I grew up in a humble home, free to run around barefoot, with un-brushed hair and skinny legs. I am Italian, Irish and something else…I became aware of how different I was from my cousins, dad and even my mom but mostly my sister. She has blonde hair with blue eyes; I have black hair with brown-hazel eyes. My Dad, I would eventually learn was my Step-Dad. He treated me as his own, just like he treated my sister (his biological child); he was a car mechanic by day and an Electrician by night. I remember him coming home late at night from work; he was a hard-working man. When he was home he took us for rides on his motorcycle, he let us crawl under the car while working on it and had a voice that could sing.
My extended family I would describe as kind to one another. The memories we hold are many – as a child we were together every holiday and birthday. My grandparents lived two houses down from my childhood home and my Aunt (biological father’s only sister) lived the next door over. For the most part, my childhood was normal.
Around the time I turned 12, my Mother and “Dad” were divorced and before I knew it we were moving out of the only house I ever knew and called home. I started middle school and other things I had no business starting. I was pregnant at 15, my freshman year in high school. I didn’t last very long in a traditional high school and eventually attended a program through the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). There I would meet lifelong mentors who I am indebted to; they would be my support system as I would make the hardest decision of my life – to place my daughter for adoption.
Family members and friends encouraged me to have an abortion and for different reasons. I remember being told that pregnancy would cause stretch marks and ruin my skin for the rest of my life; that I wouldn’t be able to go to college and hardest of all I was told that if I chose to keep my child that I would have to move out and handle my responsibilities. At the YWCA, I eventually experienced similar responses from peers that were also pregnant, and thought I was crazy to consider adoption. While most of them wouldn’t tell me directly how they felt it was implied by their skillful ability masked in a comment like, “wow, I couldn’t do that.” Only a handful truly had compassion and concern and would befriend me, after all, we were literally walking the aching road of pregnancy together.
In 1994, I decided to go in the United States Air Force (USAF). I will never forget the moment that would awaken the hardest day of my life – kissing my 18 month old goodbye as he lay in his crib. I left at 5:00 AM on March 3, 1995 for basic training in San Antonio, Texas. I had high aspirations and nothing was going to stop me, not even the emotional waves of leaving that sweet, little boy peacefully sleeping. However, this gut wrenching twist in my stomach and knot in my throat that stopped the tears wouldn’t let up; visions in my mind of leaving her sweet little face through the glass window at the hospital on February 27, 1991.
Initially, I wasn’t going to see her but at the last minute I told the nurse I changed my mind and wanted to see her. There she was a head full of black hair, that same black hair that left me unsure of myself as a child. She was beautiful with fair caramel-colored skin and long legs, the same skinny legs that reminded me of myself running around barefoot with un-brushed hair. As tears ran down my face, my mother did the only thing she knew to do which was wheel me out of the room as quickly as possible to the closest exit.
Xaviar is a handsome, wide-eyed, inquisitive little boy, full of wonder. He has a way of getting himself in trouble by unwittingly “telling” me all the happenings of his day. I will never forget the phone call from his kindergarten teacher, “please come and get him, he has been kicked in the private part and is in a lot of pain.” Our time, stationed in Okinawa, Japan, per orders of the USAF were very difficult, though I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I rushed to his school and took him to the doctor, as the story of him being kicked there unfolded I wanted to laugh so badly and tell him this is what his mouth does, but I didn’t. He always had a way of creating, let’s just say, situations like this. Today, he is taller than me, still has handsome brown eyes that draw you in, a personality that demands attention upon his presence and a sweetness that still tells everything.
I am grateful for the experience to give birth to a little girl whom is being raised by another woman she calls “mommy.” I would eventually have stretch marks and graduate from college. My mother and I are very close now; God has restored what once was a very broken and hurtful relationship to one that is open and growing in love each day. My mother is also blessed to have many grandchildren.
Eventually, I would take steps to build a relationship with my biological father despite having been adopted myself by my step-father I call “Dad”. My father and I see each other regularly and he enjoys brief times with his energetic, loud grandchildren and has grown fond of our new relationship. However, I will never forget lying under the Plymouth Valiant with my Dad, rides on the motorcycle, and best of all, his rendition of Randy Newman’s Short People while gracefully strumming his guitar. I look forward to hearing Mary’s story but until we meet again, I will share the beauty that comes from the ashes of an unplanned pregnancy!