I recently started driving a 1990 Mazda Miata. It is a wonderful car. It has an ashtray where you might expect a cup holder. It has a cassette deck. That works. It makes a growling noise when it runs. HBL calls it a sewing machine on wheels. He said it will run forever.
The other day I threw the top back and the plastic window shattered. Old plastic is like cheap glass, and I cut myself picking up the pieces. I cried and called HBL. He got on YouTube and told me there was a solution. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good.
There was a zipper I hadn’t noticed around the sides and top of the window. If I went online and ordered a replacement plastic window, I could unzip the broken one, cut it from the bottom, and then zip in the new one and glue it to the bottom. Unless someone looked closely, no one would know the window wasn’t original and glued in instead of originally attached.
So now I have a plastic window on order.
Yesterday I was listening (again) to the Liz Story episode of the podcast Adoptees On, and, at the end, the host Haley Radke talked about the Supreme Court decision from back in 2013 when, after a lengthy battle, baby Veronica was “reunited” with her adoptive parents. She had gone from her birth mother to the adoptive parents to her birth father and then to her adoptive parents.
What if we think of baby Veronica like the window to my Miata? Being relinquished by her mother is the cutting the fabric part. Giving her to adoptive parents is the gluing part. And, unthinkably, if we continue with this imaginative comparison, the glued window that was baby Veronica was ripped off and then glued back. I can barely type these words, never mind think about what was going on in that child’s brain.
Once you tear fabric it is never the same. You can sew it, glue it, but it will always be altered.
I believe that the fabric of my being, my soul, was torn when I was relinquished. Why do I think this? How do I even know what happened in the hospital? If I were to these things to a roomful of adoptees, most would be nodding their heads. If I were to say this to a roomful of people who were not adopted, they might shuffle their feet, wondering why I was bringing up stuff I couldn’t even remember.
I just know the fabric of my being was torn. I feel it. All my life people have told me I confuse them, that I seem like two people, that whatever is true about me is also false. I cherish the truth but I lie. I am reliable and yet I can’t be counted on. I am nice but I am mean. What if this is because my psyche was torn at birth? What if I’m confusing because I’m confused? What if I’m two people: the Sarah who was born to X (to protect the innocent I still can’t say her name publically) and Anne who was raised by Margery and Frank?
This will seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but here’s my point: I hate it when people call my parents my “adoptive” parents. Yes. That is what they are. But why can’t I have “parents” like almost everyone else I know does? Why do my parents have to have an adjective? I want to belong in the world. I want to feel secure in the belief that what is mine is truly mine, and yet every time someone says “your adoptive parents” to me, they tear at the glue that connects me to the people who loved and raised me.
Just let me pretend. Yes, I’m adopted. I’m not saying I want to pretend I’m not adopted. But I want solid. I want real. And so maybe some of that involves blurring language. It may not work for you—the people who adopted you may have been your worst nightmare and “adoptive” is a word that keeps you safe, but I loved my parents, and although they weren’t perfect, and although I struggled all my life with my sense of identity, I still want them to be mine.
It’s easy to think nothing is really yours when the world that created you disappeared. I coped by giving things away. I had a jumpstart on the whole deal: I was going to give everything away before it could disappear on me. To claim anything as an adoptee is a big deal, a real accomplishment in the journey to belonging, so I’m super proud of myself for claiming my parents here, even though my mother is dead. She’s still mine.
After the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision, the press release said Veronica was “reunited” with her adoptive parents. It said that Matt and Melanie (and here, I cannot say it: I cannot say “parents”, I have to say “adoptive parents” because in my heart I think they tore that girl away from her self) “cannot wait to bring Veronica home and begin the healing process as a reunited family.”
Writing that last part makes me sick.
Her adoptive parents, in my mind, stole her from her father, the fabric of herself.
I’m all sweaty now.
Writing about adoption can make a person feel insane. What is true is also not true time and time again. My parents are my parents.
Baby Veronica’s “parents” are not.