Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chapter 7: AFTERGLOW

     So, there it was.  I had made contact.  It was surreal, and again, lonely.  The need to share what I was going through was there- but I didn't really have anyone in my life that could truly relate.  My brother Wayne, who is also adopted, had moved back to Australia- and even if we had been communicating- he was in a completely different mind-set as myself.  Wayne had meshed with our adoptive parents way more than I had.  He was, as they say, the apple of my mother's eye.  While I was constantly questioning why I was the way I was, my brother was able to go the with flow and just be a part of the family.  I envied him.  I envied his ability to just "be".  While I was so analytical and constantly feeling at odds with my circumstances, Wayne was good looking and had a charm that he had discovered could win anyone over.  Even me.  Though I could see through my brothers ability to manipulate the emotions of those around us- I still felt incredible empathy for him when he was in trouble- or had gotten caught red-handed.  Mind you- my brother was not a saint- and no one knew that more than I, but he seemed to possess the ability to make people forget his most recent blunder by flashing a sparkling eye and a dimple.  My downfall was complete transparency.  If I had had too much to drink at a party and couldn't drive home- I would call my parents and tell them just that.  I guess that fact that my brother chose to keep his discrepancies closer to the chest created the illusion that he was a better person than myself.  I won't lie.  It drove me nuts that I knew the truth about his indiscretions and had to watch my parents treat him like the prodigal son.  Do I sound bitter?  Yeah, I've always been a little bitter about it.  I'll admit it.  I think that the fact that my brother never spoke about or referenced the fact that he was adopted probably gave our parents an extra boost of confidence in him.  I remember a time, after I had found my mother , that someone had asked my brother if he was hoping to find his mother too.  His response was something to the effect of "No. She didn't want me.  She doesn't deserve to know me."  While I validate his response, I absolutely cannot relate to it. If you really think about it, his mother could have easily chosen to terminate her pregnancy- but instead, chose to endure the discomfort and heartbreak of pregnancy and ultimate relinquishment.  To me, that is the bravest and most selfless choice of all-and a gift to the child.  Now, I am absolutely a pro-choice advocate.  I think that no-one has the right to tell us what to do with our bodies other than ourselves.  However, I cannot deny that any woman that chooses to go  through with a pregnancy and then makes the decision to give that child a life that she cannot provide is incredibly selfless and loving.  I, myself, cannot imagine being that selfless.  Therefore, I honor any biological mother whom has made that difficult choice.

     As there was no e-mail at that time, I waited an anxious couple of weeks for mail from Lynn.   When it finally arrived, though I couldn't wait to liberate the long awaited contents, I took a moment to examine the envelope.  I looked for some familiarity in the handwriting- though didn't really see any.  That's a good thing as my hand writing has always been erratic and "rushed" looking.  Frankly, I've always wondered what hand writing analysts might make of me if they were to examine a sample.  My style of handwriting seems to vary by mood. I remember in particular when I was in school in Australia (or what would have been middle school in the U.S.) I would catch a glance of a classmates handwriting and be so enamored by the neatness and specific "hand-font" that they used that I would consciously mimic that style for a period of time.  In particular, Sonia Barber comes to mind.  Her letters were so specifically stylized - right down to an ironic hook in the tail of her Y's.  Instead of the expected semi-circular curve at the bottom of the stick- Sonia's Y looked as though it had been cut off where the curve was to begin, turned upside down, and pasted back on to create a crook that led to an upside down smile.  The effect was completely original for someone so young and I worked hard for several weeks to emulate that exact style, as well as the meticulous and clever lay-outs of her pages.  I would be willing to bet that Sonia grew up to have a career as a graphic designer or in some other creative field.  My point in this particular departure, I just realized, is to demonstrate my many years of trying to "become" someone.  I'm sure I was not the only child that felt a little lost and lacked a true identity- or was made to feel that who you were couldn't possibly be "who you were".  I think these types of observations that have always stuck with me have laid the ground work for becoming the actor that I have always been.  For most of my youth, the only place I felt truly myself, was on a stage, being somebody else.

    Ummmmm... Is everybody ok?  If you're still reading this, you have just witnessed a "real time" catharsis.  Welcome to my self help blog.  Stick around while I get back to the subject at hand.

    Ah yes.  The handwriting.  The letters were softly articulated. She obviously didn't grip her writing implement so hard that it had created an indentation and bump on the middle finger of her right (or writing) hand. (Yes.  I'm talking about me again.  Get over it.  This IS about me).  As I flipped over the envelope I noticed something else.  Even more faintly- barely visible in fact- were the words Katrina Ellen.  The birth name she had given me.  It was written so tenuously that it appeared that she was just trying it out- but was not completely sure if it was the right thing to do.  It felt as though she was trying so hard to be respectful of the people who had raised me, but deep down wanted to call me by the name that she had given me.  It was so touching to me, and an early sign of what I would quickly come to know about my mother Lynette.  She is the most selfless and respectful individual I have ever had the pleasure to know.

     The letter smelled of some sort of spicy/floral scent.  This bouquet has since become a familiar part of all correspondence that has come from Lynn.  I don't know if she uses scented stationary, but everything (including holiday cards) emanates that scent.  I'd recognize it anywhere.
     Finally, I opened the envelope.  Inside was a delicately written note and several photographs.  She spoke proudly of her husband, John, and her three other children, Noel, Anne-Maree and Sean.  She had described each one of them in our initial phone call and it was nice to be able to put faces to the names.  My sister had been described as "very pretty" (she was) with almost jet black hair.  Looking at her picture I realized that we actually possessed similar coloring.  My (natural) dark brown hair had been described by Lynn as black.  For a moment I regretted having bleached my hair to a frosty highlighted blonde a couple of years earlier (think one of the extras in any cult 80's film).  It seemed as though it would be nice to share such features with someone else.  I was fixated on my sister, more than my brothers, because I had grown up with a brother and had always wondered what it would be like to have a sister.  Sean, the youngest boy, was the least like me.  He was unusually tall, thin and had sharper, more angular features.  Noel, the oldest was most like me.  He was more petite in stature and had a familiar glint in his eyes.  Then there was the picture of my mother with her parents and all of her siblings.

     My grandparents, Noel and Margaret, were seated and surrounded by their children, from left to right, in chronological order.  It looked as though it had been taken (judging by the fashion) in the early mid seventies, at a wedding- or possibly an anniversary celebration. Noel sported a tux and Margaret a corsage. I scanned the picture, trying to see if I could pick out my mother.  My first instinct was to choose the lady in the the pale blue in the center- probably because of the fairer hair.  I was wrong.  Next would have been the lady on the right, wearing some sort of boa.  Nope.  On the left, the lady in red sported the broadest of smiles.  Wrong again.  It was the lady in green (my all-time favorite color).  From left to right they were; Val, Lynette, Robert, Janette, Bill, and Kate.  It was overwhelming to see all of my immediate relatives in one picture.  I had not picked Lynn at first because she had appeared much thinner and more angular (like my brother Sean) than I had expected.  Most of them, with the exception of Janette and Kate had, what appeared to be, the dark brown (almost black) hair.  There was a warmth and familiarity between them and I immediately felt regret that I would never get to meet my grandmother, Margaret, who had passed away in 1978 at the age of 61.  She had struggled with heart disease for most of her life.  Lynn had told me that doctors had warned her that having children would be dangerous for her, but she couldn't bear the thought of not getting to create and nurture children with the love of her life.

     This health revelation reminded me of the reason that so many adoptees seek out their biological families.  I can't tell you how disappointing (not to mention alarming) it is to have to leave entire sections of medical questionaires blank due to the fact that you have no idea what kind of conditions "run in the family".  It is clear in this day and age that being educated about genetic health issues is often a life saver.  Nowadays, adoptions are far more open and, as far as I know,  full health profiles are often provided to the adoptive children and their parents.  In the sixties, there was so much secrecy and shame surrounding adoption that there was probably fear that disclosing too much information could obstruct the absolute privacy of all parties involved.  All parties, that is, but the innocent child who is left without any such rights, identity- or Birth Certificate.  For this reason alone, I feel that all adoptees should be given any and all identifying information about their parents if they so desire.

     I carried these photographs with me for the next few months, taking a few minutes here and there to revisit them or show them to someone who may be interested.  I also prepared for the next step.  Reunion.  As it happened, my friend Linda was to be married the coming October.  I had told her that I would be there- barring the possibility that a huge career opportunity emerged (read-Broadway). I was still an optimistic naive back then.  The possibility of being cast in a Broadway show while living in LA was highly unlikely- but a girls gotta dream.  Of course, most of my friends, the ones who are not in the performing arts,  have taken this as a real possibility over the years (bless them).  As a result, I have always been included in friends weddings as the "singer".  How does it go?  Always the singer, never the bridesmaid?  I have been thrilled to sing at my pals weddings over the years- and to even have been asked. I will admit, however, that I have more than once wished that I owned a peach colored taffeta monstrosity that I had been told I could easily "wear again".  It's the little things people.

    So, my ticket was purchased.  I set to work- singing and dancing around the country at conventions for a well known multi-level vitamin distributor, and saved every last paycheck to fund my upcoming journey.  I'd like to thank my parents for allowing me to continue to live rent free under their roof well into my twenties.  It was because of them that I was able to afford this adventure that was just five months away.