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Mary-Louise Parker on Momhood and Marijuana

The "Weeds" actress talks about blended families, acting, and legalizing pot.

Adopting Ash Parker continued...

Parker took William with her when she went to Ethiopia to bring Aberash (nicknamed Ash) home. "That and my son being born were the most life-changing experiences" she recalls. "It was such a rich, traumatic experience -- in good and bad ways. You think you understand certain things, but you don’t really have a comprehensive understanding of poverty until you're hit in the face with it," she says. "There aren’t shelters there. There's nothing. There are people dead on the side of the road. There are mothers amputating children’s limbs so they will be more effective as beggars. "

After she brought Ash home, Parker was surprised at some of the questions about her newly adopted daughter.

"Somebody asked what her name was, and I told them Aberash. They said, 'Did you make that up, or did she come with that?' Like she was a car!"

Parker cherishes the child's name as "the only thing I have to give her that her parents left her." Aberash means "giving off light" in Amharic, but Parker is particularly touched by the cultural significance of the name.

International adoptions

"There was a young girl in Ethiopia named Aberash Bekele, who was kidnapped and raped by a man when she was 14 and told she would have to be his wife," she explains. "She shot and killed him, and there was a big trial and she was acquitted, which is practically unheard of there. I don’t know if that story informed her mother naming her, but the name is something that's hers. I can’t give her a locket, a picture, a letter -- that's it. That's profound to me, and I don't want to rob her of it."

"The instinct of wanting to keep a child connected to his or her culture, roots, and biological origins is a wonderful thing and certainly considered best practice in adoptions today," says Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national adoption policy organization. "Everybody wants and needs to know where they came from, and names are one of the ways we can do that."

It’s because of Aberash -- maybe because of both Aberashes -- that Parker was drawn to support the Brighter Futures Project (www.brighterfuturesproject.com), an initiative of the Gladney Center for Adoption. The initiative employs orphaned girls in Ethiopia and China making hand-knotted, beaded bracelets. These girls have "aged out" of prospects for adoption, and are making the transition from orphanage life to living on their own.

"It gives them direction, purpose, a little bit of income. These are girls that are faced with prostitution at the age of 9 -- things we just can’t comprehend. If you want to give a present, their jewelry is meaningful -- and quite beautiful," Parker says.

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