1972. I’m sitting on the padded peeling black leather seat, bumping up and down in the little yellow school bus as it traverses pot holes. My raincoat is translucent, crisscrossed with red plaid, my soft brown curls pulled into pigtails. The bus pulls into the Robin Hill Nursery School parking lot; it parks, and the bus driver sings a song to accompany our exit. I interrupt her. “I’m better than everyone else because I’m adopted. My parents chose me. Your parents were forced to keep you.”
The bus driver admonishes me, tells me not to lie. “What a terrible thing to say,” she says before marching into the principal’s office to repeat my shocking words. My mother’s best friend is a teacher at my nursery school, I call her Aunt Carole. The principal asks Aunt Carole about what I’ve said. “It’s true. She’s adopted.”
The principal calls my parents, asks them to come in. My father is working — delivering babies — so my mother goes alone to a conference about her 4-year-old adopted daughter.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” he asks.
“I didn’t want you to treat her differently.”
Treat me differently? Despite being told babies are blank slates, that I am like “her own,” that I am from an educated Jewish woman similar to her, despite being “matched to fit” by the Louise Wise Agency For Families And Children, my mother knows being adopted makes me different.
1977. I am at a family friend’s house celebrating Passover. A man they call Uncle Heshy tells me I’m beautiful, that I look just like a young Elizabeth Taylor so I wonder if Elizabeth Taylor is my biological mother. I stare at my olive skin, my blue eyes that shift to green, my brown curly hair. I hope that if I stare long enough, I will become real, will become of and from someone and somewhere. I long for a woman who is a ghost. Or maybe Liz Taylor.
1979. We are lucky, my father earns a lot of money. At the end of every summer, after day camps and sleep-away camps, we take an exciting family vacation. My mother, father, brother, and I sit at a small rectangular table in a McDonald’s in Hawaii eating breakfast.
My older brother, 14, is big and tall, “husky” they call him. His legs extend out from below the cramped table and accidentally touch our father’s. Our…