On this second day of November, I am finding my gratitude in my origins. I am who I am and where I am because a young woman made the excruciating decision to give me to a family who could give me what she couldn’t. Of course, I don’t think she had a clue that my father would end up being a philandering liar, but hey- no one’s perfect! All she saw was an opportunity to give her baby a life she knew she couldn’t provide. That selfless decision set in motion my life. I was given to a young couple who already had a preschooler. An attorney and an English teacher, both Jewish.
I was given the best grandparents a girl could have wished for. A great-grandmother who would tell her stories about family life in the early days of the 20th century. A grandfather who loved his profession and proudly told stories of how hard he worked for everything he had. A grandmother who would drop everything to be with her if she was having a bad day. Or needed a new outfit from Filenes (pronounced Fih-leeens). Another grandmother who showed her what it meant to be charitable and commit to a cause you believe in with every fiber of your being. Two additional grandparents who taught her that blood connections never mattered, they still loved taking her out for an ice cream.
I was given siblings to grow up with, share a bathroom with and back ends of station wagons with. We watched Jaws, Star Wars and Grease together. I learned how to dress, how to put on makeup and what certain bases were. I was taught what bands to listen to and the lyrics to ‘Tom Sawyer’. As much as I thought they were driving me crazy, I felt safe with them, I looked up to them and in spite of one relationship not being where I want it to be, I love them all.
I never would have known anything about Jewish life, family traditions or about warm holiday meals around a long table blanketed in laughter. I wouldn’t have lit colorful hanukkah candles, eat potato latkes or have fried matzo. I wouldn’t have known how important education was or see for my own eyes what hard work and determination can do for a person. I wouldn’t have had art lessons, skating lessons, golf lessons, summer camp, new clothes every fall or a Disney vacation. I wouldn’t have met my step-brothers or step-sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles.
My choice of profession, my decisions on having a child at 24 years of age and how I handled difficult situations would have been totally different. The people whom I have met throughout my life would have shaped my experiences differently. I wouldn’t have met Christy, Lynn, Jill, Shayne or Colin. I may have not gotten sober, and if I didn’t, chances are I wouldn’t be typing this right now because I would be dead. Yes, I was that bad. Just ask my roommate, who I probably wouldn’t have met either.
This woman handed me over to a family that I feel very blessed to have. Kellers, Levins, Winokurs, and Greenes. The simple gesture of a signature gave me a world I never would have known. I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling, post -partum, milk coming in, without a baby to hold. I can’t imagine what she went through, but I am grateful.