The ancient office chair I am sitting on is hard and uncomfortable. I keep switching positions uncomfortably. The woman sitting behind the desk has a stoic and drawn look to her face. She is frowning intently and her eyes seem to be boring holes so deep into my chest that I can actually feel it stinging my soul. She disapproves. I feel like a robber holding up my own bank.

It  finally becomes apparent to her that I am not going anywhere so with a loud, exhaustive sigh she carefully opens the manila folder she holds in her hands. It is worn and yellowed with age. She peers at the contents.

She skims the surface of the words at first but then, drawn in by what she reads her eyebrows raise and a look of surprise spreads across her face. I slide to the edge of my seat anxiously awaiting information like a starving dog waiting for a juicy bone. The minutes feel like hours. Tick. Tick. Tick.

After carefully reading the entire contents of the thick, worn folder she slowly closes it and places it on the desk. She folds her hands into a gesture of prayer over the top of the folder as if to protect the contents from somehow escaping her hawk like clutch.

She begins to speak;

“The town that you come from is lovely, I know it well.”

Quiet thought. Where do I come from?

“Your mother has a very beautiful and rare name.”

Unique names begin to scroll across my eyes at lightening speed. It temporarily blinds me.

“She named you but I cannot tell you what your name is.”

This almost makes me laugh out loud. Almost.

“Your father chose a very noble profession. Something happened to him. Not good. No, not good at all. We’ll just have to leave it at that.”

What happened to him? Is he alive? Dead? In prison? What happened to my father?!

“You have siblings. Boys or girls unfortunately I cannot say.”

The significance of having brothers and/or sisters hits me like a ton of bricks. It makes my chest heave.  I feel myself momentarily stop breathing. It physically hurts.

“Your nationality is somewhat identifying so even though your skin is olive we will just call you white. White, being neutral, allows us to make your true nationality of no consequence.”

Apparently she believes it will also be of no consequence to my children.

“This is all I can tell you about your life.”

Even though my folder is two inches thick this is all she offers me. A lick of the bone for a starving dog. Then she stands and simply walks away with my history in her hands. I cannot move a single muscle.

I think how ironic it is that a ten dollar an hour office clerk will go home this evening knowing more about MY identity than I do.

Then I woke up and realized ……….it was no dream.

That’ll teach me not to eat cabbage rolls right before bedtime!



Filed under Open Records

11 responses to “Nightmare

  1. Coco

    Oh, Mia. I’m sorry.

    Don’t you wish you could reach across that desk (both the real and the dream one) and yank that file out of her hands, smack her with it, and run out of the office?

    I do.


  2. mia

    There was one occasion at the hospital where I was born when I almost did just that. The young girl went to hand me my file to view and an old crone came barreling around the corner, snatched it from her hands and screamed “She can’t have that she’s ADOPTED!” Like I had some contagious disease or something. Looking back I regret that I didn’t. ;o)

  3. ack! Mia, I am so sorry. I guess this means you’re an exotic with a noble but checkered background. Maybe you’re a Kennedy! Or a Habsburg!

    This grinds me so much. My records were open, and I still got this kind of runaround. My bfather was a man (yay!) , Protestant, working class, and a high school dropout. Sorry, we can’t tell you anything else.

    One of my oldest bastard friends went to his agency wired. He got the same BS you did. He suddenly stood up, grabbed his file, and ran out the door. When the social worker, who was also the agency director, tried to stop him he knocked her down, though it was not intentional. They just got in a tug-of-war with the file. My friend’s wife sat there in absolute horror imagining him getting charged with assault and battery.

    So, he got his file, but it gets better. I won’t go into the long story, but the director admitted during their “interview” that she had broken agency rules in the past (actually in his favor) regarding his case. When she tried to screw with him he sent a copy of the tape to the agency board and they fired her.

    And the irony of this was that he had no interest in contact or reunion. He just wanted his file.

  4. mia

    Well if they wouldn’t push us to these extremes we wouldn’t have to act like such unreasonable bastards! lol Good for your friend (minus the physical altercation) for having the guts.

    Honestly Marley I think there might just be a lot of adoptees out there who would do nothing more with the information than emotionally fill in blanks if the right to identity was provided for them. As it should be.

    I usually get slammed by “content” adoptees for saying this but I think it’s denial plain and simple when someone says they don’t want to know. If I said OK, but I have your information right here, I guess I’ll just burn it. I would bet a considerable amount of money they would risk the flames to save it. I think their contentedness is a ruse. A RUSE I tell you! But then I’m in a foul mood tonight so that could explain my suspicion. That, or those damn cabbage rolls.

  5. I know a record snatcher too.

    I’ve often wondered what I would have done, if I ever had the chance to be in the same room as my file and the tiniest of opportunity windows opened. I’d like to think I’d be as brave as them, but I don’t know for sure.

  6. Mia, did you read the NYTimes Op-ed piece the other day? (1/2/2009, “My Secret Life” by Ellen Ullman) As soon as I read it I thought I’d like to talk with you about it, but I find it so frustrating, and adoptive parent discussions around it even more frustrating . . . I don’t want to give you more material for nightmares.

  7. I think you’re right, Mia. I’ve known a lot of adoptees over the years who only want information. And there certainly area lot of people who like to claim they don’t care. Right!

    My original goal was information only, but after I got my stuff, I admit I wanted to know more. I did years of family history research before I made any serious effort for contact.

    My records were never sealed because I’m a pre-1964 Ohio adoptee. Only nobody ever told me that until 1980. So, I had no problem getting my obc and adoption decree. I think it cost $6.00 then, maybe a couple $$ more.

    Anyway, I never told my amom I had it. I figured it was none of her business. So, when she died in 1989, her lawyer and I opened her safe deposit box at the bank He’s going through the papers and spots my obc. He grabs it and sticks in in his pocket, saying he needs to “protect me.” (For some reason the bank rep didn’t say a word) WTF????? It happened so fast, I hardly had time to think about it . What I did see, that my identifying information had been razored out of it. The lawyer says, “Mom asked me to to it.” Again, WTF????? My mom was quite capable of doing that on her own. Since I already had my obc, etc and had all this family stuff, I didn’t make a big deal out of, and I should have. I certainly would today, but I was much less informed on adoption and less nervy than I am today.

    Would it surprise you to know that the lawyer was an adopter.

  8. Abebech I will try to find that and read it and then I’ll email you. No worries about the nightmares. After watching that nutjob with the reborn doll they couldn’t possibly get any worse.

    Marley I have a very difficult time picturing you having ever been less nervy. A Marley without nerve is like a day without sunshine. (cheezy grin here) It was so good of that lawyer to be looking out for your best interests! How special.

    Speaking of special (and this time no sarcasm) I always see something very special in those who work for open records who already have their information. I think it speaks volumes toward character. ;o)

  9. Mia, the discussion of that article was separate — and it went thus: “It’s so nice to hear the other side, not everyone wants to have a relationship with their birth families, some people feel complete without knowing . . .” and me tearing my hair out. I’ll post about the article, the argument, and my feeling ineffective in responding, on my blog in a bit.

  10. Pingback: we’re here, we’re queer, we’re a family « Mother Issues

  11. Wow.

    “Your mother named you but I can’t tell you what it is. You have siblings but I can’t say if they’re female or male. You have […] but I can’t say because you’re adopted.”

    I don’t even know what to say. I mean, Jesus Christ, you’re just adopted, what the hell does she think you’re going to do with that information?!

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