I was a pretty lucky kid: In addition to my birthday, I got to celebrate my "special day." That was the day my parents came to the adoption agency to take me home.
Every child has her story… about how her mom was in labor for 40 hours; or perhaps his mom almost had him on the kitchen floor. And many children hear these stories year after year as part of their birthday ritual.
My story happened on my "special day." And every year on my special day, my mom tells the story, and my dad interjects a comment here and there.
"On July 7th, 1968," my mom begins, "We got your sister, who was five at the time, all dressed up, and we were so excited. And when we got you, we bundled you all up, even though it was hot out…"
"It was like 98 bloody degrees," my dad chimes in.
"But we wrapped you up all nice and cozy," she continues…
"Because that's what you did," dad says.
"And I remember holding you in my arms in the car ride home, and it was at the corner of Lyndale and Fifth that I looked down at you," mom always pauses for effect… "And you were mine."
I LOVE that story. They often tell it during dinner at a restaurant of my choosing, because that's what we always do on my special day. We go out to eat at my favorite restaurant. As a little girl, that meant "The Jolly Green Giant" which was about an hour from where we lived, but it was worth the trip! They had the sweetest, yummiest corn on the cob that left butter dripping down your face as you asked for more. Plus, they had these really cool handlebar mustaches that were made out of paper… you could put these tabs in your nose and look like you had a mustache. I thought that was awesome!
Imagine a little girl with long blonde hair, a handlebar mustache, and let's not forget the straw hat with the red white and blue band around the top. I looked like the littlest, girliest member of a barbershop quartet!
Over the years the venue has changed. But the story remains the same… well, for the most part anyway. Sometimes I would ask questions and get new little bits of information.
"Why did you adopt me?" I asked them once. It was a pretty obvious question, given that my older sister and younger brother are both their biological children.
"Well, actually, it kind of started out as your father's idea," my mom said."One night we had some friends over for dinner, and somehow the discussion came to the subject of adoption. At that time there was actually more of a need for parents willing to adopt, than there was for babies to be adopted."
"So I said, why don't we adopt?" My dad chimed in.
That kind of surprised me. I don’t know why. It just seems like women are usually the first to raise the idea of adopting a child. A lot of men I know get too hung up on the child having to be "of my bloodline." Gosh that sounds so primitive! Anyway, they began to investigate adopting a child. They told me about the big house-visits.
Now keep in mind, they want to demonstrate to the social worker that they are terrific, loving parents, with a well kept home to raise an adopted child. But you should also know, compounding the pressure is that my mom comes from a long line of obsessively clean people. My grandma has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in spades!! In fact, one time I came to visit my grandma, I noticed a different pair of slippers in every room, and they were always left neatly at the edge of one room or another. When I asked why, I found out it was so that dirt wasn't tracked from one room to another! It's an endearing quality. I love her to pieces.
A side note here: The nature verses nurture questions are always interesting to me. When it comes to being obsessively clean… it's not in my nature. My mom sure tried to nurture that in me, and I do an okay job… well, my husband might think otherwise, but I get by.
So back to the big "inspection" visit. I'm sure the agency didn't call it that; but I know that's how my parents felt. They cleaned up and down and in and out. They wanted everything to be just perfect.
And then came the interviews. They were interviewed together, and they were interviewed separately. And the thing that always cracks me up about this story, apparently in their individual interviews, they were asked, "What do you as a couple fight about most?" Their answer was the same, even though asked independent of one another: "Interior Decorating!" That just kills me! And as I write this, I realize it may make my dad sound "Metrosexual," when actually it was more about him having been an only child and needing to have things a certain way; whereas my mom is always daydreaming about how to update a room. Somehow they've managed to strike a fine balance over the years. Their house should be in a "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine spread. And while you think I might be biased in saying that, it's actually kind of intimidating.
Everyone is always commenting on how lovely my parent's house is, and what exquisite decorating they have. And I'm not the only one who is intimidated. My husband told me the first time he came into my house, he noticed all the "knick knacks," and he thought he'd never make enough money to fill our house with all those things. These aren't cute little things purchased at Hallmark; we're talking room after room of oil paintings and water colors: Most of which were done by my grandmother and great grandfather.
My parent's house has a New England - Country comfortable sort of feel. It's so well put together, but without feeling like it's too put together.
I remember going to their house just after my twins were born to celebrate my special day there. It was a gorgeous summer day. The birds were busily pecking away at the feeder on the other side of the plantation shutters in their kitchen window. My husband and I labored with baby-carriers, babies, and baby stuff in tow through to the family room. The sun shone in off the deck and reflected off of the antique brass propeller placed neatly to the side of the Chicago brick fireplace, along with an old brass bicycle pump and an antique brass oil lantern.
I could hear laughter and chatting out on the deck. My parents were out there with my sister and one of her friends; and judging by the empty glasses, they had been enjoying the warm summer afternoon on the deck for a little while.
The oohs and ahhs over our little girls welcomed us to the party. My mom showed us one of her great new finds: an antique red bicycle with metal wheels and a metal seat. "I just love that," she said, "It's so worn, and it just looks like something that some little boy must have loved and rode constantly." She topped the seat off with an old little baseball glove. It was really cute.
We adjourned to the deck where we were offered a glass of lemonade, wine or perhaps a beer. We said hello to my sister's friend who was there for a quick visit before she and my sister took off for a friend's surprise birthday party.
My mom gave me a big hug, and said, "How wonderful to celebrate your special day with your new little babies."
So then, they had to tell the story. My sister's friend was a new audience to the story. I'm not sure if that's what brought out a new detail of this old yarn, or if it was the wine, but my dad told me something I had never heard before. It wasn't really a little detail either.
It began the same…
"On July 7th, 1968," my mom began, "We got your sister, who was five at the time, all dressed up, and we were so excited. And when we got you, we bundled you all up, even though it was hot out…"
"And when we got to the agency there was a new case worker on the deal," my dad said. "And remember what she said?"
"ALLEN!!!" My mom said with a warning tone. If there were subtitles, they would have said, "KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!" But of course, her tone only grabbed my attention. What haven't they told me?
"We've told you this…" my dad continued in a jovial tone. "You were born with a birth defect. They told us that on the phone."
"But we said that didn't matter, you were our baby," my mom said, with a tone of finality that I think she hoped would end this story.
"Well, they told us on the phone that you had a birth defect that had deformed your face and neck, and that surgery might help, but the doctors seemed pretty certain that massage therapy would help, and perhaps circumvent a need for surgery," my dad said.
I nodded. I knew all of this.
"Well," dad continues with a chuckle and a little nudge to his new-found audience in my sister's friend, "The day we get there, we're all excited… your mom and sister are all dressed up, and we go to get our new baby girl, and this case worker comes out looking rather horrified."
He's on a roll now; "She says, 'Has anyone told you about this baby's deformity?' and we say 'yes,' and she says 'well, I don't know that they've fully prepared you… this child is rather… GROTESQUE." My dad says the word slowly with great emphasis. I'm stunned.
"So she says, 'I will totally understand if you don't even want to see her. You can just turn around and leave. It won't be a black mark against you. You can just have the next child.'" The whole deck is silent.
"So your mom starts crying, and then your sister starts crying because mom is crying. So I say, 'Let's have a look.' And it really wasn't that bad. This lady was building you up to be the 'elephant baby,' but really your head was just a little smooshed in on one side, and tilted at an angle. So without even conferring with your mom I said, 'We'll take her."
The nerve of that lady! Telling them not to even look at me! Telling them she'd understand if they just turned around and went home!
"Fortunately this story has a happy ending, since you are clearly NOT grotesque," my dad says with a chuckle as he wraps one arm around me and gives me a squeeze. "I guess I wouldn't have told you that story had you turned out hideous." We all laugh.
This story is an excerpt from a book I'm currently writing called "A Better Life -- A Book of Letters Written Between a Father and Daughter Who Never Met." More excerpts are available at http://abetterlifebook.blogspot.com/. Names, dates, etc. have been changed to protect people's privacy. I graduated with a double major in Journalism and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1990. I had several internships in television news; and I reported on the air as an intern at the top two stations in Wisconsin's Capitol City before I had graduated. I later left the news business to become a high-tech executive recruiter. I currently run my own executive search firm. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see local Adoption resources, please select a location (U.S. only):
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.