You don’t know me. We met only briefly 45 years ago.
The day we met, it was my birthday. I was wrapped in a pink blanket when they handed me to you to hold.
I know our meeting was short lived, but from my understanding, you and I had been through a lot together.
You’re probably wondering how I know your name. Because back then, adoptions were handled with the utmost secrecy. There were no loopholes like there are today.
Let me explain.
The only thing they gave me when I left the hospital was a single sheet of paper. It had basic information about you: your age, height/weight, hair color, ethnicity, education, career, and general health information.
From it, I can see you and I have the same physical build. But whereas you have dirty blonde hair and brown eyes, I have very blond hair and blue eyes. I probably look a lot like him.
The paper told me very little about you, but said you were artistic and loved animals. I really like knowing that about you.
Since that piece of paper was the only thing I had remaining of you, you can imagine how upset I was when it got misplaced during a move. So, I sent a request to the adoption agency asking for a copy.
I was not prepared when I walked to the mail box that day to find a thick, yellow package from the agency. Inside, there was over an inch of papers containing the detailed information leading to my birth and adoption.
I was stunned. I didn’t think I was entitled to that. Though identifying information was, of course, blacked out in marker.
But whomever prepared the package was careless. They didn’t strike your name out very well on page 12. I was also able to decipher your birthday: December 25.
Noel is a beautiful name. I like it very much.
I sat on my bed and read all about you for hours that day. When I was done, I felt like I knew you. The case worker was very thorough in her notes.
You were 20 years old and working as a secretary at an army base when you met my biological father. Before that, you had done some modeling in New York City. You weren’t able to make a steady enough income to support yourself, so you took a typing class and landed a government secretarial job.
The case worker’s first impression of you when you walked into her office that first time was very complimentary. She said:
“This is an exceptionally beautiful, bright, and capable girl who has already made considerable arrangements on her own.”
When she asked, you told her my biological father was a good-looking lieutenant with an Ivy League degree. She noted the roll of your eyes when you described him as an “All-American Golden Boy” who was very concerned with his image. But you were initially impressed and flattered by his interest. When he asked you on a date, you accepted.
He took you out to dinner and bought you a lot of drinks. You don’t remember much about that night. All you know is you woke up in his apartment the next morning.
And you had a bad feeling.
When he avoided you in the days that followed, you were secretly relieved. You found him shallow and uncaring. You wanted to move on and forget you ever met him.
But then you missed your period.
When you called and asked if he had had sex with you that night, he denied it.
You, of course, knew he was lying.
There were no over-the-counter pregnancy tests back then, so you made an appointment with the family doctor. When the test came back positive, he called you a bad name because you weren’t married. He threatened to call your parents and tell them what you had done.
That enraged you because, after all, you were over 18 years old; he had no legal or moral right. You threatened him right back and told him if he did, you’d come to his office and tear it and him to pieces. You were convincing enough that he backed down.
Your family was strict Irish-Catholic. You were one of five girls. Your mother was prone to hysteria. Your father was a violent drunk. You knew you would get no support from them; only shame and blame. So, you did what you had to do.
You went to that lieutenant’s commanding officer and told him about your pregnancy. With the support and push of your female boss, a legal agreement was drawn between you and he. He was forced to provide money to cover the cost for adoption and your stay at a home for unwed mothers.
He wrote a check for $1245.00 and was relinquished from any further responsibility.
Because your boss was sympathetic to your predicament, she lent you additional money, so you could afford better care at one of the nicer homes. The cheaper ones were known for strictness and sub-par care; you were independent and didn’t want to be treated poorly. You also knew you were prone to depression and wanted to make sure you were safe and in good hands.
The commander and your boss decided the last four months of your pregnancy, you would tell your family the government was sending you to Washington for work detail. After the baby was born, you were promised your job would be waiting for you.
No one would ever have to know.
The caseworker visited you at the unwed mother’s home every two weeks. Despite your initial fear of going there, you adjusted surprisingly well. You met other women who were going through the same thing. You became close to a few. You felt a sense of family and acceptance you had never experienced before.
Mischievously, when asked, you told the case worker you knew you were having a girl. But just as quickly, your expression turned sad, leaving her with the impression you might be having second thoughts.
The biggest source of anxiety for you were the physical examinations. The first time the doctor put you in stirrups and touched you, you thrashed and screamed hysterically for him to stop. After that, they gave you tranquilizers to keep you calm during exams. You said you did not like to be touched that way and, with a self-deprecating laugh, added it wasn’t surprising you had to be intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness in order to be impregnated.
You blamed yourself for that night. You shouldn’t have had those drinks. It was all your fault.
You’re wrong, Noel. You are SO wrong. It was NOT your fault.
Your labor and delivery went well with no complications. I was healthy, and you smiled when they told you I was a girl.
Two weeks later when you signed legal surrender, you were very emotional. Even though you were assured I would be fine and go to a good home, nothing seemed to console you.
You asked, “But what will become of me?”
Then you looked away, signed the papers, and walked out the door.
The case worker was worried about you and tried to keep in touch. She was able to get you to meet her for lunch twice.
You were back at your job. By all accounts, things were back to normal and going smoothly. The lieutenant had been transferred to another base shortly before your return. But rumor had gotten around about your pregnancy.
When asked if you minded, you shrugged and said, “It will pass.”
You were more concerned that you didn’t know what you wanted to do with your life.
The last time she talked to you, you were in school to become an airline stewardess. You always wanted to travel. You always wanted to see the world.
After that, you stopped answering her calls, She never heard from you again.
I’m not writing to disrupt your life.
I’ve never had an overwhelming desire to find you. Strangely enough, since the time I can remember, I’ve always felt a quiet peace–a knowing–that you and I are on good terms.
Maybe in those precious, few moments you held me, you whispered everything you needed me to know in my ear, and I remembered every word.
I’m proud of what you did and how you handled yourself. You did it all on your own during a time when the world was a very different place for women in your situation.
You were so brave.
I hope you did travel and see the world.
I hope you found love, and it gave you a little girl you could keep.
I don’t want you to feel guilty about what you did. What you had to do.
You did well, Noel.
I hope you are, too.