Where I Belong

February 19, 2010
I shut my eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to think only of peaceful thoughts. I felt like I would explode with frustration if I didn’t. Aaron, officially the most annoying thing at my school, was poking me in the back. Whenever I turned around to see what he was up to, he turned his head and acted as though he was innocent. “Even though there’s guilt smeared all over his face,” I thought irritably. He didn’t even seem to care that I was so noticeably annoyed with his antics. I sometimes wished that I could take things as lightly as Aaron always did. But I couldn’t. It was in my blood. Everyone in my family had always been the type to go overboard with his or her emotions. Whether it was a feeling of happiness, anger, grief, or excitement, it was absolutely normal for us to get hyped up about the simplest of things.
I received respite from Aaron when our English teacher, Ms. Laughlin, strode into the room with a huge stack of papers in her arms. She gazed at us with her hawk-like eyes and gave us a smile. The class groaned. We all knew that a smile from Ms. Laughlin meant that she was about to give us an assignment.
“Good afternoon, class. I have a new assignment for you to work on over the weekend. It is a Heritage Project, and it will be due on Monday. You will look through old family photo albums, diary accounts, letters, documents like marriage licenses and birth certificates, etc. in order to explore your family’s heritage. After collecting your information, you will be writing an essay based on what you have learned,” Ms. Laughlin finally concluded her speech.
I’m not a super study bug, but I don’t despise school. So I had foolishly assumed that the Heritage Project would be easy to handle, but little did I know that what was about to occur would alter my life in a way that I never could have imagined.

As soon as I reached home, I made myself a sandwich and poured out a glass of orange juice. Neither my parents nor my older brother were at home. Then I would have to begin my search for family heirlooms alone. I decided to start in the attic, where we kept all the old family stuff. I clambered up the rickety steps to the attic. It was dusty, like no one had been there in a long while. I wasn’t surprised. My family didn’t come up here much.

As I surveyed my surroundings, I noticed an impressive, antique chest that looked like it was about to fall apart any second. I opened it up gingerly. Inside, there were stacks of papers that looked like documents. I picked up a document that looked like a birth certificate and read the first few lines. It said:

Maya Rose
Age: 11 months
Birthday: March 14
Adoptive Parents: Rhea and Sheel Rose

I stared into the paper, trying to grasp the meaning of the words. My parents’ names were Rhea and Sheel too. My birthday was on March 14. And my name was Maya. My mind was struggling to put two and two together. I forced myself to think of the impossible. Was I…adopted?
I tried thinking of whether or not the prospect of this was actually possible. I thought of how I had always wondered why I had never seen any hospital pictures of myself, even though my brother’s baby pictures were around the house. I remembered my brief speculations of why my parents seemed to almost avoid the topic of my birth. But these were just doubts. Right? They couldn’t be leading to anything suspicious…could they?
I don’t know how long I just sat there, gazing at those fateful words. I was in shock. I couldn’t move a muscle. The depth of the situation had hit me. I realized that if I had been adopted, then my parents weren’t actually “mine.” I sat without stirring until I heard footsteps behind me and someone calling my name. As my mom walked into the attic, I turned around.
“Maya, sweetie, we’ve been looking for—“she said, faltering. Her eyes widened in shock as she realized what I was holding. She stood with her mouth wide open for a few seconds, and then she recovered.
“Honey, um, just come downstairs, and Daddy and I will, uh, explain everything,” she told me uneasily. She seemed very anxious. I didn’t reply but just followed her out of the attic and into the living room where my dad was waiting for us. He looked tired, but as soon as my mom whispered something to him, his expression turned to concern. The three of us sat down: my mom and dad on one couch and me in an armchair.
My dad began the conversation. “Maya, we know that we’ve kept this from you for a long time. But you’re only fourteen years old, and we were waiting for you to become mature enough to understand,” he said slowly, as though he was choosing his words carefully.
Was he referring to the adoption papers I had found? Did that mean I was adopted? “So, are you saying that I’m adopted?” I asked, dreading the answer.
Dad glanced at my mom. She looked towards me and said quietly, “Yes, Maya.” She paused, and after an encouraging nod from my father, she continued, “Your father and I had always wanted to adopt a child. After your brother was born, we decided that it was the perfect time. We applied and after a very long process, we finally brought you home. Seeing you for the first time was…wonderful. We didn’t tell you about this before because we thought you weren’t ready, but now…I’m not sure if we made the right decision.”
I sat listening to my mother, trying to comprehend. How was it possible? I had always thought that my family and I were similar in so many ways. We all had the same sense of humor and we shared many characteristics. But, now, suddenly, we had none of the same blood running through our veins. I didn’t know what to say or even what to think. It was all so confusing. On one hand, I was angry at my parents, and on the other, I was curious about my origins. I wondered what my birth mother was like, where she lived, what her hobbies were. Maybe she loved butter pecan ice cream just like I did. But I also felt strong resentment toward her. Why had she abandoned me? My eyes flooded over with tears. Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. I just knew that I had to meet my birth mother. It was essential for me to know where I came from.
“I need to meet her,” I blurted out, all of a sudden. My parents looked alarmed for a moment, but then I could see understanding dawning on their faces. They knew that I was talking about my birth mother. How could these people, who understood me so well, not be my “real” parents?
My parents nodded and immediately agreed to my decision. The next day, they contacted the adoption agency, who said that they would try their best to locate her. My parents also worked in an intense effort to find my birth mother. They called more phone numbers that I could count, spent long hours on the Internet hunting for clues, and talked to people who might have known her. However, a few weeks later, I began to feel disheartened as the search seemed to be getting nowhere. But, inevitably, my family and I became caught up in our normal, everyday lives, and the topic of my adoption was pushed to the back of our minds.
A few months after my “discovery,” I arrived home after school to find the house empty. As I made myself a snack, the phone rang. I answered it and ascertained that it was Miss Stallon, the kind lady from the adoption agency.
“Hi, is this Maya?” she asked.
“Yes, it is,” I replied, wondering why she was calling.
“Well, I’m calling to give you and your family some big news. Maya…we’ve found your birth mother.” I stood stock still, listening to the words I had been craving to hear for the past few months. Surprisingly, however, finally hearing them didn’t fill me with any kind of joy. Actually, I didn’t feel any emotion at all. I thanked the lady from the agency and, like a zombie, I put the phone down.
I felt a sense of premonition, like I was about to do something I would regret. The more I thought about actually meeting my birth mother face-to-face, the more I realized that I didn’t need to. I was content with the wonderful family I already had. Finding out I was adopted didn’t change anything. I was the same old Maya. I didn’t need to add or eliminate any fragment of my life to make myself feel happier than I already was.

The minute my parents came home, I told them about the adoption agency’s call. Before they could comment, I gave them a hug and told them that meeting my birth mother didn’t matter to me anymore. What did matter was the amazing, supportive family I already had. Although at first I’d been angry with my birth mother about giving me up for adoption, I realized that she had loved me enough to hand me over to a family who would love me and care for me. Plus, I knew that the parents who had raised me, cared for me, and provided me with unconditional love, were my “real” parents. I didn’t need to know where I came from, since I already knew where I belonged.

Author’s Note: While it is completely a personal decision of adoptive parents on whether or not to tell their child about his or her adoption, experts highly recommend that adoptive parents do tell their child as soon as he or she becomes a part of the family. Also, please note that this story is a work of fiction and that every adoptive child has unique feelings about his or her adoption.

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