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One Day in February

October 12, 2010

“Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart
You’re shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees
I’m begging you please to come home “

-Simon & Garfunkel

This is the information I have so far:

I was born on February 6, 1976 – although my “birth certificate” says February 7.

I was born in Laredo, Texas.

I do not know if I had a birth name.

I was not born in a hospital but in a home for unwed mothers.

Per my parents: the mid-wife’s son was an accountant/ran the home, who handled my adoption.

My parents heard the home was shut down in 1978 or 1979.

Per the few papers that I have – my birth mother’s name is: Cecilia Hernandez.

I do not know if my birth mom was an American citizen. In 1976 the border was open to Mexico and the bridge that connects Laredo, Texas with Nuevo Laredo in Mexico was crossed frequently.

IF I am allowed to get a copy of my OBC (original birth certificate) I am curious to see if my birth father’s name is listed as well.

These are the facts.

This is all I know.

“Lucky Girl” – My Parents & I

October 9, 2010

My Parents – Circa 1976 (year of my birth/adoption)

I have a great relationship with my adoptive parents. Hell, let’s just call them my parents. No matter where my search ends up, my mom is my MOM and my dad is my DAD. My mom is everyone’s mom. I often have the experience of running into a friend from childhood and the first thing they say is, “How is your mom?” My mom put my two brothers & I first in every aspect of her life. She attended not only every soccer game, but also every practice. She volunteered in our classrooms and knew all of our friends. My parents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary this year and they have had a happy marriage. My dad was more absent but that is because be worked 6 days a week as a house painter so that my mom could be a stay-at-home. My dad is a kind and gentle man, although sometimes I wonder if it weren’t for my mom, would he have chosen to adopt? He often speaks of what life would have been like if he’d gone another path. I am more like my dad (if you were to pick one), he is more social and knows an insane amount of people. I am that way too.  For adoptive parents reading my blog I want them to understand that it is possible to have a healthy and loving and for all intents and purposes “normal” relationship with your transracial adopted child.

BUT –

I am not sure they were prepared to deal with the barrage of questions that their willful and curious little girl threw at them. One of my favorite questions that people ask me is, “When did you know you were adopted?” I always feel like saying, “Are you kidding?” But no, they are serious. I knew I was adopted around 3, when I looked at myself in the mirror and knew that somehow I didn’t belong.  No matter how loving my parents were and how secure and stable my childhood home was, I always felt out of place and disconnected. I knew that I was different. At four years old my mom told me that I was adopted, she sat me on the couch and told me that she was my mommy and always would be but that “another mommy” had given birth to me. I can’t tell you what I remember thinking as I can’t remember too much that far back, but I can tell you it was something like, “Duh”.

At seven when I was asking how much money they paid for me. At eight I wanted to know (because I grew up a sick kid, in and out of hospitals because of my seizures) if they knew my birth mom, “Did she have seizures too?” At 10, I wanted to know what Texas was like. I had a birthmark on my arm that looked like Texas and I assumed that’s what “birthmark” meant – a picture of the place where you were born. By 10 both my older brothers were out of the house and for the rest of my childhood I would almost be an only child, having my parents all to myself through my adolescence. The questions never stopped and my parents did the best they could to answer those questions.

BUT –

At EVERY single moment of my life when I introduced people to my parents, I had to explain I was adopted. Sometimes I didn’t but that confused look on their faces while they glanced back and forth between me and parents (as if they were trying to figure it out) just became too annoying. This was not the case with my brothers. They could go through life and never tell anyone they were adopted and it has always been their choice when to reveal that information. But for me, I never had any choice.

I never had any choice.

So when people say and they do (very rude by the way to say to an adoptee) that I should be “grateful”, that I am “lucky” , that I was “chosen” – I know they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Lucky? Why? Would any other life or any other set of adoptive parents been worse? Would growing up with my birth mom had been bad for me? And how do they know? I was raised in a middle class white home in a suburban town and all of the people who looked like me lived no where near us. So that makes me lucky?

Where I am lucky is that I have supportive and understanding parents who stand by me. When I quit my steady job with good pay to go LA and go to film school they cheered me on. And when I told them that I found my calling and that I would be making a documentary about adoption, they said that was a great idea.

The most we can do is make something good out of the life that we are dealt. But I have to know where I came from. I know very well my search my take a long time or yield nothing. Along the way I hope to meet other TRA’s, hear their stories which are so similar to mine. It will be nice to sit across from someone and know that “here is someone like me”.

That’s never happened to me before.

 

1st Step – Contacting Texas

October 8, 2010

As I have made no previous attempts to search, I was surprised to see that Texas is one of the few states to allow adoptees to access sealed adoption records. After a quick google search, I find that I need a Court Order from the court that originally handled my adoption. I do not have this information.

So, I am (today) sending off $10 and form #ZZ 708-153, a.k.a “Application for Identity of Court of Adoption”. Once this is granted then I can continue to the second step which is trying to obtain a Court Order – that too, costs $10.

Am I only $20 away from seeing my original birth certificate?

Let’s Get Right Down to it – Racism

October 7, 2010

I came across this video, an excerpt from the movie “Adopted” .

 

 

I was five years old and at the neighborhood park with my father. Some kids had hopped on the merry-go-around and I decided to join.  I got on and wrapped my legs around the bars and held on tight. The older boy pushing stopped the ride and told me to get off. I remember looking up at him confused, his face blurred by the intense afternoon sun. “You”, he said, finger pointed right at me. “My father won’t let us play with dirty Mexicans.” That (now) familiar feeling of utter embarrassment, shock and anger rose up in my throat. Everyone was looking right at me. I got off the ride and ran over to my dad. I was five years old and for the first time in my life I realized what I was…a Mexican. Why had no one told me? I had no idea that meant that I was dirty. My clothes were clean and I smelled OK.

My parents were ill equipped to deal with my questions of racism. They sympathized, they empathized and they told me to not believe the taunts of ignorant people but they could not explain the greater context. I was told these were isolated incidents and not the norm. At the age of five I began to really look around my neighborhood, all White. When I started school I looked around my classes there were others like me but they hung out together ,walked home in the other direction. I do not fault my parents for their inability to answer these questions. In the early eighties videos like the one above simply did not exist. My parents were teenagers in the 1950’s and both had grown up in a liberal Northern California town where the idea of racism just did not exist for them. My Mom explains quite frequently that while Civil Rights was occurring on National television, she was changing diapers. My Mom ran a a daycare center in our home and took care of everyone else’s kids as well as her own. As I grew older and other incidents occurred, I tended to keep them to myself. I simply had no one to discuss my feelings with.

I am now formulating the essential themes of “The Things We Leave Behind.” I am extremely interested in hearing from other TRA’s (Transracial Adoptees) to learn how racism was described to them.

 

Summer Soltice

October 7, 2010

I am Native.

I know that.

But no details of my ethnicity were given to my parents. Other then the obvious. When the midwife handed me to my father she patted her hands together and said, “She’s going to make-a tortilla”. (Please note: this has yet to happen).

I grew up knowing I was mixed race but unsure of what the other race was until I was fourteen. In my fourteenth year, my best friend invited me to “Elder Camp” – a Native American Youth summer camp held in Davis, CA. For one week we camped under the stars, had classes in basket weaving, participated in sweats and complained about the heat. We were woken up at 5 in the morning on the summer soltice to “Welcome the Sun”. We groaned and grumbled, yet in my memory – standing in a circle watching day break and the sun rise over the earth, it is still such a beautiful one.

But more then that – I felt at home. I felt like I belonged. No one questioned me. For the first time in my life (having white parents when you are brown has you answering a lot of questions) no one questioned my right to be there. I was among people who accepted me but who I also looked like.

This is key. See, to most people this is not an issue, even to most adoptees. Both of my brothers can pass as the children of my parents. Sure, they are a little too tall but that can be explained by a genetic throwback. But for me life was different. From the time I was five years old I have had to explain my adoption. I had to explain that “My mommy gave me up” and that the blond woman waving me towards the car was indeed my mother. Even when the kind teacher’s aide grasped my hand with a fiercely protected grip as she persuaded me not to walk to the car. “That is my mommy” I pointed towards my parents’ 1976 fake wood panneling station wagon.  She smiled at me and said, “Where? Where is your mommy?  I don’t see her.”

There are very few details I know in relation to my birth. I was born Laredo, Texas. Four envelopes contain the entire knoweldge of my personal history and in those envelopes very little is said, other then that my birth mother consented.

I am Native. Even if I do not have the paperwork to prove it. I feel it.

I feel it in the same way that if I just tried to “make-a tortilla”, I could probably do so.

Laredo

October 6, 2010

6/15/10

 

Herein lies an ode to the place of my birth,  a home at the end of the world, although no home of mine, my beginning- left here, discarded here, like trash here by the side of the road. Three days I lay, breathing, crying, restless (So, this is why?) and then gone from here, picked up by loving hands.

February 6 or was it the 7th? Born at 7:30 AM or was it PM? Never do you mind the details. Trash has no memory. A wasteland, a sad town at the bottom, sprouts up on the Rio Grande.

“Sad” is what Jack calls it, sad and full of people who don’t know which way to go. Was she born here? Did she die here? She’s dead to me. Mother oh mother, in her womb, in her care, she drank, she smoked, baby by the road side, maybe this is not her story.

Perhaps it is this: struggle, young, poor, alone, no English, no degree, no home, no man, no father, no future, no country, illegal, no papers, no Texan, no boyfriend, no mother, no hope. Perhaps I am not this. Perhaps I am more.

February 1976 and onward equals home, comfort, parents, brothers, food, shelter, love, love and more love. So much love could split the atom. So much anger, 18 years old and so angry, no worth, no past, no history.

Why so angry when I had so much? I took to the pen at six, an ode to a flower. I took to the stage the same year. Right handed, clumsy and a always a little sad, no history, no trail, no heritage, no ethnicity, no me.

No, not true, a LIE. 34 years old and if I only were to know one thing, you asked, you pulled a gun, you pointed it at my head or beat me, beat me like he did long ago, you cocked the trigger and pushed the barrel in my mouth, then the one thing I could say, the one phrase that would leave my shaking, scared and horrified lips would be: I KNOW WHO I AM. I know me.

Trina is: no fear, laughter, loud, expressive, cautious, funny, friendly, witty, clumsy, creative, outgoing and sad, sad, always a little sad.  She must be like this too. She must be a little sad, I think.

Sad at leaving. Do you think? Sad at the baby left behind.

The baby: one day old and new to the world, little girl. Baby who breathed her, knew her smell and voice. Sad at the child born in a home, not even a hospital. Baby left in a room with all the other discarded babies. We cried together. My friends for life these others. My soul-friends. All we had was the sound of the next one over wailing.

I was one of the lucky ones.

Born on the road and still traveling to this day. Perhaps, herein lies the good: constant motion, on plane at 4 days old and in the sky ever since. Backpacking, Europe, Egypt, America, my sense of wonder and constant restlessness. Motion, motion, walking, forward, only home I know is the one out there. My home is always surrounding me, smothered like a wonderful blanket, warm from languages, distant spices, foreign smiles, dirty socks and missed trains, delayed in airports from London to Des Moines.

Herein lies an ode to my beginning. That is all it is really. The start of the journey. Restless now, again, must end this chat. I opened my soul to you dear reader. We’re “soul talkin’” as Jack would say.

Jack hated it here.

~Trina DeMattei

(These are the 1st  words I’d ever written on being adopted, “Jack” Is Jack Kerouac, referenced from “On the Road”.)

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