I can remember always knowing I was adopted. My parents told me as soon as I could understand. I was told I was special, chosen. My friends in grade school also thought it was somewhat cool and very mysterious.
The first time I asked my folks about my adoption, they simply told me that my birth mother couldn’t take care of me, so she put me up for adoption. I asked for details. My mom once told me there were South American ancestors somewhere in my history. I asked about my “weird” middle name Marne (Mar-nay). Was it a family name? Was it made up? I just wanted information. My dad said I was named after a WWII battle, the Battle of the Marne. ( I was always grateful I wasn’t named after the Battle of the Bulge!)
When I was 10 or 11, I wrote to the orphanage that I was adopted through asking questions. No answers. So the search was put on the back burner for an number of years.
In high school, things changed. Rather than being a close community like grade school (total enrollment grades 1-8 was just over 200 kids); my all-girls high school consisted of about 1,000 girls. There were the haves, the have-nots, the “in” group, the not so “in” group, and the wanna-be’s. Grade school was an equalizer because we were all in basically the same situation: blue collar working families. In high school, we were the ones from down the hill. The girls who lived past the school in the real suburbs were the haves with moms who worked. They had lots of stuff. While wearing a uniform was an attempt at a classless society, it fell flat. You could always tell the haves from the have-nots.
Being an only child was plus for me but the adoption thing was seen differently by these new kids. I think the haves thought it was sad, but at least I had a good home. No, I’m not a puppy! The have-nots understood because they saw unwed mothers and somewhat understood that the choice of adoption was reasonable. There were some kids who didn’t care or treat me differently. I didn’t wear a sign on my chest saying “I’m adopted.” When talking of being an only child, they asked why. I said I really didn’t know why but that I was adopted. Generally, all this information was followed by a collective “Ahhh.” Not sure it that was pity, awe or just the relief of getting information.
My new friends asked about what it was like to be adopted. When I was growing up, the terms “birth mother” and “birth parents” we not used. The friends want to know about my real mother. I said my mom was at home, and I was grateful for my unmarried mother giving me up.
When I was a senior in high school, I sent another inquiry asking for my original birth certificate from the City. Again, it was not available to me. I was told those files were sealed. More about this in a future post.