Part 20: Attitude is everything
Less than a week after her bout with the blues, Wendy reports she's in a much better state of mind.
That's no surprise, says her mother Louise - "Kathy's here."
It's Wendy and Kathy, together again, with a whole week to do nothing but relax by the ocean.
Back in the spring, Kathy and Joe anticipated that Wendy might be uncomfortable in the summer heat, so they rented this beachfront cottage Matunuck - big enough to sleep 12 - to help her get through it.
So far, it's doing the job.
The days have a comfortable rhythm to them. Wendy and Kathy wake each morning when they're ready, sip coffee in the kitchen, stroll the beach, sun themselves, play in the sand with Rachel.
Kathy's also brought some summer reading with her - Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care - in which she underlines passages as she goes.
Now and then, she gets up to fetch Wendy another glass of ice water (in a frosted glass and with a straw), because the midwife told her to drink 8 to 1 0glasses a day. And they'll pull their beach chairs down to the water to cool Wendy's swollen ankles. Or, after a while, they may find themselves at the Vanilla Bean for an ice cream.
"Sometimes, two ice creams," says Kathy, a guilty gleam in her eye.
At around 4 or so, Wendy will retreat into the cottage, just to be by herself for a time, maybe to take a nap, because she gets tired more easily these days. After a hearty dinner - linguini and clam sauce, beef stew, steak and potatoes, chili - prepared by whichever family members feel inspired, Kathy and Wendy put on their sweats and head for the water's edge.
"We walk up and down, talk about whatever's on her mind," says Kathy. "I let Wendy talk. I let Wendy talk and talk and talk. Sometimes it's just talking about nothing, because she needs to talk."
Afterward, if the sky is clear, they'll collapse into chairs to watch the sun set.
* * *
One night, as the family relaxes in front of the TV, Wendy feels the baby move. Come and feel it, she tells Kathy, who has yet to do so.
Kathy runs over. So does Nicole - a surprise to everyone. I have to bond with the baby, too, she asserts. So she and Kathy rest their entwined hands on Wendy's belly.
Oh, it's down here now, instructs Wendy. Oh, move here now.
Together, they find it, a small but powerful motion. Kathy grows subdued; she leaves her hand in place for a long time after the baby is still.
Later, Nicole would describe that moment as a turning point in her feelings about the pregnancy - "I could see my aunt was so happy. I realized that."
* * *
"You are the baby's mother," a young woman on the beach tells Kathy one day with gentle authority.
Kathy, never shy about telling strangers about Wendy's gift to her and Joe, had happened to strike up a conversation with her - Cindy Mulligan, 26, of Cranston - and it turned out she is adopted.
Cindy's advice to Kathy is to let the child know everything as soon as he or she is old enough to understand.
This is exactly what Kathy had planned to do, anyway, but hearing it from Cindy reinforces her conviction. "I'm not ashamed," Kathy says. "I don't care if the baby knows. If the baby knows, the baby's going to accept it. We should all be proud."
"I've always known," says Cindy of her adoption, when interviewed on the beach the next day. "It was such a special thing. I was the most special baby. I was the chosen baby. I was the wanted baby." As a high school teacher in Warwick, she says, she encounters too many who feel they are not wanted.
Cindy goes on to explain that her adoptive mother, after bearing several children, had developed Rh disease, preventing her from bearing more. "She wanted another baby so much," says Cindy, "she put in to Catholic Charities for me. She told me, 'You were the best labor. You were the easiest. We're so lucky to have you.' "
Cindy has heard of other adoptees who, learning the truth at age 10 or so, go through an identity crisis. She is grateful to have been spared that.
People sometimes ask her, don't you ever want to find your parents? She responds, what do you mean?
Her definition of a parent is a person who endures through the emotional and mental strain of childrearing, a person who makes that commitment, who makes those sacrifices.
"I would love to adopt because it's been such a wonderful thing," she says, smiling.
She congratulates Kathy and Wendy again on their project, then turns and walks toward the water, the words on the back of her T-shirt summing it all up: Attitude is everything.
* * *
One cloudy but warm morning on the beach, as she gazes ahead at the gray-green water and sky, Kathy tells about a picture she's been carrying in her mind for going on a year now.
It's a scene from last August's Quahog Festival in Wickford. She and Joe were driving off the grounds, heading for home, when Kathy glanced out the car window and noticed some people sitting under a tree - a man, a woman and a little boy about 2 years old.
The boy was kind of chubby, with long shorts on, and old-fashioned brown shoes, and his parents were just lying in the grass with him.
"Just doing nothing, talking with him," recalls Kathy. "It was like it was a family. And I said, 'That's what I want.' "