Sitting here, lamenting our ever-decreasing in quality computer, I am forced to listen to music the old fashioned way -- on the fine boombox on the table. It's far away and only holds 3 CD's but is oddly comforting. I dug out kd lang's Inginue, one of the 2 CD's my first girlfriend and I played ad naseum (the other? Melissa Ethridge's Yes I Am) as we became experts at being lesbians. Well, not experts, but very interested newbies.
Anyway. Listening to kd doesn't so much remind me of her anymore, but of a different, equally piviotal night. I spent the spring and summer of 1997 searching for my birthmother. I'd gotten as far as I could and that September, gave what information I had (a lot, it turned out) to a very nice searcher named Jaymie, who did my dirty work.
At that point, dirty work meant calling all of the people with my birth last name in the Columbus area and pretending to be a long-lost relative doing a dissertation on the family. I had a lot of so-called 'non-identifying information,' tidbits of my history that were enough to keep my mind wandering but not enough to tell me who I really came from. I'd had these pieces since I was 18, read and re-read the papers, looking for clues about anything and everything.
My efforts that summer had unearthed my birth name, the gift my birthmom gave me before I was sent off to become Liz Doughty. Knowing that she'd taken the time to think of a name for a baby that was to become a ghost hit me harder than you'd imagine. All these years, she'd thought of me as that baby, with that name, that ghost in the shadows of her past. I couldn't and still can't fathom the selflessness it took to give me that name, lay it on me like a sweet kiss that had to last through forever, then trust the nuns, the social workers and God to find the right place for me to go and walk back to her life knowing she would never be the same.
Name in hand, I was ready to put the pieces together. I knew there was no way I could make those calls myself. The idea of starting a relationship with my grandparents with such a lie, even in the best of faith, was not something I could do. Truth is something I hold above almost everything, it would be utterly out of character for me to make that call. So I paid someone else to do it.
I know what you're thinking, someone still lied to those people for me. That's true, I can't deny it, nor will I waste words trying to justify it. I still feel like shit about that and always will on some level.
Thursday was the day I'd turned my information over to Jaymie. A nail-biting, heart-wrenching couple of days followed with a phone call I'll never forget late Friday. Jaymie asked 'is your birthmother (x) tall? does she weigh (x) pounds?' She'd made those phone calls, and eventually was lead to my birthmom's DMV record. That meant she had a name. A name! I rolled her name over and over my tongue and my heart, trying to see if it fit, if it had been there in my heart all along, a shadow of knowledge that had just become clear. In truth, no. I'd always thought her name was Sarah. It's not.
That night, I was a mess. Jaymie was trying to track down a current address and phone number and I was supposed to just wait. Our friend Carl had extra tickets to a kd lang show in Oakland and we were smart enough to take him up on it. We met these random people for a dinner I can't remember and went to the most amazing show ever. kd is a performer unlike any other (save Bette Midler, who is every bit the diva) and that night she rocked my world. Those tickets kept my mind (sort of) off the changes that were about to come. Hearing kd brings me back to that breathless time, to the calm nervousness that plagued me in that period.
What happened next? Jaymie came up with a phone number and while I'd always imagined writing a letter, I found myself up early Sunday morning, phone in hand. Lucky for me, the number was out of service. I cannot imagine the shock that would have put her through 'um, hi, remember me?' on the PHONE? Sheesh. That's just not cool.
We went to Stanford mall with my friend Heather (also a reunited adoptee, who was invaluable to me through all this) to find the perfect paper to write the perfect letter. It took 3 stationary stores, but I found it. I couldn't wait to get home and write the letter I'd dreamed of writing my whole life. I put sort of generic details in it, lest her new family not know about me. That way she'd know I was okay, was grateful, would understand if she chose not to write back. I said everything I needed to and sent it priority mail (they tell you that registered mail draws too much attention, in the end the priority part did too but I couldn't wait much longer at that point) along with a few photos of me now. They tell you not to send baby pics, as that can be too traumatic. I dropped it in the mail knowing that the letter I just sent may have to be enough, that it could very well be all the contact I'd ever have with her.
3 days later, I got fired from my job and while I sat at home crying, flowers came to my door. From her. From her!