Thursday, April 8, 2010
25. Autobiography (8) Letter to my mother
On July 28, 2009, I discovered that I had been adopted at the age of 3-4 months, and that the people I called Mum and Dad – Linda and Garrie Carozzi – were in fact my adoptive parents.
This discovery shook me to my core. I became obsessive about finding my birth mother. Two days later I sat down and wrote a letter to my mother. My ‘plan’ was to send the letter to newspapers around the country in the hope that they might publish it.
As it turned out, I never sent the letter.
A letter to my mother
You gave birth to me on June 8th, 1943, in Melbourne, in the state of Victoria. I know almost nothing about you. That was the way of it then. I’m guessing you were somewhere around 14 to 17 years of age, but I have no way of knowing as yet. If I’m right, you’re in your early – mid 80s now.
According to one of my aged aunts, you gave birth to me while you were staying at a Home for Unmarried Mothers. It was somewhere near the city – there were tramlines nearby. I know that because one of my older cousins, who was 5 or 6 at the time, remembers her dad driving my adoptive parents to the hospital or the hostel to collect me. (My uncle drove my dad’s car; my cousin thinks it’s because my dad was too excited to drive.)
My adoptive parents were 36 and 38 at the time. My adoptive mum had had a series of miscarriages and two stillborn babies; I can only guess what they felt when they ‘collected me’. I know they desperately wanted a child; I could not have wished for more loving, caring parents.)
My aunt thinks the Home was run by the Salvation Army. Alison, at Vanish – an organisation that helps people find their true origins – suggested that it could have been The Haven, in North Fitzroy. But I don’t know yet – and won’t for three months or more. She sent me forms to fill out for the Department of Human Services; I will be able to obtain my real birth certificate and the court papers that deal with my adoption.
But three months – that’s a long time. That’s why I’m writing this letter. I’m 66; and if you are still alive, you are at least 80. So - time is running out. It was less than a week ago that I found out that I was adopted. For 66 years, I thought the parents who raised me so lovingly, and who helped ensure that I had a good life, were my birth parents. They died a long time ago. Dad died in 1989, and Mum in 1991. I’m told that one of my aunts pleaded with my mother, in the final year of mum’s life, to tell me the truth, but my mother refused.
It was only last week that the silence was finally broken, and this ‘terrible secret’ was revealed. How extraordinary that the 40 or so members of my extended adoptive families should have kept it from me for so long.
I’ve been crying a lot this past week. As someone said to me: ‘Nothing has changed – and everything has changed.’
If only they had told me 18 years ago, when my mum and dad died. You would have been in your early 60s at that time. We might have had many years in which to get to know each other. But now time is running out.
I’ve filled out the forms. They’ll go by express post tomorrow. But it will take three months – THREE MONTHS – for them to find my original birth certificate – the one that will tell me your name, and my real grandparent’s names, and where and when I was born. There may also be other information in my ‘file’.
Why 3 months? There’s only a few people doing the drudge work of finding the files, and there are hundreds – perhaps thousands of people in the queue: perhaps thousands wanting to discover this significant truth of their lives: the circumstances of their births and the names of their birth parents.
And they want to be equally fair to everyone – so there’s no queue jumping.
Once I have the information I’ll begin the daunting task of finding you – daunting because it’s been so long. You may have married; there may be half brothers and half sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins ...What if you name is now ‘Smith’ or ‘Jones’? What if you moved interstate? Overseas? So many ‘what ifs’.
That’s why I’m writing this letter ... in the hope that you will read it, and contact me. I think we deserve the opportunity to at least meet and get to know each other. I have a friend whose mother went through what you went through. It was a barbarous system, almost devoid of dignity. I’m told that after I was born, they would not have allowed you to hold me in your arms, not even for a moment, before I was given to my adoptive parents. I know that they were terrible times, when your being pregnant was regarded as a matter for deep shame, and not for what it was – and is – the most joyous, the most human, the most wonderful moment of our lives.
I have 5 children – your grandchildren. I know how precious and unforgettable the birth of a child is: how full of hope and pain and apprehension and fear and joy.
Mum - if you read this letter, please contact me. Or if anyone reads this letter and thinks they may know something that will help me find, my mother, please contact me.