One of my earliest memories involves my mum taking me shopping. I was probably three years old, and while the finer details have been lost with time, I’ll never forget falling in love with a bottle of deep eggplant nail polish. To this day I can vividly picture its shade, see the tiny specs of glitter as they caught the fluorescent light. I was captivated.
Is there any doubt about what followed? Mummy, please! Mummy, I want it! Pleeeease!!! I even said please, Mummy!
Most parents, especially at that time, likely would have deemed my choice in nail colour to be appropriate only for a stroll with a street-walker… or possibly a Olivia Newton-John video… it didn’t stop her from scooped it up. Whether she was cringing inwardly (she was…) or already contemplating how to explain her three-year-old’s manicure to the kid’s teachers upon dragging her to her private preschool the next day (no idea how that ultimately played out…), she never let it show. It should go without saying, she’s always been my strongest advocate, my compass, my biggest supporter.
And yet that’s the thing about being adopted: as soon as people find out, an inquiry about my ‘real parents’ is pretty much guaranteed to be next on the agenda. The purple nail polish story is no longer a cute, innocent memory, rather the beginning of indulgence, proof of overcompensation. Whether I publicly acknowledged my mum as one of my best friends, reminisce over years of memories, or pay tribute to her unwavering support during my darkest days, the unconditional love she’s always had for me, is suddenly irrelevant.
Consciously or not, people are now very quick to judge my every move. Every mannerism, every quirk, every outburst, are carefully noted, viewed only with a high-powered microscope. Bad day? I must be adopted. Bitchy remark? Those abandonment issues are out in full force. Happy adoptee? I’m overcompensating. Oh, and here’s the big one… my lack of desire to develop a deep (or any) relationship with those who share my DNA? When the gasps have subsided and pearls have been released, I am educated on the truth: I’m holding on to my anger, burying my true feelings on my adoption, and suffering from deep abandonment issues that have ultimately caused me to occasionally behave as a bitter bitch. It’s nothing more than a classic case of protecting myself against further rejection.
And that’s what hurts.
Curiosity is expected. I understand why people want to know. I expect, even welcome the inevitable questions. What I will never accept, never appreciate, are those who view my mother as someone whose contribution to the person I am is suddenly ‘less than’ as soon as they become aware of the way our family was formed.
Mother’s day was this past Sunday. I crafted the perfect ice cream sandwiches, indulged in spending time with her… one of my friends even pushed it over the top by sending her a video. It was perfect. Special. And yet, here’s the thing… While I’ve never been too shy to show Mummy I love her, much of this has been my secret. What she doesn’t know, what I’ve never really verbalized, is virtually everything stated above.
So Mum, this is my gift to you. If you’ve ever had doubts, concerns about how I really feel, whether I’m as well-adjusted as I seem, let them go. And while I may not say it regularly, while I certainly don’t say it enough… just… simply… thank you.