FOUR years ago, when I was 24, my mother handed me a case file on myself. I had long known that I was adopted as an infant and that my birth mother had died in a car accident several years after I was born. But this case file was new to me.
Growing up, I had internalized my parents’ matter-of-fact approach to the subject, and by the time I was in elementary school, being adopted hardly seemed worth mentioning. Even so, when a classmate and I came across a book called “Why Was I Adopted?” one day during reading time, I said to him happily, “I’m adopted!”
“No you’re not,” he replied. “You’re lying.”
“I really am,” I said, bursting into tears.
I told the teacher’s aide, and within minutes I was already over it, but the aide apparently saw the chance for a teachable moment.
“Do you know why you were adopted?” she asked.
I told her it was because when I was a baby, my biological mother didn’t want to take care of me anymore.
“Didn’t want to, or couldn’t?” she asked pointedly.
I was taken aback, then said I guessed it was because she couldn’t, though the distinction hardly seemed important.
Who cared if she could or couldn’t, didn’t want to or simply didn’t care? I was a bubbly, smart child who insisted on wearing only dresses to school and who commanded the room during Christmas parties by standing on a folding chair and belting out carols. I was delightful. As far as I was concerned, if this mysterious woman didn’t want me, it was her loss.
A couple of years later I came home from school and my parents looked worried. “We thought this might happen,” they said. “But we didn’t think it would happen this soon.”
My mind immediately leapt to divorce, since that was the only thing I could imagine warranting such seriousness. Instead, they sat me down and told me that my half sister had called and left a message. They had mentioned before that she existed, but for the first time they told me more.
She and I had the same mother, they explained, and she was interested in meeting me. She was only 18 and had just had a baby.
I don’t remember the conversation very clearly, but I gathered they felt the timing was a little suspect. They were concerned she might be after money. They said the decision to talk to her was up to me, and I told them no, I didn’t want to. It was hard to ignore their expressions of relief….Continue Reading the Adoption Story
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