Elizabeth knew her mother could not lie, not after having just been to Mass. That’s why she waited out the two days imagining, all the while, another response. She knew it now, though, that she was clearly loathsome. Her mother’s reaction was proof of it.
Once home, Elizabeth got out of the car, tears stinging the backs of her eyes, and went straight to her room. Her hope of escaping this nightmarish thing ended quite anticlimactically with her mother’s nodding head, and any warmth she hoped to be shown by Etta, even a soupcon of compassion for the little girl she called her daughter, was not forthcoming.
When the call came for supper that night, Elizabeth had a slew of questions ready. She asked about her birth mother. What was her name? Where was she from? What did she look like? Who was her father? Her parents explained they knew very little except that her mother was built like Mom, short and stocky. She was Irish, like they were making her Irish, too, they said. There was no mention of a dad. There were no names, either.
She heard words like special, picked, and chosen. She watched their faces and bodies animate to emphasise points they wanted to make about how other children were dropped into the laps of their parents who had no say in what arrived. Wasn’t she the lucky one, really? They got to decide! Other parents did not get that chance.
It was then they dropped another bomb. They said her brother Will was adopted, too. She let that sink in. They probably hoped telling her would distract her from her angst but the news added to her sadness. Her brother was beloved. He was everything she was not. Hearing this only confounded her further. Worse, the questions rolling up and down rollercoaster like in her mind, went unanswered.
I told her everything would be okay, but as usual, she wasn’t listening.
I moped about feeling awful. Nothing seemed to ease the ache I felt in my heart, and in my head. My family was dismayed and she kept telling me this behaviour had to be temporary, but it was like I was falling with no parachute. There was nothing to grab on to, or reach out for. I couldn’t hear the voices offering support. I could not settle because I felt in my gut that they were not telling me something. It was like there were missing pieces of the puzzle they were hiding. I bet my brother knew about his past.
He told me he did not know anything more than I did, that he was there when I came home and that he had given me my name. He tried to explain the process to me, how things work. I wanted to trust him because he was just adopted, too. He said I’d have felt better if I had found our from our mom and dad. I looked up and asked him how he found out.
“Mom and Dad told me.”
“Oh.” I said dejectedly. “But why did Dad lie to me about it?”
“I don’t know. It’s no big deal though. You’re making way too much of this!”
“What was my name?”
“Oh, I don’t know that, but Mom was going to call you Maureen after the actress Maureen O’Hara. I wanted Elizabeth, after the Virgin Mary’s cousin.”
This is stupid. This cannot be happening! My mother is looking for me. I know it! Some catastrophe occurred and she was forced to give me to strangers for safe keeping. She trusted them to take care of me until she returned, but they were bad people, and sold me. She can’t find me. How can I help her find me? She’ll make things right again.
Shd supposed she was making too much of a fuss, but what she felt was overwhelming. She’d gone from freefall to the distinct feeling she was being sucked under. Her grief became a mantle. In the days to come, the covering became so heavy, she couldn’t lift it off.
I watched her angrily. She’d messed this up with her cunning and histrionics. She was a little girl for goodness’ sake. She needed to act like one instead of trying to emulate adult behaviours she couldn’t know about. If she had asked for the truth from the beginning, this might have gone very differently. But why could she not show how hurt she was? That stern face and impenetrable posture chilled even the warmest of people. She might have been a child, but there was a fierceness about her. True enough she knew, with that second sight of hers, that things were being kept from her, but so what? Leave it be.
It took time, but on the surface, life reclaimed us all. Elizabeth held her hurt inside for the most part. I kept an eye on her hoping I could salvage her. She’d received a blow and simply needed time to mend. We’d get back to doing things she liked, things she was good at, and she would get strong. There were moments, however, when I saw her shape-shifting into something I did not recognize. I put my fears for her aside, and later that year, a chance for something good finally came.
Near the end of grade three, the principal called the family together for a meeting. Elizabeth was terrified. She had never recovered from her time with Mother Petronella. Their tenuous student-teacher relationship had disintegrated after the assembly debacle, with Elizabeth unable to do anything correctly for the nun. Elizabeth spent countless hours in the corner, missed many recesses and lunches. The experience left her unsure of how to manage instructions. Her grade two teacher, a gentle lay woman, helped somewhat, but Elizabeth remained easily rattled by authority figures.
On this day, however, there were no reprimands or punishments.
To be continued…
My wish tonight is for hugs. Are they as magic as some believe they are? Well, since I believe that what we think comes true, then it follows if we believe hugs make magic – SNAP – they do! Of course, you don’t have to share my beliefs, but for a second, think of hugging tight that wee teddy when you were little. Do you remember? Oh how that scruffy stuffed bear brought comfort. You would go no where without it. You would cry when it went for a wash, thinking it lost to you forever. Remember the joy when, all fresh, it was delivered into your pudgy reaching arms? You held it, hugged it, ever so close. Now, if a loved one aches, needs warmth, feels fear, or a loss, pretend they are your beloved bear. What would you do if it needed you? Hugs. Yep, magical.