Sometime in late December, 1961 or early January, 1962 two people I don’t know anything about hooked up somewhere in western Pennsylvania and made a baby. In September of 1962 that baby was born and she was me and that’s the end of the part these two people play in this story. I have, throughout the years, come up with many dramatic, romantic and tragic stories about how all of this came to be, but the truth is probably a much simpler matter: Roe v. Wade was still in the future and this woman had enough sense not to pursue a back alley abortion.
The next three months were spent with more people I don’t know anything about. Foster parents who saw to it that my basic needs were met.
Meanwhile, in another part of western Pennsylvania, the woman who would become my mother was making some difficult choices. She was only in her mid twenties and she had already suffered through more miscarriages than any woman should have to endure in a lifetime. Her doctor had warned her that another attempt at pregnancy would be more likely to result in her death than in a baby’s birth. Her heart and her body were at odds. She knew in her heart that she was destined to be a mother, but her body had had its final say. She would not be making a baby. She mourned the babies she would never carry, and then let her heart win. She and the man who would become my father made the decision to pursue adoption.
Just a few days before Christmas, the call came. The adoption agency had a little girl for them. Were they interested? Indeed they were. When they met me, before any papers were signed, the man who would be my father did a little inventory. Fingers and toes? Check. He was an informed consumer. He was not going to accept delivery of damaged goods. Apparently I passed the inspection, because they signed the paperwork and got the gears in motion.
Most parents get nine months to anticipate the arrival of a baby, but my parents only had a couple days. And they were a couple days right in the midst of the general Christmas hustle and bustle. In just a couple days they had to acquire all the things a baby would need - a crib, diapers, bottles, clothes, blankets – no baby showers thrown by friends or sisters or aunts or cousins – no time for it. (Fortunately, in 1962, babies needed far fewer items than they do now, so this task was less oppressive than the one which you might be imagining.)
They got everything together in time to accept delivery of their infant on December 18, 1962. One week before Christmas. I went home for the first time at the age of three and a half months. I knew love for the first time at the age of three and a half months.
Apparently when they met me for the first time – inspection day – I had been dressed and groomed very nicely. When they picked me up to take me home, I was wearing a dirty undershirt with a medal of a saint pinned to it. False advertising! They were not delivered the same degree of cuteness that they’d been promised. Lucky for me, grooming and clothing are issues easily rectified, or I might have been returned before my warranty expired.
As it was Christmas, of course they viewed me as the best gift ever. I was placed under the Christmas tree to illustrate that fact in a more tangible manner. Unfortunately, I was allergic to the tree (a pesky allergy that persists to this day). The symptoms that developed as a result of this threw my new mother into a panic. The final papers weren’t yet signed and she was pretty sure they were going to take me away, since the first thing she did upon bringing me home was to allow me to get sick. It doesn’t work that way, of course, but try telling that to a woman who’s been through what my mother had been through to find herself in the position of parent. She was rather understandably distraught.
My sniffles cleared up, the adoption was finalized, and we were a little family of three.
Each year I celebrate the anniversary of that adoption - a day which doesn't mean anything to anyone except me, my mom and my dad. It means the world to us.