The Last Piece Of The Jigsaw

This is a blog I wrote last year and posted in in “The Twitterhousewives blog”.

I have been asked about it by a few people lately, so am re posting. Apologies if you have already read this

Families are like jigsaw aren’t they? They all slot  together to show one big picture. In my case I always felt there was a piece of my jigsaw missing.

I’d always known I was adopted, and felt honoured that I had been ‘chosen’ by my parents. In fact, I have a vague vision of arriving to live with them. Although some days I’m not sure if it’s a memory or a fanciful image I have fostered over the years. The mind plays funny tricks.

I was a 50′s baby, born to a young, single, gullible Irish woman. Not the product of some sordid one night stand, but of a short but passionate affair with a “tall, handsome Canadian singer” (Well, that’s how my adoptive mum described him. Maybe to make me feel better perhaps)

My birth Mother decided to keep me and I lived with her for the first 2 years of my life. she worked as a live-in housekeeper for a country GP in Sussex, who had a child of the similar age. I was considered company for her. All was fine until I was too old to be ‘hidden away’ anymore.

An advert was placed in a Catholic (of course!) newspaper, and it  ”caught the eye of mum and dad” They had 3 sons, and had recently lost a precious baby girl, who shared the same name as me………fate?

Thus I arrived with my “new family”.. 3 big brothers to protect and spoil me!! The youngest was 10 years older than me and the eldest already a RAF Officer..a tall, dark stranger who occasionally appeared bearing gifts for me. To this day, I still use the little sewing box he bought me back from Germany once. It’s falling to pieces slightly but I can’t bear to part with it. Sadly I no longer have any contact with him..his choice, not mine

As you can imagine, I was an adored, spoilt (but very sweet, obviously) little girl with chubby cheeks and ribbons in my hair.. No there are NO photos!

2 1/2 years later Mum and Dad sat me down and told me I was having a new baby sister. I think this is probably when fostering and adoption was spoken about. I was very excited

My sister arrived late one dark February night. ( I didn’t know it was February at the time, but have since done the maths). I remember it vividly. There was a thunderstorm, I was scared, so was downstairs with Mum having cuddles by an open fire.

The doorbell rang, and there was this woman with a baby. she handed over the baby to Mum and left…..I know it sounds like an EasterEnders story line but it’s completely true…..and there it was, I had anew baby sister.

For many years I thought that was where babies came from. During thunderstorms I would lie in bed listening and thinking “There’s a  lot of babies being delivered tonight”

I can tell you it was a real shock to the system when I realised that was NOT where they came from!!

And so my life continued in blissful childish happiness.

I had birthday cards from my birth  mother until the age of 11,and she came to visit me. I didn’t realise who she was. I called her “Auntie B” I remember Mum being upset with me as I had helped “Auntie B” with the washing up voluntarily  when I never did for her.  At the time I couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal.

There was a photo too, in the family album for years, but when I asked my middle brother if I could have it, it had mysteriously disappeared.

Growing up, I was never that curious about my beginnings, although I  so remember some fairly imaginative stories told to school friends. Sure they didn’t believe me! I was too busy enjoying myself.

Actually it was just as well I did know I was adopted as I remember going to my GP once and seeing that they hadn’t crossed out my birth name on my medical records. It was the first time I had seen it written down. I thought it was a much nicer name than the one I had!

As I got older I began to feel a bit “different” from the rest of the family and started to get a bit curious.. but then came careers, marriage and children and such fanciful thoughts were pushed to the recesses of my mind.

Then when my daughter was 7 and eldest son 2 Mum died…a sudden and undignified death one New Year’s Day, which made me ashamed of my profession.

Suddenly I felt bereft and had a longing to fill the gap she had left.  I began a tentative search for my birth mother, but stopped fairly quickly as I felt disloyal to Mum’s memory.

A few years later Dad died…and the fragile binds that had tied my eldest brother and I together frayed completely, causing a major family split which I felt completely responsible for.

Once again I felt the need to find my roots. So began  many trips to Catherine House trawling through hundreds of fascinating records, and exploring many internet sites that offered searches.

I did find details of someone who matched, but I was too scared to do anything about it, so gave up and forgot again.

Then , out of the blue, a received a phone call from a lady who owned one of the internet sites. She thought she had found my mother and wanted to know how I would like to proceed.

To cut a long story short, she contacted the woman, who WAS my birth mother. She was amazed and delighted I had made contact, and we began writing to each other through our mediator. Her letters were long and full of emotional explanations. after about 3 months we decided we were ready to meet.My family were concerned I would be hurt and disappointed but I was determined to meet her.

We met under the clock at Waterloo….and the last piece of the jigsaw fell into place. No awkward silences. No recriminations. Just a rush of emotion and joy at finding each other. We went to the Tate Modern and talked for hours. her husband knew all about me and there were photos of me in her family photo albums which she had never really explained to her children…ah yes, her children. 3 half-sister and a half-brother, all who had to be told about me. How would they react? Would they questions my reasons for finding her? Would they ever accept me? More importantly, would they ever understand and forgive their mother?

I needn’t have worried, they welcomed me with open arms. And suddenly I had a whole new family. My children had grandparents, although they were always Auntie B and Uncle J

We had some wonderful times with her, and the rest of her family.  She was a fit, young at heart, fun-loving lady who lived and loved every moment of her life to the full….If I can replicate even a small amount of her energy and enthusiasm I will be happy.

The following summer after we met K got married, and of her volition invited Auntie B and Uncle J to the wedding. They were delighted to be included and I was proud to have them there sharing such a precious day with us….less so my 2 remaining brothers, who still think I have been disloyal….We have some beautiful photos of them with K and G which we all treasure.

Then, when K had her first baby she rang Auntie B and greeted her with  ”Hello Great Grandma” I cried then, and admit the tears are flowing as I remember it now. They packed their bags and arrived at our house to meet their great-grandson when he was 3 days old.

My children loved their new-found grandparents and,in turn,  they revelled in being  grand and great grandparents

Sadly Auntie  B passed away a couple of years ago and Uncle J a year after her. At both of their funeral services I was made to feel such a part of the family, always included as her daughter…and the photos on the order of service for both of them was of one of them at K’s wedding, as apparently it was one of Auntie B’s favourite photos.

I am so happy  that we  met and had those years together.

My enduring memory  of her is of that of a 74-year-old lady running through the water fountains at Somerset House .. laughing and calling me to join her. And that’s how I want to be at 74

And so the jigsaw is complete