There is a letter I posses. A letter I hold deep in my heart and hide high up in my closet.
The letter has been typed, from a type writer. A letter that was written in the late 70s. It being presented to me by a social worker as an adolescent. It possessing “unidentifiable information” about my birth family. Leaving me imagining what they were like. Entering their world in my minds eye.
It begins by stating her coloring. Her hair red. Her eyes blue. Fair skin. Then her height, her weight, her age. The letter explains that she was a junior in high school. Just turned 17. Her family coming from Czechoslovakia. Followed by her parents, my birth grandparents, information. On health issues, religion, stuff like that. Things she thought I should know. Then into information about her brothers and sisters. How one was allergic to eggs, so I might have allergies. How one had crooked teeth, so I may need braces. What her favorite subjects in school were. What she liked to do in her past time.
Then the letter goes on, telling me in so many words about my father. In not such crucial detail. His parents she defined as “strict”. As well as “devout” 7th day adventists as their religion.
My father having brown hair and green eyes. With a passion for motorcycles.
This “unidentifiable information” being the only information I know about myself. My heritage. My ancestors. A missing puzzle piece of who I am. These questions asked to her? Or what she wanted me to be conscious of? All what she wanted to pass on. These nuggets as the only thing she knew I would know about her and our family.
I have clung to this letter as the only truth of who I am. As the only awareness of where I came.
Everything else, a reality, but also a pretend. A pretend I never felt with my adoptive mother, but one after she died, I have felt the rest of my life. A pretend in how I am introduced to family friends, to my father’s girlfriends and their families.
“This is Josie. She’s “adopted.”
As the precursor before I shake their hand, or spoken immediately after. As if that was the most identifiable thing about me. As if it explains everything. As if others questioned it before it was announced. As if I stood out as much as I felt I did. Why my hair color is different than the rest of the family. My eyes. My demeanor. Me being the black sheep. How distant I seem because of the fact I have never been able to fully conform to the “pretend”. Me always feeling, always noticing the divide. Aware. Always hearing the explanation, the excuse, I am adopted.
Growing up, I have gone into my imagination. Created stories. Written worlds. Existed there from time to time. Loving the escape, if you will. Or enjoying the sense of belonging I create in these lands, with these characters I imagine. While I have loved the peace of going to this place in my mind, while I have spent my life pretending, a part of me is left unable to lie.
I have clung to this letter as my only connection to my birth parents. To the womb in which I was birthed. The blood line that runs generations. Inside me. That pulsates through my veins. The blood type, a tribe, that exists somewhere out there, together. Without me.
Now I have a son. A son who loves to imagine. Who loves to create. With red hair and blue eyes. That blood line in front of me everyday to visually see. As well as seeing the similarities between us. The similar way we see the world. A view that always felt so different, so foreign, to those around me. The way we both escape into stories we build in past time and on the page. I find myself wondering, questioning, if this is defined in our DNA. Prewritten as who we genetically are.
Destined to live in the imaginary while still refusing to completely exist in the pretend.
My son being the same. I watch him, as he creates by himself or as he interacts with others. How he will vanish into a world of his own creation. How he makes characters and names them. How he creates dialogue and feels the emotions. All the while, at the same time, how he will correct anyone who states a mistruth. Even if in play. Something inside him, remaining grounded in his reality, while committed to his imagination. How he adjusts my mask, in many ways, physically and metaphorically, if I am wearing it incorrectly. If my nose is poking out or if I am denying a part of me that he knows to be true. Even in the telling of stories. How he plays in his own worlds while never denying what he feels to be real.
The fine rope we teeter on. A world we love to imagine in our minds, while admitting who we are here on the ground. The complex paradox of such a mindset. A world I had spent alone in, that I now share with my son. Imagining while being tethered down to earth, yet the only world I can survive in. The space, the truth, between both. After years of trying to pretend. Trying to fit in. Trying to belong while hearing the word “adopted” as my adjective. A constant reminder telling me, well, not really. But a place I have been accepted into.
I look at my reality, my truth...
I had a mother with red hair and blue eyes. She loved to knit and read. I had a father with brown hair and green eyes. Who had a passion for motorcycles and whose family was religious and devout. I had a mother with brown hair and hazel eyes that raised me. Who loved me. Who brought me in as her own. Who taught me what it felt like to be held. To love. I have a son with red hair and blue eyes. Who loves life, who has a sense of belonging I only imagined. Who loves to pretend while refuses to deny what is real to him.
I see how each person, each of these souls, has left an imprint. These gifts, these relationships, this "information". Whether it be genetically, spiritually, tangibly or right before my eyes. I have taken a piece of each of them with me. Within me. Creating a dream and admitting a reality. A combination of all creating who I am.
I have red hair, green eyes. I am devoutly spiritual. I was an adopted child who is now a birth mother. I now understand the deep mothering love for my son. A love I could never give up. A love I will never lose. I know this as true as I know anything else in my life.
Just as I know both my mothers feel or felt the same. My adopted mother loved me as her own til her last breath. A love so strong I still feel it. My birth mother loved me enough to give me a better chance than she could have given me. Who I cannot pretend that love was or is not there. This invisible connection. Unseen but real. A love so strong I still feel it. Kept on an old typed letter. In her descriptive words. In her “unidentifiable information” at the same time exposing everything I am.
This truth about them, about me, the way I picture it, the only way I want to live it. The truth that I know to be true because I feel it. While still keeping the capacity to pretend when need be. To dream, to create, within my reality. My truth. Or, at least, that's how I imagine it.