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An Adoptee Imagines Conversations That Could Have Changed Her Life

An Adoptee Imagines Conversations That Could Have Changed Her Life

It’s funny how actively I had to corral myself(s) to write these two scenarios. It’s easy to remember how the events hurt—what was hard was letting myself gain control in the situations and letting myself write what I wish had happened.

In both cases, I felt euphoric afterwards. (Note to self.)

One

My mother told me to sweep the kitchen floor, and it wasn’t fair. Once again, just because I had stayed after dinner to clear the table, ten-year-old me was being asked to help even more while my brothers and father had gotten away with leaving the room right after they’d taken the last bite of a meal either my mother or I had cooked.

I went to get the broom and dustpan feeling trapped in this family that wasn’t even really mine. They had no idea who I was—I was royalty, a princess.

“When my real mother comes back to get me she is going to be angry with you,” I said to my mother who was in the kitchen with her jeans that were too short and her stained sweatshirt. My real mother was going to be like the queen in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, dressed in white ermine, perched on an elegant sleigh. She would come racing across the snowy plain of the distance that separated us and rescue me.

HERE’S THE CHANGE UP

My mother came over and kneeled in front of me. “Oh, Sweetheart. You must miss your birth mother very much. We never talk about her, do we?”

I shook my head, suddenly on the edge of tears. My mother was the most important person in my life. I didn’t want to hurt her. “I don’t think about her,” I said. “You’re my mother.”

“I am your mother, but you also have a mother who created you. It’s so strange that we don’t even know what she looks like. I wonder if you look more like your birth mother or your birth father.”

My job is to make my mom’s life easier, to be the good part, and so I band-aided myself. “I look like you and Dad, really. Everyone says it.

“You do look a little like us, and I love that. But I bet you might look like them even more. What if we drew what your birth mother and birth father might look like? I bet they are tall. Even taller than me.”

I could not believe I was going to sit at the table and draw my birth mother and birth father with my mother.

As we sat and drew, I looked over at my mother, and I saw her face, and it was like a shade fell from between us and I saw her for who she was: my mom, and she was so beautiful. So real. It was okay for me to miss my birth mother. It didn't mean my mother loved my any less, and, best of all, because we were connecting and talking about what I'd lost at birth, maybe it made us love each other even more. 

I was so happy. I could be myself and my mother would not disappear.

Two

 My mom and dad and two brothers and I were eating spaghetti my mother had served from the big silver pot in the kitchen, scraping the bottom to get enough on each plate to cover the center circle of the blue willow. There was a loaf of Italian bread from Heartland on the table that we all tore into until it was gone.

Soon my plate was clean, but I was still hungry. My father was a slow eater and my mother was significantly smaller than I was, and so they seemed satisfied with what they had. My brothers were so busy fighting with each other their plates were still half full. My hunger was uncontrollable and bad and scary. I was too much for my parents. No one could take care of me. I was in so much trouble.

HERE’S THE CHANGE UP

“I am still starving,” I said. My father looked up, surprised. My mother said, “But I made five servings.”

“I’m two people,” I said. “The Anne that was adopted and the Anne that existed before that, and they are both hungry. Good lord. John, as a skinny drug baby must be starving, and Sam, who as a little kid first lost first his birth father and then his birth mother and then his foster family must want to eat the entire refrigerator. No wonder adopted people often have addiction issues! Anything to take the edge of this crazy hunger!” My brothers stopped fighting and stared at me.

My mother and father exchanged bewildered glances. My mother, who had been on the edge of tears while I talked, suddenly burst out laughing. She had finally and officially lost all control. We were free. “Let’s go to McDonald’s then,” she said. “And if you’re still hungry after that, we’ll go to Bubbling Brook for ice cream.”

My brothers and I looked at each other in giggling disbelief. This was not the world that we knew. This was going to be so fun.

We raced to the car, hungry for more.

How To Eat as An Adoptee

How To Eat as An Adoptee

Being with Joyce Maguire Pavao

Being with Joyce Maguire Pavao