Most anyone who has ever loved me has claimed it started with the eyes. They are big and brown and full of emotion. While they seemed far more supersized as a baby, they are still a topic of conversation and my most distinguished physical feature twenty eight years later.
Sometimes when I’m alone in a crowded place, I find myself looking at strangers’ eyes. I often wonder if one day I’ll be met with a mirror image of my own gazing back at me. If I did, would I know it was you?
Like most things that occupy my thoughts, the consumption of time I spend thinking about you ebbs and flows according to life’s present circumstances. Lately, though, you’ve been on my mind more than usual. I read somewhere that a woman’s biological clock ticks loudest at the age of twenty eight, so maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising that my thoughts drift to you more often than they have in as long as I can remember.
They say the wrong time to look for a birth parent is when you’re in search of anything more than answers. After all, you may have given life to me, but the reality is that you and I are strangers now. Having expectations or an idealistic image of the bond we may share is a dangerous way of thinking and the best recipe for disappointment and emotional anguish.
Over the course of my life, I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions toward you and the choice you made twenty eight years ago. I have felt gratitude, curiosity, confusion and abandonment. I have felt both mad and glad, sometimes at the very same time. The projection of these feelings have played a role in romantic partnerships, family bonds and friendships. As I grow up, though, I have slowly come to realize that these feelings I have deep within me around the start of my life have little to nothing to do with anyone else and everything to do with myself.
If you hadn’t made the decision to give me up, you’d still be my mother. If I were you, that means I’d have a nine-year-old daughter right now. I still feel like a kid, even when my newsfeed on Facebook serves as a passive aggressive reminder that plenty of people my age are busy having their own.
People in my life have always found the topic of my adoption to be fascinating. Regardless of their age, profession or education, the most common question I’m asked has always been: “how did you find out?”
They’re always seemingly disappointed to learn there was no groundbreaking conversation where my parents dramatically turned my world upside down with the “big reveal”. It’s difficult for anyone other than a fellow adoptee to understand that if your parents chose not to withhold it from you, you kind of just always knew. They fed you just enough information that your growing mind was able to make sense of through the years, eventually leading to your knowing everything they did about the backstory of your birth.
I grew up feeling special. I was special because I was a blessing, as all children are, but me even more because my parents wanted me so badly. Because of this, I grew up feeling very loved. Yet, I also developed somewhat of a self-centered way of thinking about how I got to be here. Over the years, I asked a lot of questions. Most of them centered around what my heritage was and what I was called before I was given my name and a place to call home at four weeks of age when my parents first held me in their arms.
It wasn’t until I became older that I started to wonder how tall you were or what your major was in college. Did you like to write and sing like I did? Were you shy like me? Did you have a busy mind like me? Were you as sensitive as me? I wondered if you were still with my birth father and if you thought about me on my birthday. Still, all of my questions about you were centered on me, not you: the traits you might have passed onto me, the extent of time you spent curious about me and whether or not you were smart and pretty. Were you someone I’d be proud to share genes with? Were your eyes as big as mine?
A few months ago, I left my job and took some much-needed time to get my head back on straight. Whenever I feel the need to refocus, I go home to be with my parents in what I still consider as a grown woman to be the safest haven on earth.
One lazy afternoon, I stumbled upon a manila folder tucked away in the guest bedroom with my name scrawled across the front in cursive writing. I remembered it immediately; it was the same folder my parents had gifted me with on my eighteenth birthday. Its contents held every piece of paperwork related to my adoption they had been provided all those years ago.
The number of times I’ve sat and read through it all are too many now for me to possibly count. Yet, on this particular day, as I sat cross-legged on the floor in the bedroom with papers spread out in a semicircle surrounding me, it felt like I was taking it all in for the very first time.
It was only then that I realized something. All these years, all of the time I’d spent thinking and discussing and writing and wondering about the adoption, I never thought about the person on the other side of it. I never really thought about you. As a read carefully though the paperwork and your journal entries documenting your feelings and concerns about the adoption process, I suddenly understood how difficult a decision it might have been for you; not just the actual act of giving your baby up, but the years that would lay ahead filled with a blank understanding of where I was and what I was doing.
For the very first time, I wondered if you were alright. Because there wasn’t just one woman’s heart that continued to feel sometimes hurt and sometimes happy, there were two: yours and mine. How had you coped? Had you projected any of those emotions toward my being born on romantic partners, family members and friends? Were there scars left on your heart? This breakthrough in thinking brought me to tears. Maybe, as I become a woman with the beginning desires to start a family of my own in the coming years, I’m finally able to put myself in your shoes and see it from a different angle – from your angle.
I’m not sure if I want to meet you. I don’t know what that would be like, or if you’d want to know who I was. Would I complicate your life? Would you complicate mine? Sometimes, the not knowing of it all drives me crazy. Other times, I think it’s best to continue on only holding you in my mind. Until I am sure I’m not looking for anything more than answers, I’ll choose to wait to search any further for your whereabouts.
Still, I wonder if sometimes when you’re alone in a crowded place, you find yourself looking at strangers’ eyes. I wonder if one day you’ll be met with a mirror image of your own gazing back. If you did, would you know it was me?
There’s a page in the adoption file that asks if you have any distinguishing features. In capital letters, you wrote BIG EYES. I wanted to thank you for gifting me with them, along with so many other things. I just wanted you to know, I’m alright and I hope you are, too. In some strange and untraditional way, we are tied to each other like the buttons on a blouse. Whether we ever meet or not, I hope that you know that I carry you in my heart, as well as in my eyes.