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I don’t remember when I found out, I guess I had just always known that I had been adopted. It at least made sense of why my father seemed to single me out most often when his temper flared, during my early years. "You're his whipping boy," my cousin -- the brainic -- had told me once, many years ago. And numerous others, each in their time when we were all adults, said similar things. I didn’t look like my six brothers and sisters. And when someone would point it out, my father would say, “Of course she was adopted. We didn't have any ugly kids!” They would all laugh, and I would wish they had left me for someone else to adopt.

My (new) family’s name was Stone. Sometimes, I would see kids at school that I thought looked like me and I'd wonder if I was really a Stevenson or a Roy, and what it would be like to live in one of their houses -- their clean houses, where I would be given mints instead of broken lips -- and live with their parents, rather than the ones I had.

I often found myself working too hard for my parents’ approval, doing additional chores around the house without being asked to, and working in the garden some nights until after dark. I otherwise tried not to get dirty and kept my hair combed. I worked hard to be pleasant, and not too loud, which wasn't easy, living there. I liked it best when I was invisible. I spent endless hours in my room reading happy stories and writing poetry.

One Wednesday, during summer vacation when my parents were out, I decided to surprise them by cleaning the big mahogany desk in the corner of the living room. Grimy papers were mixed with broken matchbox cars and cereal bowls that the milk had dried into. There were tools and random wires, abandoned ashtrays with stale cigarette butts mashed into them, and a few dead flies – belly up, scattered around.

I emptied and cleaned the ashtrays and cereal bowls, then carefully stacked the papers in the order I had found them, shaking the dust off as I went. Then I sprayed the desk with window cleaner, wiping the worst of it vigorously with an old washcloth before buffing the streaks out with a light spray and a paper towel. But one large, sticky, brown ring wouldn’t budge, gluing the lamp to the glass with what look suspiciously like chocolate ice cream. So I drenched it a second time and scurried off to find a scrubby sponge. Returning, I saw that the uneven floor had caused the liquid to race toward the open file drawer. I rushed to stop it, but some of the files were already wet. My skin prickled with panic as I reached in and took out the wettest papers, scrambling to pat them dry. I tried not to look at the writing on the sheets – they weren’t any of my business. I was just trying to save them. But my name jumped out at me from the center of the top page. I glanced up to the heading which read, “Certificate of Live Birth.” My heart started pounding in my ears and I felt a little woozy. I would finally learn my REAL last name! I scanned the document for my parents’ names. Ah, right there. "Doris Anne Millet Stone" and "Harold James Stone." How could this be? Wait a minute! This wasn’t even an adoption paper. This was a birth certificate – something that wouldn’t say “Stone” if I had truly been adopted. So, that settled it -- I couldn’t have been!

A flurry of feathers rose in my chest and a weight dropped to the pit of my stomach. I felt an unexpected sense of belonging, mixed with the lost hope of having a nice biological family out there somewhere, with a clean house who would love me and want me to come back to them.

I went to the mirror and studied my face. I studied my hands and finger-nails, and for the first time, I could see the resemblance to my family, rather than the differences. I didn't know quite what to think... or how to feel. I finished my cleaning project, wondering what I would say to my father, or if I should say anything at all. In the end, I decided to keep silent, knowing that trying to explain how I had learned the information could mean an interrogation and a punishment I could do without.

That little piece of paper changed everything for me that afternoon. Yet, despite the life-shattering discovery, my real lesson that day, was learning just how far my father was willing to go, to pull a prank on an innocent victim, without considering the scars it could cause. It wasn't the last time I fell for one of his cons; there would be many more over the years, but my hesitance to take anything he said at face-value, from then on, made me less vulnerable and the offenses less painful. In that moment as the dust glistened in the sunbeams that bounced off the shiny glass top of my father's desk, images and sounds moved slowly, as in a dream, until things seemed normal once again. But during that time of suspended reality, something had changed. I had changed. And my childhood, in a very real sense, had been left behind.

------
Here, I share, with stark honesty, my life.


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Comments

The following comments are for "So, I Was Adopted"
by FeliciaStone

Family Stone
I've often heard people say mean things to children and it just annoys me. I helped raise my two youngest sisters and would confront anyone who even hinted at calling them names. I don't get why grown ups are so flippant about something so scarring.

I liked this post. I'm confused about the title though: You start out writing that you were adopted but then you found out you are their biological daughter. Why keep the title? Also, why is it in anthology and not blogs or essays?

( Posted by: toscano [Member] On: October 31, 2011 )

double indemnity identity
This is a nasty read. I think I'd have preferred being adopted than have to lay claim to such a parent.

My brother - the nasty one - used to tease me a lot and one of his strategies was to tell me I was adopted ... because I was the only child without blue eyes ... my parents didn't make a big deal out of correcting him because they thought it was ludicrous that I'd feel isolated by his 'attentions'.

Later ... much later .. my brother paid dearly for all the toughening up he did of my tender feelings. As adults, he was no match for my wits and due diligence.

Maybe you'll take some comfort from the survival story of mine but .. you had a rougher road. Can't imagine having to deal with a parent like that.

( Posted by: Pen [Member] On: November 1, 2011 )

Toscano and Pen -- Adopted
Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. I decided to use the title "So, I'm adopted" because it doesn't let on that I had already figured out that I wasn't. It was a challenge to write this story in so few words, and still have some sense of anxiety in the unfolding of it. It was an intense experience, and I didn't want to dampen it by giving a heads-about about how it ended. Perhaps I could consider a title that isn't misleading?

( Posted by: feliciastone [Member] On: November 8, 2011 )

title is fine
I think the title works because it lends itself well to your story.

( Posted by: Pen [Member] On: November 9, 2011 )

i am sorry.
-so much in life that test us. i know that you hurt. i know torment. and i am so sorry. god bless you wherever you are. i am a poet too. we have our shells... but, we have our windows too. ptiotr@yahoo.com

( Posted by: moonrising36109 [Member] On: December 3, 2011 )

Pen and Moonrising -- I'm adopted
Pen, thanks for tossing in your view. Moonrising: Thank you for your kind words. Connecting with gentle souls like you makes the transparency required to write from our soft-spots, doable.

Best,
Felicia

( Posted by: FeliciaStone [Member] On: January 27, 2012 )





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