Megan’s Birthday Tree is a precious story of a young girl, Megan, and her birth mother, Kendra. This book will appeal to readers of all ages, regardless of being part of the adoption triad or not. In Megan’s Birthday Tree the author shows us what an open adoption could look like. Kendra keeps in touch with Megan and her parents, and one way she honors the adoption is by decorating a tree every year on Megan’s birthday and then sending pictures of the decorated tree to Megan. This tree was planted when Megan was born, which makes the tradition all the more special. When Megan learns that Kendra is getting married and moving away, Megan is worried that Kendra will forget all about her because she won’t have the tree as a reminder. This is a perfectly valid thought for a young person, and it might be arguable that Megan is grieving (whether consciously or subconsciously) losing her birth mother twice. Thankfully it sounds like her adoption is open enough that while she will probably have “why didn’t you want to keep me?” questions for Kendra, she still has the contact to reassure her that her birth mother loves her. Without that tree to connect them, however, not only is Megan “losing” the close proximity of Kendra, but she is also losing the thing that links the two together.
Since I’m reviewing this book as part of an online book club, one of the discussion questions asks about our own experiences with moving or marriage. I did move to Chicago for graduate school, and this came only two years after I was back in touch with Sean and his family. I’m still not sure how the adoption affects him, maybe because he’s a boy and I’ve been told that boys aren’t as curious about their birth families. The move was hard on me, though, because I had recently been invited to go to Sean’s house and see his chorus performance and just hang out. His parents are truly amazing people, and the fact that they would pick me up at the trolley station and give me a ride home is something I appreciate more than they know. It would be so easy to respond with “No ride? Tough luck,” but his parents aren’t like that at all. Anyway, so yes, moving was difficult for me because I knew I would no longer have the chance to see him frequently. It was also difficult for me to bring up with his parents because they do want me in his life. I’ve only seen him three times in the past two years, which is hard, and I’m counting down until I see him again in May.
Another discussion question asked to describe any traditions that we may have. I’m sad to say that I have no traditions honoring Sean’s birth or adoption. I did keep a scrapbook, which was incredibly healing in 2008, when the grief was highest, but I have not begun a new scrapbook. What I did do as a one-time thing to honor his adoption was that I bought a locket with a mother holding a baby on the front. In it is a picture of Sean on the day he was born and a picture of his birth dad. The chain broke but I still have the locket, and instead of buying coffee I should be saving up to take it to the jewelers.
Finally, as a budding writer, the third discussion question I’m choosing to answer is to rewrite a scene in this book from my point-of-view (So I’ll be writing as Kendra, just to clarify). I can never refuse a good writing challenge!
I pull into Megan’s driveway and barely wait until the car is park before I open the door and leap out. My hands are still brown, despite having scrubbed the dirt away. Usually if I’m coming for a surprise visit I like to sneak up behind Megan, cover her eyes with my hands, and yell, “Guess who?!” Today I opt for hiding behind a rose bush and calling out her name.
Megan comes running over, and though she’s trying to wipe the tears away, the redness of her eyes gives away the fact that she’s been crying.
“What’s wrong, Megan?” I ask her. I had expected that my getting married and moving away would be hard on her, but I had no idea just how hard it was going to be until Megan’s father called me the previous day.
“You’re going to forget about me,” she sniffled. “You had the tree to remember me and now you don’t have it and you’re going to forget about me.”
My heart just about breaks and my own eyes well up with tears. I pull Megan in for a big bear hug and just hold her for a minute. As I release her I look her in the eyes. “Megan, there is no way in the world I will EVER forget about you. I promise you that.”
“Really?” she asks me.
“Really.” I grab her hand. “Let me show you something.” I lead her over to my truck. There in the bed sits…
“My birthday tree!” Megan squeals. “You’re taking it with you!”
I smile at her. “I’d remember you even if I didn’t take this tree with me, but it’s special, just like you, and it’s always going to be a part of me wherever I live.” I just hope my husband and I don’t move again any time soon!