“Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected – a Memoir,” by Kelle Hampton. William Morrow. 288 pages. $24.99.
Kelle Hampton relates with courage and exhilaration a story of how life gets in the way of the dreams and values we create for ourselves. The white picket fence life-style of her imagination, fed by her habitually rose-colored memory of her childhood, confronts the big fact that doesn’t fit. There is no place in the story-book life she imagines she is leading for a Down syndrome daughter. When Nella is born, Kelle has to learn how to deal with reality and re-write the book, in the process making important discoveries about herself and opening up to change.
The journey is arduous, and the road is filled with boulders and false trails. Kelle has to figure out how to process the immeasurable and unconditional love she feels for her second child as well as the initial disappointment that she can’t deny. Raising Nella will mean disappointing two year old Lainey, protecting Nella from the mocking cruelty and hurtful judgments of others, and dealing with the full range of Down syndrome’s medical and developmental issues.
One of the first things Kelle learns is that Lainey has better equipment for coping with Nella than she does. Lainey’s innocence is her protection, her lack of expectations a blessing. She relates to Nella immediately and positively. Is it that Lainey doesn’t know any better, or that she knows (feels) what’s really important?
Shame, guilt, inadequacy, helplessness. These are among the feelings roiling within Kelle in the aftermath of Nella’s birth. To allay these feelings, she not only had to tap deeply into her inner resources, but she also had to learn to seek and accept the emotional support that friends and family could offer. Kelle had already led her life in a way that had created strong bonds. She had long practiced active friendship. Her independent streak had always been tempered by a sense of community.
Choosing to “live big,” Kelle Hampton knew how to choose occasions for celebration, which meant investing the occasion with meaning, vitality, and shared future memories. She calls herself a “ceremonialist,” and it is no coincidence that she is also a photographer – someone who saves the occasion for future use. All of these talents have served Kelle Hampton well, as they continue to do.
The basic time line of the book is the first year of Nella’s life and all of the turmoil, adaptation, and growth that accompanied it. However, many of the chapters are structured to provide background and context. Readers learn about Kelle’s own childhood, both its idyllic aspects and its fracture when her parents were divorced after her father, a clergyman, admitted to being gay. Readers discover Kelle’s slow self-making as a teen, college student, and young professional. We share her sense of good fortune in meeting Brett, the divorced somewhat older man with two sons who became her husband and the father of Lainey and Nella. We enjoy their exquisite bonding into one family. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 2, 2012 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly as well as the May 3 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here Florida Weekly – Kelle Hampton pdf 1 and here Florida Weekly – Kelle Hampton pdf 2
[Fort Myers and Naples editions also include Q & A with the author.]