Tuesday, June 6, 2017

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

~ Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

“The one on the bottom is the important one,” Gerry tells me as he hands me three pieces of mail.

I shuffle through the envelopes and my heart catches when I see the third–it’s from Saskatchewan Social Services.

On January 1 of this year, the province of Saskatchewan opened birth records to adoptees. We are finally able to obtain a copy of our original birth registration. I sent in my request the first week in January; it’s taken five months because many adoptees did the same thing. What’s five months when I’ve been waiting fifty-eight years?

I’m not expecting any surprises. I accessed post-adoption services over the years and have a comprehensive picture of the circumstances of my birth and a genealogy going back to the 1600s. Obtaining this document is something I’m doing because I can. Finally.

I put the envelope on the counter and leave it there, not sure exactly why I don’t open it, but I find I can’t. I putter around, accept Gerry’s challenge to a few games of Wii bowling, and try not to think about the letter on the kitchen counter.

Finally, late in the afternoon, I grab my iPad and the letter and head out to the deck where I carefully open the envelope and take out two sheets of paper. I skim over the cover letter, then turn to the Certificate of Live Birth.

It’s common for adoptees–myself included–to struggle with not feeling real. With the story of our birth shrouded in secrecy we come to feel more as if we were dropped here as opposed to having been born. This certificate is tangible proof that I was, indeed, born.

I read. My mother’s name and age, her occupation and address, even her signature–I pause at her handwriting–the name I was given, my birth date, birth weight, place of birth, it’s all there. A question: is the mother married to the father?–a negative response and, as a result, a stroke of the pen through the section where the father’s information should be. That stroke hurts.

It’s not that my mother didn’t give the name of my father, it’s all there in my adoption file. I surmise that the custom of the day was such that, as my birth parents weren’t married to one another, my father’s name didn’t go on the birth registration. More cover up.

There are red Xs next to my name and, also in red, a notation near the bottom of the document with the names of my adoptive parents, a file number, and the name I was given when I was adopted. If only my father’s name was on this document it would be the single piece of paper tying everything together.

I sit with the document for a while then pick up my iPad and search for the address that my mother gave. I find a photograph of tiny house in that location on Google. It looks old enough, though it’s been updated, that it must be the same house she lived in. It’s not far from the Regina General Hospital where I was born and I imagine my mother, and her young son, living there. Waiting.

After a while I go into the house and show the document to Gerry.

“How are you feeling about this?” he asks.

“It’s a bit uncomfortable,” I admit. “I’m not sure why.”

I’m trying hard to hold it all together, to be an observer to the emotions that are surfacing without getting caught up in them.

We talk, and Gerry questions something that sends me downstairs to get the binder where all of my adoption-related documentation is stored. I leaf through the pages to my adoption file–that thick packet of information with black marks throughout to protect the identities of the parents who conceived me–silly nonsense, given that they’re both long dead and I know the truth.

I read through the transcript of the court session where my birth mother formally relinquished me. It hurts. I read through notes made by social workers regarding my mother’s state of mind. It hurts too. I wipe away tears and wonder what good can come of tearing these scabs off yet again; I hope that the healing will go just a little bit deeper this time.

Later, I put the binder and the genealogy books away but leave the Certificate of Live Birth on the dining room table. I’m real. I was born. This proves it. Hurts have resurfaced and I’m feeling a bit raw and battle weary, but that’s what it’s like to be real.

Gerry settles in to watch the hockey game and I curl up under a quilt seeking comfort.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. I can’t imagine what you are feeling. I so admire you for sharing this journey with us. ?

    1. Thanks so much, Celine.

  2. Thanks for sharing, good reading. One thing I came away with that all adoptees are different in some aspects and the same in other aspects.

    1. Yes, exactly. Our experiences may be different but we share things in common as well. Isn’t that beautiful?

  3. Beautifully written, Linda. My prayers go out to you and hope your are enveloped in peace. I love the Velveteen Rabbit reference. I’ve used it in the past, with a photo devotional/journal starter. Accepted as “real” can be hard in this world we live in today. Many are consumed by the facade they must portray. Thank you for your vulnerability. ??????

    1. Lyn, thank you so much for your words and especially for your prayers. Real is hard for sure.

  4. Hmmm…there it is again. Beauty. That is the word that is embedded in my heart when I think of you. The delicate images, the adept handling of words, the sharing of your soul…beauty.

    1. Tamara, my friend, thank you. Our journeys may be difficult but there’s always beautiful nuggets to be mined if we pay attention. Your friendship is one of my precious nuggets.

  5. Thank you for sharing this real part of your life. Your emotions come through in your writing I pray for your comfort. How nice it would be if we all could share our real life.

    1. Lynda, thank you for stopping by, for your kind words, and especially for your prayers. How nice, indeed, if we could all feel safe enough to share what’s behind our masks. The heart-to-heart connections we would make . . . priceless.

  6. You are so real it hurts, Linda. When you photograph, and when you write, you show the rest of us what real consists of — terrible beauty. Hats off to you.

    1. Oh Shirley, thank you so very much for these words. Real isn’t always pretty but it is beautiful.

  7. Thank you for always keeping things “real”, even when they REALLY hurt. Sending hugs and love!

    1. Hugs and love to you too, Nancilynn. Xo

  8. Love to you Linda! I for one am truly glad that you embarked on the journey to find your origins.

    1. Oh Ruth, me too, because you are one of the gifts I received along the way.

  9. Beautifully written, Linda. And even more real to me today than it would have been last week. A child put up for adoption in our family surfaced over the weekend. We are delighted she found us, but the emotions that rose up in the moment brought back the days as though they were yesterday. Thank you for sharing your journey in your memoir and now.

    1. Ah Carol. How wonderful that this adopted one found his or her way back to your family! One thing I know for sure: nothing adoption-related goes in a straight line. There are always many twists, turns, complications, tears, and sorrows. I wish you and your family well as you navigate these waters together.

  10. It is difficult to respond to this post, when I have no idea how this might feel for you. But I am thinking of you.

  11. Thank you for sharing Linda, my heart goes out to you. I can’t help but wipe away a tear as I finish reading this, it’s sad this has been such a long journey for you but thankful that we live in an age of technology that has allowed you to persevere in your journey for the truth. You are very much real and loved. Hugs ??

    1. Debbie, what a special gift this morning to hear from you. Thank you so much for your kind and gentle words, my friend, Hugs back to you!

  12. Apparently heart emoticons turn into “??”…..hugs Linda!!

  13. A beautiful and heartfelt post Linda. Also an affirming post about a strong lady who is moving forward one step at a time.
    I often think of my own adopted daughter and how little she knows about her birth family and doesn’t want to know which concerns me. Will she seek out this information as an adult and go through the same range of emotions as you have? Though we can contact her birth mom directly as the adoption wasn’t a closed one, she chooses to keep her wall up for now.
    I admire your strength and I wish you blessings on the rest of your journey.

    1. It’s wonderful that the option is there for your daughter to reach out if she chooses to. As the adoption is open I imagine she already has much of her medical and genealogical information so maybe that’s enough right now. I wish many blessings for your daughter, your family, and her birth mom whether your daughter chooses a reunion path or not.

  14. I have been sitting here for a while now, considering your journey, trying to absorb all that you have shared. Not having been adopted myself I can’t for the life of me think of a response that would be worthy enough, or meaningful enough. What I can do is try to articulate just how real you are to me. How real you were in high school when I needed your advice. Constantly! How real you were when you always met me halfway between our houses, even though it was an extra ten to fifteen minute walk for you, in the wrong direction! Don’t think for a second that that gesture went unnoticed, or unappreciated. How very much I missed you, every single day, after your back operation. I was truly lost without my best friend by my side. How real you were when we laughed so hard we cried, just when I needed it the most. Although we haven’t seen each other in ages, as our lives have taken us in different directions, each of us having moved on to new life experiences, new friendships, new memories, I still take huge comfort in knowing that you are out there. I think of you often my friend. To me you are that wonderful, lifelong friend from high school, who is still very, very real to me. I appreciate you and the long road that you have travelled to become the very real person you are today, the person you were always meant to be.

    1. Danna, my friend, your words brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for these thoughts and these memories. You have always been, and always will be, so dear to my heart. ? P.S. Expect an email from me very soon.

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