Part of me was running away. The other part is fulfilling childhood dreams and curiosities. This was the reason for moving to the other side of the world.
I needed to be far away from what I have always known. I wanted to be on my own.
The decision was made when my Aunt and Uncle visited. Carefully I began to plan and plot my new adventure. The process took six month to save money, conjure up enough courage for change and tie up all my loose ends. Just in time for a summer start.
Rarely have I been afraid of starting anew, in a different city, landing a job or making friends. These things seem to come naturally to me provided I stayed persistent and kept working towards my goal. Turns out, after a few months of living with my Aunt and Uncle, I again became Miss Independent. It was comforting to have their support in this time. We had a fabulous summer. Now to address the curiosity.
I was born in Canada about two hours outside of Toronto, Ontario and adopted at the age of three. I have always known this. In my childhood, I had a lot of unanswered questions. There were also vivid memories that couldn’t be pinpointed or identified. My earliest memory (although never validated) was the time I cut my foot on some glass in an outdoor playhouse and was taken inside and lifted up onto the kitchen sink. I watched the blood flow from my foot down the drain.
I entered my new family with a gifted teddy bear which had my name “Barbie” across it’s tiny yellow t-shirt. I also came with a few photographs. One is of me and my grandmother. Sometimes I would stare at the photo looking for clues. Nothing ever jumped out at me. The only image I saw was an elderly lady’s face looking back at me. Someone who I couldn’t place or recognise. Even that tiny child, to me, was someone I felt I had never known.
There were times I was angry or deeply hurt about what happened to me and lashed out. As I grew older I learned to accept or cope. At high school doing genetics homework was always awkward. I never could be sure why I had brown hair and blue eyes by comparing my parents and brothers to myself. Also, I never knew the medical history of the family I was born into. For me, being adopted meant and felt like a lot of things. It most likely contributed to some of my personal issues such as fear of abandonment or fear of being left behind. Sometimes I had a feeling of being unwanted and unloved. I learnt to persuade myself that was not the case but it never made the hurt and curiosity go away. It just quietened it down for a while. In one heated teenage argument with my mother it was announced to me that my birth mother’s name was Lindy Vaughan. I must have been 15 or 16 when I first heard this. It was in a time way before the internet. I have always remembered.
I wrote a lot of poetry in my adolescent years. It was the way I learnt how to cope when I couldn’t speak up about how I felt.
“I love you I’ll say one day just to see your face.
Then I’ll slowly walk away gone without a trace.”
Endlessly, I would fantasize about what my birth mother looked like. In my mind she was beautiful and I looked just like her. All I ever wanted was to see the resemblance. I had convinced myself that this would give me a sense of belonging. I also wanted to meet her so she could see with her own eyes that I turned out fine.
So many scenarios would run through my mind about trying to find her. What if she had already died and there was only a gravestone to see? What if she has another family now? Maybe I have more brothers and sisters? Maybe she never told anyone about me? Perhaps she doesn’t want to ever meet me again? It went on and on all these years. The scenarios and possibilities playing and replaying over and over again. Stuck on repeat.
My parents always gave me their blessing to find her. I never knew what would be the right thing. Deep down, not finding her didn’t sit well, nor did interrupting anyone else’s life. It is a difficult situation to be in. How could I possibly make the right choice when so many others could be effected? Ultimately, there wasn’t a “right” answer so I had to do something rather than nothing. Doing nothing meant I would remain stuck on this internal loop.
My search began when I learnt that Ontario adoption records have been open since 2009. My original birth certificate and adoption papers would be returned once I filled out the forms and posted them into the government. I filled out the forms and sent them and forgot all about it.
One evening at my Aunt and Uncle’s I headed up the creaky stairs on my way to bed. Right before taking the stairs I spotted mail with my name on the hallway stand. I picked up the envelope thinking it was a bank statement and continued up the stairs. I brushed my teeth, threw on my pajamas and jumped into bed. I reached across to the bedside table for the envelope and started opening… and there it was… my original birth certificate right in front of my eyes. I felt strange. Like I never knew who I was. Jittery. I could not take my eyes off the piece of paper, scanning every single detail. This was years of over contemplating in one moment. It felt like time stood still but also felt like years whooshing straight past me.
Normally I would be sharing any exciting news with my mum. So for a moment, this was a little lonely and disheartening. I got up and looked at the crack beneath my Aunt’s bedroom door. Phew! The light was still on. I nervously knocked and asked if she was still awake and if I could talk to her. My aunt followed me into my bedroom and I showed her the piece of paper. I am so thankful she was there as I don’t honestly know how I would have slept afterwards without her words of advice, comfort and encouragement. She was staring at the document just like I had done ten minutes earlier. Together, we immediately started an internet search.
My name is Barbara and always has been. This was a relief because I feel it’s easier to take than trying to believe you were somebody else your entire life. My birth mother was 23 when I was born and it’s not Lindy but Carol. I thought I must of heard wrong all those years ago. No father was listed.
For the next few weeks I didn’t do anything with information. I was too overwhelmed from all those years of wondering. Now I was holding something solid. Documented proof. After the feelings settled I was able to continue on with the search. On Facebook that first night, my Aunt and I found a lady with a similar name from the town I was born. It seemed too easy. As unsure as I was, I joined a “search Angel” group on Facebook for adopted children who are looking for parents, siblings or relatives. A Search Angel is a dedicated volunteer who takes your case and researches on your behalf. My Search Angel contacted me via messenger and after giving her some details she forwarded to me the link of the same Facebook profile that my Aunt and I had found earlier. Procrastination took hold again and I left it.
It wasn’t until 03JAN (coincidentally a day before my birthday), I reached out via messenger to this mysterious lady.
“Hi Carol. I’ve thought about this message for many years and the time has come to take the first step. I was adopted. I received my original birth certificate and it states my name as Barbara Louise Vaughan. I’ve always known I was born in Picton and it shows my birth mom’s name as Carol Louise Vaughan. I thought this might be you? If it’s not, I’m sorry for bothering you. If it is, I am interested to know, understanding that you may not want to be in touch with me. Either ways, I had to reach out to fulfill my own heart. Please know that I do not wish to cause any harm, confusion or interruption to you or your current family. I hope you understand.”
Her response a day later, on my birthday;
“Yes it’s me. I’ve been thinking about where you are. I would like to get together sometime.”
I honestly thought that my message would go into some spam filter and never be seen or read. Also, I thought that my search would take months, even years to complete. Does she even know it’s my birthday? Of course she does, she’s my birth mother!! For the next week we talked every night by messenger. We swapped information and pictures from our lives. It made me smile and cry so much. I did in fact look a lot like her. I broke down when I saw a photo of me as a two year old standing right there with her. Oh my heart. Through the exchange of information this is when I learnt that her sister was Lindy. So mum was right after all in the strangest way.
We agreed to meet. For now though, I need some more time and space to let everything sink in. I am feeling that the summer would be the right time to go, when the sun is shining. I am always happier in the summer. A good time to fulfill my curiosity. You’ll just have to wait for the update.