The year-old twins who live behind us caught my eye out the kitchen window last week. Already, they are walking, their chubby legs wobbling under the task, each cock-eyed step a victory. Dressed alike in pink dresses and polka-dot sweaters, they offered a delightful distraction to my washing up.
I smiled the whole time I watched them and their doting mom.
We don’t know the family very well — they moved in about 18 months ago, and how surprised we were, come last spring, to see their mother in the yard bouncing two pink bundles. I — among any of us — should have been able to figure it out.
You see, those girls and I share a tight bond. Like me, they are adopted.
Twin girls, from Utah. Their parents gushed with excitement as they shared their story — how they had a call in February 2011, flew West to claim them and had an instant family in no time.
Twins! It’s like winning the lottery for adoptive parents, they told us.
Basil’s hand clutched tightly around my arm in warning as I asked, What do you know about their birth parents?
Turns out not much. The girls’ mom is in her mid-40s, already has other children and couldn’t afford to keep them, they were told.
I had the sense to stop talking then (honestly, that is a tough call sometimes for me), but I couldn’t help but think how little has changed in the 46 years since my birth mother relinquished me. All these years later and like me, these two tykes have no more information about their beginnings than I do. Will they ever?
New York lawmakers are again weighing a law that would give adoptees their original birth certificates. I call on Gov. Cuomo and every member of the Legislature to support the measure. It’s time, once and for all, for Albany to stop hiding behind empty platitudes about privacy.
To each of New York’s senators and assemblymen I say:
Imagine, if, unlike Gov. Cuomo, you didn’t have the good fortune to immediately and undeniably KNOW who you look, think and sound like.
Imagine if you didn’t have a medical history to share with your physicians. Or your children’s physicians.
Imagine how your relationships and interactions would unravel (and I do mean unravel, much of the time), if in your heart you always felt the sting of rejection — despite having loving, supportive adoptive parents and hearing many stories about “privacy” and “best for you.”
Imagine living a version of Dr. Seuss’ “Are You My Mother” — forever scanning names and faces, wondering hoping if maybe, just maybe. …
Imagine having to play detective — and maybe even pay someone — just to learn your ethnicity.
Imagine if in middle age your home state still treated you like a child and made decisions on your behalf about personal information that everyone else has a right to.
Imagine, too, if you were one of the many thousands of birth parents who wonder every day about the children they had to let go of.
Most people can look around themselves and see who they are and where they fit in. They know the hows and whys of their lives, where their talents and thought processes are rooted. No one would ever dream of taking that knowledge away from them.
Adoptees aren’t so lucky. We are second-class citizens — all the way.
By voting to give adoptees our original birth certificates, the State of New York has a chance to shine a bright light on those of us who are kept in the dark about our beginnings. You might even help set in motion a series of changes nationwide that would ultimately allow those sweet twins living behind me to grow up with a full sense of their own identities.
How about it, New York legislators?
Terri S. Vanech
nee Jennifer Elaine Clark
born Feb. 15, 1966
to Patricia Clark
somewhere in Yonkers
(Someone in Albany knows all the rest — I just wish they’d share it with me)