Basically, I Was a Bagel

Interrogating the story of my adoption

Photo: krblokhin/iStock/Getty Images Plus

ItIt was a bagel store. You know, glass bins side by side, each containing a different flavor. Poppy next to sesame next to everything. The store itself was nondescript. My vision was about the deliciousness you see when you walk through the door.

At an age I cannot remember, because I have just always known, my parents told me they had adopted me. They had chosen me.

Like a bagel.

My favorite thing to do with my dad was get a cinnamon raisin bagel at David’s Bagels, so it must have worked like that. They walked into a store with side-by-side glass bins, saw all the babies and saw me, and I was the cutest so they chose me.

Like a bagel.

There’s also this. She came to New York to hide her pregnancy. Only her brother knew. She kept me for three months before realizing she could not manage motherhood so she put me up for adoption.

I coped with the incomprehensible by creating an idyllic fantasy, a rescue myth.

They hid me for three months?

So, a woman with no name or face tried to keep me with no one knowing, but realized she couldn’t, so because she loved me she gave me away to strangers at a place called Louise Wise, and that place looked like a bagel store, and they wrapped me in pink and put me in a bin, and then my parents who also loved me chose me?


Really? That doesn’t actually make sense.

Shh. Just go with it. It’s all you’ve got.

My earliest conceptualization of adoption is, on its surface, optimistic and positive. I coped with the incomprehensible by creating an idyllic fantasy, a rescue myth.

But here’s the thing.

A bagel store offering babies that were once hidden then given away is a completely fucked up way to see yourself and to think about love. In that story, far too much hinges on being cute. What happened to the not cute babies? Were they not chosen by anyone?

What happens to me if I stop being cute? Am I returned? Am I given away again? Discarded?

Well, yes.

That is the insane pressure I have put on myself for the half-century I have been on this earth. You must look good or they will leave you. Cute is my coping mechanism.

Make sure your hair is right, your skin glows, god forbid your nail polish is chipped, those shoes are too old, better get a new better pair, just look good. Do not stop looking good. Aging? Sagging? Figure it out because he will leave you and they won’t like you. Just. Look. Good.

It’s exhausting.

I want to believe you will not leave me but it is so fucking hard to do.

MyMy birth mother Gloria did not even know she was pregnant. She had a stomachache and called her friend Alexandra who saw her writhing in pain and took her to the hospital. They rushed Gloria into the emergency room. Alexandra called Gloria’s brother Tom. Tom arrived and spoke with the doctors. He returned to the waiting room and told Alexandra that Gloria needed surgery to remove an intestinal blockage. Alexandra believed him and left. Hours later I was born and then surrendered for adoption. Days later Gloria returned to her parents in Memphis. Weeks later I was placed in foster care. Months later I was adopted.

23 years later, one day before my birthday, Gloria died.

Her brother Tom died several years earlier.

They told no one. Not my biological father, not Alexandra, not Gloria’s husband of 20 years. She had no other children and her parents said they never knew. Gloria and Tom both took their secret and our story — my story — to their graves.

Except they didn’t. Because I am alive. I am the story.

I came into this world in trauma, pain, uncertainty, shame, lies, and loss. I have carried those wounds around for too long and I do not want them anymore. I do not want to be the cute baby in the bin because that is a lie and too great a burden to bear.

I am not loved because I am cute. I am loved because I am. Love means loss and love means found. Love is not shallow. It is deep and wide, healing and graceful, forgiving and hopeful.

I am loved. I am safe. And I am enough. No matter my outside.

That is my story now because that is the truth. And for fuck’s sake, I am not a bagel.

But if I were, I would be cinnamon raisin and I would be delicious.

This story was published in response to Human Parts’ Weekend Writing Prompt, “Pick a story you’ve told yourself a billion times, and unspool it. Challenge it. Ask yourself if this story encourages you to play it safe. If the answer is yes, let it go. Take one step closer to freedom.” To receive prompts like this one every weekend, subscribe to our newsletter by following Human Parts.

I got my first TV writing job at 48, took 26 years to find my birth family. It’s never too late, you’re never too old. Keep going.

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