Yesterday would have been my parent’s wedding anniversary had they still been living. I discovered when I was a middle school child that my mother conceived me out of wedlock. On their anniversary I would joke about taking a chance on them when I wanted to be born into this this life. That was because my mom was only a junior in high school and my dad had just started going to the university for higher education when they discovered my presence.
It took learning about my original grandparents (both of my parents were adopted) before it started dawning on me what a miracle it was that I was not given up for adoption. My mom’s adoptive parents were a banker and his socialite wife. Adoption was the most natural thing in the world within my family. My dad’s parents were humble entrepreneurs making draperies for wealthy people in a little shop in their home. They were also very religious. I’ve been going through old family letters (at least 30 years old) to clean out the clutter. Every letter from my dad’s adoptive parents has some religiosity in it.
During my own journey to know my actual roots (my parents died knowing next to nothing about their mid-1930s pre-adoption parents), I did realize how amazing that I was not also given up for adoption. I believe my mom’s adoptive parents would have been in favor of it. Somehow, I do believe it was my dad’s adoptive parents that preserved me in the family, though I cannot know this for certain. What I do know is that they took my young parents in for awhile and put me in a dresser drawer for a bassinet. I also know that when we were pre-school, we were living in an apartment of a 3 residence dwelling that my paternal grandparents owned.
My parents were high school sweethearts. It may be that they would have married anyway or maybe not. My dad could have fallen in love with someone else at the university or my mom with someone else in her high school. I did find preserved loved letters from that time among their belongings but did not keep them. I had read the story of a woman who’s mother had destroyed her own such letters. This person lamented that but her mother said they were personal between the two lovers. I didn’t read my parents’ letters though I did see one note by my mom worrying about how my dad would take the news that she was pregnant.
Sometimes I wish I had kept those letters. Sometimes I wish I had kept some of their early photos but I am getting older as are my two sisters and I thought I would just divide it up and turn it over to the grandchildren instead. I exist and I grew up in a loving family and that is enough I suppose.
Whether genetically related or adoptive, family is important. Both of my parents were adopted. All of the “family” I knew growing up was not at all genetically related to me (beyond my mom and dad of course). My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were actually not related to me. I marvel at this now.
My adoptive grandparents were influential in my life. No doubt about that. My maternal grandmother lived in wealth and taught us good manners and what an abundant life might be like. I remember fondly sleeping in my mom’s old canopy four-poster bed and coming to a breakfast table set impeccably. My grandmother also made possible my only trip outside the United States beyond occasional forays into Juarez growing up on the Mexican border. Thanks to her I had an experience of attending Clare College in Cambridge England. She was metaphysical actually. I learned that at some point and she expressed gratitude for her financial comforts by being generously charitable.
My paternal grandparents modeled hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and humble surroundings as well as country living as I was growing up in a dense suburban environment. I remember going out into the cotton fields to pick boles and now know that my genetic maternal relatives (grandmother and grandfather lived such a life of necessity). I remember harvesting food from their property – pecans, peaches and asparagus. I remember the trains that traveled right across the street from their rural home.
I also believe I owe my granny (my dad’s adoptive mother) for preserving me in my parent’s loving care and not allowing my unwed high school mom to be sent off to have me and give me up for adoption. Later on in life, my granny caused me to realize a romantic relationship I had been in for some years was not a healthy one and I left it. Her questioning openned the way for me to meet and marry my husband and to have two wonderful sons with him.
I learned about the differences in social classes as a child growing up. My grandparents were the people who adopted each of my parents. Yes, both were adoptees.
On my mom’s side, her adoptive father was a banker and her adoptive mother a socialite. There was opulence and wealth in their household. My grandfather died relatively young. My grandmother then did whatever she wanted to – traveling the global and doling out charitable largess.
On my dad’s side, they were entrepreneurial and poor. They lived modestly. The contrast was always obvious.
In the family I grew up in, my dad was a union worker and my mom held jobs outside the home before I even entered public school. Eventually, she was able to talk my dad into letting her get a degree in music, supplement the family income by teaching music lessons and working on her own compositions. Though she never sold the sheet music she offered for sale, she died doing what she loved and was passionate about.
In learning about my original grandparents, there wasn’t really any wealth there. One of the first stories I heard was that my mom’s father’s family existed in such poverty that the chickens under the house could be seen under the floorboards and sometimes her half-sister went to bed hungry.
My dad’s mom had a hard life. Both grandmothers lost their own moms to death early in their childhoods.
Many of the children who end up adopted are surrendered due to poverty and a lack of financial resources. While some extended families actually do assist a vulnerable mother, that was not the case in any of my family’s experiences. As a society we could do much better and even fewer children would end up relinquished for adoption.