I had the oddest experience the other day (well, actually, all of last week was odd, but I digress) . . . as we were reminiscing, my brother Michael kept talking about events that happened “before we got you”(which he gets a kick out of saying) and we would make “Babies R’ US” and “Baby Depot” jokes . . . even though at times I feel like that is basically what it was . . .
but one story he told me really touched me and made me re-think my usual assessment of my place in our family. he said that he remembered the day that my family went into the city to “get” me . . . how excited he was. It was April 23, 1970 (the reason I know the date has to do with LMT; more on that later). Michael says that he remembers sitting on the floor, playing with the bows on my mother’s shoes. He was four years old.
The reason that this struck me was that I know a little something about kids . . . and I know that for a four-year old to have had this level of excitement, there had to have been some enthusiasm coming from the parental units that my brother(s) must have picked up on. So this little anecdote tells me something that doesn’t jive with the narrative I’ve held onto for so long. This story tells me that, at least at one point, I was truly wanted.
Now, I suppose it’s easier to want something (or someone) before you are fully conscious of what you will be “getting” . . . and, sentimental adoption rhetoric aside, I wasn’t really “chosen”–it’s not like there really IS a “baby depot” where you can go and pick a kid, any kid. The agency picks–they lie, too. I found out later that they told my birthmother that my adoptive mother was a teacher–but it was nice to hear this story, given the fact that when I was fifteen, my mother informed me that “I love you, Lorraine, but I wish I had never adopted you.” It’s nice to know that there was a time, however brief, when she didn’t wish that.
But that is the fear that those of us who are “chosen” must face every day. We were not “wanted” at least once, and we then lived in fear that those who had “chosen” us would eventually “unchoose”. My security as a member of a family is never absolute. I am not truly anybody’s blood . . . I do not really belong.
and it was bittersweet to hear my brother share this recollection because of another story that he has told me a few times . . . the story of how, becoming frustrated with him, my mother would sit him out on our back porch in just a diaper and his shoes (“just how we got you”) and tell him that she had made the call and that “they” (the adoption agency) were coming back to get him. They had “gotten” him, and they could send him back–such is the legacy of the “chosen”. and when my father got home from work, he would play along with the deception. I wonder sometimes how long they left him there, alone with the fear of being sent back.
maybe they forgot that kids tend to take this type of thing literally . . . maybe they didn’t realize the terror that their words would cause in the heart of my small and vulnerable brother. Or maybe they were just that that cruel. I’m not sure I will ever know.
So these are the two images in my head . . . the young family, eager to add a little girl, and that same family, wanting “out” already with her brother at a young age, re-evaluating fifteen years later and wishing she hadn’t been a part of the narrative.
I live with this dialectic every day. It reminds me of who I am. But today, I have a new piece to add to the puzzle. Once upon a time, I was wanted.