My best friend in first grade friend was a black girl-one of two in the whole school-who had corn-rowed hair and creamy white palms that fascinated me. We had assigned seating but the teacher saw us hitting it off and let us sit together…for a day or two until she had to split up our happy little yackfest. I always found the underdog to befriend, but Karen was different-she could hold her own in class, on the playground and at that all important learning venue: lunch. The two of us immediately began making up stories and sharing them in the little hallway in the back of the room called the coat closet, despite its lack of doors. School was enjoyable because I would get to see her.
As early as second grade I can recall telling kids I was adopted. I guess it was something I thought was interesting, and let’s face it, I always found myself to be quite interesting. Kids that young don’t yet ask you about your ‘real parents.’ George and Bernice were fond of telling me how I was chosen, and how they were ready to split the country the day my adoption was finalized if things didn’t go well. This was a lie I could never buy into: if it came down to me or Old Glory, it would have been a dead heat (at best).
I distinctly remember a day – and I had to still be pretty young – when Karen and I realized that we were both born in the same hospital. She was 3 days younger than me, and we would joke about it: “I go first, I’m the oldest.” I didn’t yet possess the language to express my emotions; in my heart, I knew that my birth mother and Karen’s mother had met each other. I was an RH baby and what was known about it was primitive. I stayed in the hospital for weeks. To say our county was predominantly white would be understated; if our races had been reversed I could have simply asked “did you see a black girl here dropping off her baby?”
And here is where a lot of my innocent childhood ideas started to morph into something more realistic and worldly. As we headed towards middle-school they split up the boys and the girls and showed us movie called “Growing Up and Liking It.” The girls were sent home with a booklet and a contraption to hold a maxi pad in place (this was before adhesives). Everyone was congregating in the girls’ room talking about the horror (adults were thinking health and safety and pre-teens were thinking “Carrie.”). I was locked in the stall, thinking about my birth mother and how she must have missed her period when she first realized she was pregnant with me. It is the first memory I have of feeling a connection, a tenuous one at that.
Somewhere around middle-school (late, from what I infer from reading other blogs) I started to let go of the fairy princess fantasy and the equally popular “both my parents died in a plane crash the day I was born” scenario, which I held on to all the way until my very liberal arts college pulled the rug out from under me. People there didn’t ask “When did you find out you were adopted?” In a “what is wrong with you?” tone they asked “Don’t you want to find out who you are?”
To be clear, I’m not sure I will ever know exactly who I am. But for me, this has nothing to do with adoption. I have enough crazy shit to make adoption 5th or 6th on a the list that includes brain cancer. It is logical to ask “why write about it then?” I guess the answer to that is that I feel I might help someone. I’m not sure how. I’m not sure when. But when I look at all the events leading to this moment, I think this is what I am supposed to be doing. For right now, that seems like enough.