By Sabina Mollot
Like many people who’ve retired, former teacher and Stuyvesant Town resident Margaret Gonzalez had fully intended to write a novel. But after joining a writing group, she was instead encouraged to get out her own story, which involves the lengthy and often frustrating process of becoming a foster parent and eventually adopting her daughter, who’s on the autism spectrum. Now a grandmother living in Cape Coral, Florida, Gonzalez said she’s now glad she took this advice, and over the holidays, self-published the memoir, Body in Space: My Life with Tammy.
Gonzalez, who had a career as a French teacher at Friends Seminary for 34 years, became a foster parent after hearing from a friend about five children who were placed into foster care, four boys and a girl. Due to privacy regulations in the system, Gonzalez never learned the full story about the situation, other than that the father was incarcerated and the mother may also have been involved in illegal activities. Her friend had taken in the four boys and Gonzalez decided to take in their sister, Tammy. At that time, Tammy was already living with a foster family, though it wasn’t their intention to keep her.
She was four at the time, and so speech-impaired that she couldn’t say her own name. Then, like now (at the age of 40), Tammy isn’t one to talk about her biological family or the system.
“I still to this day don’t know what her family was like,” said Gonzalez. “Now she’ll say, ‘Been there, and it sucked.’”