Revision Street: Abby Smith (III)

June 21, 2010

One hundred and thirty cats at work, eight more and a dog at her Bowmanville home. “When you adopt everything else,” Abby Smith says in the tiny office of her Edgewater cat shelter, “kids are next on the list.” So when she and her partner Dahlia decided to have a child together, they first went to an adoption agency. One, she explains, “we weren’t very happy with.” So they found a different solution.

Now, I need to explain that conducting an interview with 130 cats outside one’s door is no easy feat—in fact, it’s easy to imagine that getting anything done with 130 cats outside one’s door is next to impossible. In the clip below, in fact, our conversation is interrupted by a particularly rambunctious grey long-haired named Vinnie.

We’re go-getters. We don’t like to sit and wait, so we decided to put an ad on Craigslist online or the Reader online. It was a picture of us with Tigger and it said, Next time we go to Disney we’d love to take our baby with us. Ten days later a birth mom called us and six months later she gave us her baby. It was crazy. At the agency, we hadn’t been told a lot of the truth about how long it would take and what type of baby people like us are given. We had our joke that what we were gonna be given was, like, the severed heads with AIDS and we’d be like, Yes, yes we’ll take it because we’ve been waiting for seven years. So I believe there was a little bit of misinformation given to us about how long the process would take, and although I look like I’m 20, I’m 45, so I didn’t have a lot of time to wait for this thing to go on.

It’s physically challenging with a baby when you’re my age and I didn’t think it would be fair to wait much longer. Like, I’m gonna be 90 at graduation.

He’s a very active little boy. I was kind of hoping for the artsy pansy boy but no such luck. I got the jump-off-a-cliff boy, which is really fun but exhausting. We’re looking around right now for schools. We went to a Montessori yesterday. I think it’s gonna be one of those, See? I should have stayed in retail so now I can pay for this kid to go to school . . .

We’re trying to keep him out of Chicago Public Schools. He’s half Asian, with two Jewish lesbian moms. I could just keep going down the line. So we need to find a place where he’s safe, and he has some people that look like him, and whose family makeup is similar to his. It’s either move to the suburbs or go to a private school and it looks like we’re gonna look into private schools. I thought some Chicago Public Schools would be fine, so we looked at the one that was closest to our house and there were fifteen or twenty grammatical and spelling errors on their website. We’re just like, OK, thank you. We didn’t have to get in the car. I just want to have him be able to spell his name right. Safely.

His birth mother is Vietnamese and she’s a Chicagoan. We actually asked her if she had any interest in us taking him to Vietnam, because we would. She said that her culture has never been especially meaningful to her, so we’ll probably introduce him to a little bit of it and let him figure out if it’s something that’s important to him or not. If it interested him, then yes. But he’s American. I’m hoping it’s meaningful to him, but I’m not especially enriched in my culture or lack of, you know. I’m just like, Ah whatever. My partner is from London and she’s got roots in Israel, so I’m pretty sure we’re gonna head a little more that way, unless he wants to go to Vietnam. We’d be happy to go. Or go on Clark Street and get some culture for him. [Laughs.] We’ll go buy some culture, isn’t that what you do? Run around with a twenty-dollar bill: Anybody? Culture?

I mean, I can’t expect him to go to school and for them to teach him moral standards, convictions. They teach him the alphabet, I teach him how to be a good man. I think there are a lot of people that aren’t taking responsibility for their children like they should. I think there are a lot of people in this world, there are way, way, way, way too many people. There’s a lot. [Laughs.] People were like, Why aren’t you having a baby? I’m like, You know what? First of all I ain’t all that, so I don’t need to reproduce, to be honest with you. And second of all, there are lots of people out there who are kinda sitting there, like, Hi I could really use a home.

People have told us that he’ll be lonely, but if he doesn’t like being an only kid he will grow up and have five children and that’s fine. We’re good with one.

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