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One Year

January 28, 2010

As my twin sister and I were growing up, we celebrated one day every year that was unique to our experience as adoptees: Legal Adoption Day.  March 17, 1971.  St. Patrick’s Day.  Only after our birth family became known to all of us this past year did my mother add color to the day: the festive green robe of the Irish-American judge who confirmed that my sister and me belonged to her and my father, the judge who not only sealed our fate but the pieces of our history that preceded the moments of another celebrated day, Coming Home Day, August 7, 1970.  We were twenty-three days old when we landed in the arms of the family who would raise us, whom we would call our own.  Other details spilled forward this past year, from a memory reopened or from a realization that suddenly, either such details might matter or they might not cause harm.  They have always mattered to my sister and me.  To some extent, they mattered more before, when we had little else.  Whatever the case, my mom now says, “I remember a “B.”  On March 17, 1971, she glanced at the papers on the judge’s desk, upside down in her view on the other side of the desk.  She made out a birth mother’s name. She made out a B.

One year ago today, on January 30, 2009, the woman whose maiden named began with a B received a letter from a confidential intermediary at the Midwest Adoption Center in Illinois, the intermediary I had hired to find my birth mother.  She at first thought that the crumpled letter with its return address label askew was a piece of junk mail.  She didn’t look at it until later in the day.  And then she gasped and stuffed it into her pocket, keeping it close to her, until the time she would take it out and tell her husband, my birth father, that we had found them.  For years, he had dreamed about us showing up on his doorstep, two identical-looking women with long black hair, like his young wife’s, and dressed mysteriously in trench coats.  Instead, we appeared before him in a letter, not yet named, only daughters looking.

Today, my sister and I received an e-mail from our birth mother.  I had not heard from her since Christmas Eve when I called to wish her, for the first time, a Merry Christmas.  I move through my days alternatively longing and forgetting. She doesn’t forget.  She tells us that she can hardly keep track of the birth dates of all of her grandchildren, but this day, she remembers.  I rack my brain to remember the very day that she became known to me, the day when the confidential intermediary phoned me while I was in my office at school to tell me about my birth mother.  Glancing back through my calendar, I determine that the intermediary likely called me on February 3.  But it is only a guess.  I didn’t write it down.

From now on, I will write it down.   It’s not a promise to her as much as it is to myself.


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