It's funny how in real life, after months of conversations on the phone, my hunger to hear The Story all over again, became vital to me. I literally ached for it.
On Easter, we decided to take a walk down the boardwalk by ourselves. MAC had already taken our little one in the stroller and said to me, "do we want to all go together?" I said no. Something came over me because I never speak to people like that. As we were walking, halfway down the walk, we saw MAC coming towards us with the stroller, heading home. He said to me, "do you want us to walk with you the rest of the way again?" I said no. He couldn't hide his surprise, he kind of laugh-gasped. But he understood. I said to him, "I'm not ready yet." M just looked out at the ocean. As Matthew turned to head home, she let out a sigh. The time had finally come, she knew, to try to help me make sense of what happened.
It wasn't like I suggested that Easter morning walk to do that. It just...happened. It was where the conversation was going, nay, where it had to go.
The story started changing, reshaping, swallowing me up. To an outsider, it didn't change by much. But to me, the tiny baby inside me was screaming and pulling her hair out.
M had been leaving me with "friends" and it came out that it was to just hang out with people. She had met another guy and over the few months of spending more and more time with him, he started hinting that the baby was getting in the way of their relationship. When one of these friends who watched me lost their own toddler to a drowning in a swimming pool, they became a bit more than 'ok' with babysitting me, soothing their own loss by watching me. M took advantage of the opportunity to have time by herself. However, tensions built and this girlfriend got it in her head that she wanted to adopt me. Another girlfriend's mother then said the same. Odd.
My birthfather's uncle, living in Pittsburgh at the time, also showed an odd interest in me, wanting to take me back to Saudi Arabia. At least four people M mentioned talked to her about giving me to them. Random people, people who had no reason to want me. Unless, of course, they did. As one friend told M later in life, "you had a baby with the prince and that little girl of yours was their ticket into a house of gold." Or so they thought.
Clearly, people know very little about Saudi culture. I'm technically a bastard. And a half-breed. Oh, I was good blackmail for my great uncle to use against his nephew to gain access to hush money from his powerful brother. And you can also be sure that after taking me to Saudi Arabia and getting what he wanted from his brother, I'd have been dumped on the streets. God knows what kind of sex-trafficking I'd have ended up in in a place that doesn't value its women---let alone someone like me.
As the story continued, she tells me that after her friend wouldn't let her in her apartment to come pick me up, determined to keep me, something in her snapped. I looked at her and said, "See that's the part that I don't get."
She just looks at me, knowing where I'm headed. But it had to be said.
"M, the mother in me is dying here. If someone wouldn't let me in their house to come pick up my child, I'd have come back with a gun. I'd have come back with a firetruck. I'd have broken windows, thrown molotov cocktails. Hired a hitman. That person would be dead if they tried to take my child from me."
But she waited 3 days. She just....went away.
When the social worker from CYFD called after her "friend" filed a report, M said that she felt backed into a corner. How could she defend herself? How could she explain her situation when the chips had all fallen on their side? She felt like the only way to keep me from the two twisted maniacs who told the social worker to just let *one of them* adopt me since clearly the mother didn't want me, was to, in a way, get sweet revenge by just putting me up for full and bloody adoption after the social worker informed her that was one of her options. Well, that and going on welfare. And for some reason, that took her over her humiliation-edge. God forbid, a mother use welfare when she needs it so she can get on her feet and I don't know, go off it when things get better. Just a thought.
I'm crying as I type this. Be patient with me as I get something out. Don't judge me:
My birthmother was scared. Frustrated. Angry. Overwhelmed. Humiliated. Shit poor, broken, lost. But at the heart of it, she was a coward.
She let what other people say to her, about her, and behind her back, get to her. She was not a fighter. She was a weakened 18 year old with no prospects, no goals, no hopes, no desire to right her situation for herself or...her daughter. Her self-esteem hit rock bottom. She just freaked out and gave up.
About 2 years after she gave me up for adoption, her mother said to her, When I told you to leave the house that day you told me you were pregnant, I didn't mean forever. I just meant that day.
Shortly after she gave me up for adoption, her older brother Tom was visiting the house and was looking at a little picture of me. He studied it and suddenly said, Why did she give her away? I don't understand why she didn't just say something so she didn't feel like she had to give her away.
Oh, families. All the unsaid things. All the unsaid things said much too late.
But I didn't say all the things I felt ripping my heart in two on that windy Easter walk. Even though that's what I felt. Even though, for a second, I had this moment I wanted to run and scream until I brought the sky down.
Instead, when she said, "Do you think I didn't try hard enough?" I clenched my fists tight at my sides and replied, "I didn't say that so you'd feel judged. It was just a statement that needed to be made. What you did is what you did. You were 18. You're 50 now, hindsight is always 20/20. Our lives turned out just fine. We're here now, aren't we?"
We're here now. Walking side by side, next to a sea overflowing with thirty years' worth of both our salty, maternal tears.