't always easy; surviving the deaths of her parents, a divorce and a custody battle of her three kids, the estrangement with her only sibling, and the big one: a year long relationship with JD Salinger.
When her memoir At Home In The World came out, there was an incredible uproar. Was it fair? No. Did Joyce tell the truth? Yes; Salinger's daughter Peggy confirmed many of the details in her own memoir, along with Joyce's sister Rona confirming family details in her own book. Was it too much information? Maybe. But to proclaim it "the worst book ever" as one reviewer did was too much.
In the meantime,Joyce wrote other books, including Labor Day, a critical and commercial hit that was sold to Jason Reitman staring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Taking the Labor Day money, Maynard did something she always wanted to do: adopt. She went away, found two children, and six months later, brought them to this country. Which was incredibly brave. And here's an ironic twist: when she was on the plane coming home, Salinger died. If this was a novel, no one could get away with it. On her facebook page Joyce said she wanted to concentrate on raising the youngest members of her family, not dwell on the past. It was very gracious and classy of her.
Two years passed. No mention of the children in her blog. There was a nagging thought in my head: uh, oh. It was confirmed last night when Joyce wrote a letter to her fans saying that last year, she realized she was over her head. The adoption wasn't working, and she had to find another home for them. The children are with a two parent family with other siblings in an undisclosed location.
At first I thought oh Joyce. What the hell? What were you thinking? Those poor kids. You should've thought it out. They didn't deserve to be shuffled around like checkers on a board. They already knew the loss of their mother, poverty, and God knows what else.
When I continued to read, I realized that Joyce was thinking the same thing. She tried incredibly hard to be a good mother to the children. But she realized something novelist Jo-Ann Mapson once wrote: Love cannot fill every hole. She was over her head, and realized it was not fair to the children. They needed more, more than she could give them.
In my extended family back East, a second cousin adopted a child from Korea. For years we got Christmas cards of this beautiful child on shag carpeting, smiling a lopsided grin. Eventually the cards stopped. Another cousin told us the adoption was not easy, and the child got in trouble. They were good loving parents,yet their child acted out. Was it because of the adoption? Or a teen thing? I don't know. What I do know is that the parents weren't bad people, the child wasn't bad either. They were just trying to do the best they could. And sometimes that is incredibly difficult, no matter how much love you can give.
I don't think for a minute Joyce patted their heads and said in a light way: "Okay kids, have a good life!" She has written it was the saddest day of her life. I believe her. I also believe the fact that it is incredibly hard to admit when you have not succeeded at something. Joyce admitting the adoption didn't work no doubt was hard. Writing about it even harder.
I don't think I could walk in Joyce's moccasins; what I can do is this: I wish her well. I wish the children well. And that is the only thing one can do in the circumstances.