I had a nagging feeling all day yesterday that November 17th had a personal significance to me but I couldn’t remember what it was. No, it wasn’t Luke & Laura’s 33rd anniversary (had they remained married and been real people,) that was pulling at my heart. It was something far more personal.
When I went to bed I remembered. November 17th was the date my parents had brought me home from the foster home. I was just under four months old so I remember nothing except what I was told and read.
Here’s a link to my father’s story. It’s the best gift a person could have ever been given and I cherish it.
My parents wanted to celebrate my adoption day, but my sister was born to them exactly two years and one week later. The month of November belongs to her.
They decided to celebrate it some random Sunday in September. My actual birthday is in July and my parents, my mother especially, always made a big deal over it. Sleepaway camp began two to four days after my birthday.
I always felt that if it hadn’t my mother would have gotten the camp to change its first day so I could celebrate my birthday with my family.
When I was ten I was told to pick a Broadway show. My mother, a compulsive Times and New Yorker reader spent days (it felt like months) investigating my choice as she was convinced it was about juvenile delinquents.
I have no idea why a show about delinquents would have been unacceptable as I had had an adult library card since I was seven and was allowed to read anything I wanted to.
Finally she vetted my choice and we saw the show ever since performed in every elementary school, Bye Bye Birdie.
It was an amazing introduction to Broadway and I’m sure my father took credit for the choice.
My birthday party for friends was held in June before school let out as I wanted maximum attendance and presents. And every kid born in summer had their birthday parties in June.
It felt as if the whole summer was my birthday; I still feel that way. But without my mother who was always the first call in the morning and always insisted on seeing me sometime during birthday week it feels a bit less special. I had no idea how much my parents added to my birthday. I’m ashamed to say that sometimes they felt like a necessary encumberance.
I would make so much fun of my mother calling and asking if I was bringing a sweater to wherever I was going during the stifling July heat waves when the air in Manhattan is so still it feels as if it could choke you. (I like it but sympathize…)
Every summer I would ask her why I was supposed to take a sweater as I loved the answer so much: “the night air.” Just that phrase. Nothing more.
Apparently the summer night air is an evil harbinger of colds and worse. Really I think she never forgot that I had pneumonia when I was thirteen months old. Though I never thought about this when my parents were alive and I could have thanked them for insisting that the doctor bring an oxygen tent to the apartment so I didn’t have to go to the hospital.
In those days parents weren’t allowed to stay with children and they thought I had enough separation from parents earlier in my life.
I know I thanked them for being so open with me about my adoption. They would tell me: “your name is Pia. We love you. You were adopted.” It was just another fact about my life.
When I was four we moved to a large garden apartment development on the NorthEast border of Queens. I would say I was a dramatic child and maybe I was but I think most four year olds try to share their knowledge–about the world and them—with their friends.
I made my best friend within hours of the move and then made many more. There were 40 apartments in our court and each family had at least two kids within a year or so of my age. I don’t know how many thousands of kids lived in the complex or its sister complex just to the East. Being bored wasn’t an option.
My parents grew used to getting phone calls from parents:
Is Pia a liar?
But she says she’s adopted and she can’t be. She fits in too well with your family.
My parents didn’t tell me about these phone calls until my teens. They told me that more kids than I could imagine had been adopted but had been told their birth parents were married and died in a car accident soon after their birth. They were never to talk about being adopted. Other kids didn’t know they were adopted and their parents were even more angry because I had stirred the pot they wanted to keep closed.
I stopped talking about being adopted as I grew into more and more interests. Soon after we moved when I was twelve I went through my father’s file cabinet. Immediately I found a file about my adoption. It said I was “adopted for the usual reason.” I had read Peyton Place. I knew what this meant. My parents and I talked about sex.
(When my father and I talked about this a few years later he told me he had left the file so I could easily find it.) For some reason “…the usual reason,” ended all my fantasies about my birth mother. They should have been more dramatic. But a little knowledge can change many things.
I was to turn into an adult who stirred many pots. I think I felt the awkwardness and sadness from parents who liked me and my parents but….
This post is in honor of National Adoption Month. I believe in adoption with all my heart but I also believe that a woman should always have the right to choose. Always.