My biological mother was seventeen when she had me in 1952, and even that was more than I wanted to know about her. I had no romantic notions about the coupling that had produced me, not about her being cheerleader to his football captain or au pair to his Rockefeller. When I thought about it at all, this is what I imagined: two faceless and cheap teenagers doing it listlessly in the unfinished basement where they jitterbugged unchaperoned.
"Adopted" was never a label that made me flinch. Its meaning within our family was "hand-selected,'' "starcrossed," "precious." I loved the story of my parents' first glimpse o f me at the agency, how I solemnly studied their faces hers, his, back to hers then grinned. I was raised to be glad that the unlucky teenage girl couldn't keep me; the last thing I wanted was some stranger for a mother. Still, I slept with a light on i n my bedroom until I was twelve, afraid she'd exercise her rights.
Later it annoyed me. The teenage girl annoyed me, nothing more. Could she ever have worn real maternity clothes or taken a single prenatal vitamin on my behalf? Here is where I remember to feel relief and gratitude and say, no matter. I am healthy, happy, better off. It is a lucky thing she didn't keep me. I'd barely have finished high school. I'd have become a beautician or a licensed practical nurse, and I would think I had a glamorous career. The grittier I made it the more righteous I felt. I invented these jitterbugging teenagers when I was in junior high school, as my adoptive parents began to look old. I voted against the irresponsible kids, emphatically for the Epners. My story suited me and I grew to believe it. I did not attend support groups for adoptees and I did not search for anyone.
Then she found me.
Copyright © 1990 by Elinor Lipman