As November 2, 2022, the publication date for my memoir Junkyard Girl: A Memoir of Ancestry, Family Secrets, and Second Chances creeps closer, I hope nothing falls through the cracks; like misspelling my name on the cover or that the book cover is missing altogether. There’s a lot to do and I’m a tad anxious, which is how I felt when I was combing the garage with my rescue dog Grace, looking for snapshots to add to an online photo gallery that accompanies the book.
I never found the photos, I found something else – another tiny secret buried by time.
Better Late Than Never
As most of you know, I am a Late Discovery Adoptee who, three years ago, learned I was adopted after taking a DNA test for fun. Saying it was a shock to the system doesn’t quite capture the feeling of discombobulation to my identity. Of course, being an author, the best way to process this fracture was to write a book. For the next year, I interviewed family members and sought out every clue until I learned as much of the truth as possible. I’m not someone who carries regret but being unable to have a conversation with my deceased parents, not hearing the truth from their own lips, or learning how they felt, or hearing them say, “I love you,” one last time—this is perhaps the closest I’ve come to feeling the pull of regret.
Back in the garage I found an old plastic container filled with memory after memory—faded photo albums, a black beret my father wore in his eighties that reminded me of Pablo Picasso, and a harmonica my mother liked to fiddle with. A tiny piece of paper floated onto the cement floor; a yellow strip of newspaper hidden within old letters my mother had kept in her bedside bureau. I thought it was trash and was about to toss it when I saw its title—To an Adopted Child. My breath caught in my chest as I read the following words…
Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn’t grow under my heart
But in it.
– Fleur Conkling Heyliger
A Message From Beyond
I stared at that little strip of yellow news press for a long time. Grace sat beside me, ears flicking, ever alert to my shifting mood. My mother was not a good communicator. I often think that if she had told me I was adopted, she would’ve said, “Carlyn, you are adopted. Let’s never speak of it again.” Harsh? Maybe, but that was her way. A woman from a different generation that dealt with life’s blows by limiting her emotions.
My mother isn’t here to have the conversation I long for, but a little strip of yellow news press is. There have been many synchronistic moments on this journey of self-discovery, instances where my parents communicate with me in ways that they could not while they were alive. This little poem is part of that gift, a way to keep my mother’s memory living in my heart; an insight into what she felt for her adopted child.
We never know when a secret may be revealed and how it may affect our lives. Fortunately, I have a safety net of family, a supportive partner, and my rescue dog, Grace, who doesn’t seem to mind that, like her, I am a rescue too.
Stay healthy and stay pawsitive,