The following piece was awarded Second Prize in the OU Students Association Freshers Writing Competition for Freshers Fortnight 2022 (10 – 23 Oct). The author, Ella, lives in Inverness and is studying Social Sciences.
My life began on the 26th October 1969. Forget that. It started properly in March that year. My birth parents, George and Sarah, met in a small town called Newfane, Vermont, USA.
Let me fill you in.
Sarah was a student in High School and George worked at the local inn. He was black and from South Carolina. Sarah was white, born and raised in Vermont.
They became good friends and spent a lot of time hanging out. However, Sarah’s dad, Michael, was not happy about the relationship when he saw they were growing closer. He made his feelings clear and tried to keep them apart. Sarah, with the help from her mom, would climb out of the bedroom window and meet George in secret. She eventually fell pregnant. Unfortunately, George had returned home to South Carolina as the inn was out of season. So, Sarah rang George with the news. She had a good feeling that he would come rushing back and everything would be ok.
The conversation didn’t go as planned. Sarah suggested that she would move to South Carolina to start a new life together. George was shocked and told Sarah that this was impossible. It was the end of the 60s and mixed couples in the south just didn’t work out. He told Sarah that she or he would probably be killed. But he reassured her that when the new season started at the inn, he would return and be together. George didn’t come back. His part of the story ends here.
Sarah was left with a dilemma. She turned 18 and graduated from High School. 5 months pregnant. Her mom, Lucy, didn’t know what to do. She wanted to help but she knew that Michael would react so badly. She was too afraid to tell him.
Meanwhile, Sarah kept her pregnancy secret, telling only her best friend Christina. They came to the conclusion that adoption was the answer.
One day, Sarah got chatting to a truck driver. He told her that he had a mobile home in a trailer park in Albany, New York. If she wanted, she could stay there for the remainder of the pregnancy. Sarah accepted, packed a bag, told Michael that she had a new job and left.
Sarah lived in the mobile home from May to October. She was alone the whole time, apart from a short visit from her brother John and Christina. Sarah spent her days walking in the trailer park. It was a lonely time.
When the day came, Sarah entered the local hospital. It was a difficult birth. She remembers the doctor singing “We all live in a yellow Submarine”. He explained that this was because he wanted her to imagine that she was relaxing in the waves and to feel calm. She also remembers that the clocks had to be turned back as she had given birth at 2.05am. Summer was over.
I was whisked away to the nursery. It was considered “better” for the birth mother not to see the relinquished child. However, Sarah found this too difficult and had to visit. She snuck to the nursery and peeked in. I was facing the other way, so all that was visible was a clump of curly black hair.
Sarah walked silently away, back to bed. She left the hospital the next day. She was devastated but tried to carry on with life.
Meanwhile, I was placed in foster care. Unfortunately, I have no information about this family. At 5 months of age, I was placed with my forever parents, Tim and Laura. From then on, I was an American no more. For my family are British and once my adoption was complete, we relocated to UK and I became Scottish.
Meanwhile, Sarah met Sandy, got married and received a letter from Social Services in March 1970. It was requesting her to sign the final adoption papers. She got excited as that meant I was still legally hers and she could be brought home. She told her Michael. He was very shocked but took the news better than expected and agreed to assist in bringing me home to Newfane. Unfortunately, this was a disaster. The Social Worker told Sarah that she was selfish and as a mixed-race baby, I would not thrive in a small town in Vermont. Also, a family had been picked out for me, hence the final adoption papers.
Sarah reluctantly knew that the Social Worker was right. She was a teenager who worked in a bakery. Her mother had ill health and she and her husband hardly knew each other. So, she signed.
I had a happy childhood. It wasn’t always easy, being mixed-race in a white world, but I coped and believed the issues I faced made me the strong person I am today. However, I missed Sarah. I felt I knew her and had to meet. These thoughts consumed my teenage years as I tried to find a way to connect with her. Unfortunately, New York state seal adoption records and I had no legal rights to the information.
However, in 1999 I got lucky, as I had stored the information that I knew on an adoption website. As it held the name of the hospital and my date of birth, my half-sister in Newfane was looking for me. She posted the same details into her computer and whoa! A match!
In September ‘99, Sarah and I met for the first time. We got on well, we had a lot in common. It wasn’t always easy, due to cultural differences, but we were good friends.
We had 20 years together, I spent many happy holidays in USA, shopping, playing scrabble, meals out and talking. Sarah made two trips to Scotland. She loved it here and met my adoptive parents. Those years were the best time of my life.
Sarah died 9th October 2019 from a kidney disorder. I am so grateful we finally met.