The Rusty Chain

Photo: Tyra Baumler
Photo: Tyra Baumler

Not everything about abandonment is sad. Take this beefy blue bike, for instance.

One person might figure Beefy Blue was junked, its chain too rusty for locomotion. Another might see the same old bike as an opportunity to sail down the street with a loaf of bread and a pound of butter tucked into a new white basket snapped on to the pitted handlebars. This bike could say yesterday’s done blues to one person and oh joy! to the next.

I know people who were abandoned. I know people who were orphans at one time. Maybe they’re still orphans even though they’re grown. They would be the best judges of that. Either way, they started life having been left.

They were abandoned as babies for a variety of reasons – their parents’ troubles, their world’s circumstances, their disabilities, their too rusty chains. Sorting out the true reasons for their abandonment has exhausted some of them. How do you create the justification for something done by someone you’ve never met?

It isn’t easy being with someone who started out life having been left somewhere.You might think it’s because orphans are always thinking about their abandonment and wondering why it happened. And that’s a big part of it. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can’t solve a Rubik’s Cube to save their lives but won’t quit fussing with it and those who solve it in 20 minutes and never want to handle one again. The abandoned people in the first group do often wear other people out.

But another big reason why it’s not easy being with someone who started out being left somewhere is that the person who was never abandoned imagines the trauma of having been left and almost always gets it wrong.

Some people think abandonment is a tragedy beyond repair, an event so traumatic and injurious as to permanently disable the person who had been left. In this view, the abandonment becomes the abandoned person’s signature life event, a permanent, often growing, wound. It can never be ‘overcome.’

Other people see the same abandonment as the gift of a second chance. It’s lucky, they say, to be left somewhere where other people happy to find you will come.What great good fortune that a family without a baby would find a baby without a family! In this way of thinking, the abandonment is just part of the ‘birth’ story. We all complete our families in different ways.

But making abandonment catastrophic or making it a happy accident are both mistakes; it’s not for the never-abandoned to write the narrative for people who started life left somewhere. Even when we think we know what’s true and what’s best.

No, it’s not for us to  create the fiction that makes us happiest. People who were abandoned aren’t old bikes leaning against rusty Coca Cola coolers, waiting for us to decide if they’re worth the investment of a new white basket. Still, we can imagine what it is like to have been abandoned, to have been left somewhere, and we can wonder what it means for a person’s life. Or we could ask.


Written in response to The Daily Post prompt: Abandoned

One thought on “The Rusty Chain

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