Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Georgia on My Mind: The Name I Never Had; The Life I Didn't Lead

We all have them: ghost lives. All of us, adopted or not, can look back and see points where our life path split into two branches and one or the other was selected, either by us or by someone else choosing for us. Who does not occasionally look back at those junctures and wonder, what would my life be like if the other route had been chosen?

For adoptees, there is an extra layer to this, for it is not only that our lives would have been different but that we ourselves would have been, in a sense, different people. The first juncture, for many adoptees, occurred at or before birth.

I have had many names throughout my life. In my offline life, most people know me as "Becca." When I was a child, people often called me "Becky," and I was too shy to correct them. I've had a variety of nicknames, but I won't mention those here. One name I have never been called is "Georgia." But that is the name that my birth mother would have written on my birth certificate, in honor of a favorite aunt, if she had been allowed to do so. Instead, she was told to leave that part blank and just sign her name.

So, Georgia never really existed, and yet she is a part of me. She is the shadow self, the me I would have been if by some miracle my first mother could have received the support she wanted in order to parent me. I recently saw an old photo of a significant portion of my biological family -- my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and two uncles, my brother and my cousin. My uncle had identified it as one of the rare photos in which "everyone" was present. Everyone, that is, except for me. The photo was taken a few years before our reunion, so I'm not in it. Except that I am; I was always a ghost child in that family. When I look at the shadowy space between my aunt and one uncle in the photo, I see the spot I might have stood.

15 comments:

  1. I'm really enjoying your writing, Rebecca. This one really moved me. I'll be reading regularly.

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  2. Beautiful. And something that I sometimes forget to think about with my boys.

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  3. Laurie AbatangeloMarch 13, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    Funny that you should write about this. I just created a private blog for my adult son. I put many pictures of different members of my family. There was a picture of the entire family that was taken last May after my dad's funeral. I thought about putting it up on the blog, but thought there was a hole where he should've been. didn't want him to feel that, too. Totally get where you coming from.

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  4. What a beautiful piece Rebecca. As always you move me with your honesty and lovely writing. Much love!

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  5. Hi Brooke. And congratulations!!!

    I think the most important part, for me, is the simple recognition that the adoptee is already part of both families, no matter what ... using language that reflects that and just having your heart open, as I know you do.

    With Ashley, we also have a lot of interactions involving members of both family, which helps too. Both of my daughters sometimes use the phrase "our family" in a broad sense that encompasses both biological and adoptive relatives.

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  6. Thanks! And thanks also for the retweet. You are now one of a select few who know my secret identity. Having a life and a ghost life wasn't enough -- I had to adopt a pseudonym too!

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  7. Thanks Kathy. You are my favorite commenter because you always have such nice things to say! :-)

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  8. Barbara Jean WalshMarch 14, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Thank you so much for this one, dear ghost child. Made me weepy, happy, and some other emotions that I can't name.

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  9. I thought this one might get a comment from you. :-)

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  10. I remember the first time I saw my Original Birth Certificate & read my original name: "Charlene Anne." I was taken aback... "I'm no Charlene Anne! I'm Carrie Ann." Funny thing, both names derive from "Charles" and mean "strong."

    I've been thinking a lot about Charlene Anne, lately... wondering if she & I would get along? What would her life have been like?

    Sometimes, I feel like my adult obsession with playing hockey is my attempt to find my way back to Charlene... She would have stayed in Canada & probably started playing much sooner than I did, instead of getting adopted by Americans who moved her to California.

    I know that everyone has ghost lives. For adoptees, the sting is that they were not ones we gave up willingly.

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  11. Interesting that you used this term about the ghost child. Because I was just telling my counselor last week that as I look around, no matter what we are doing as a family, there is a child missing. A child who should be there. Playing with the rest of her siblings. And I silently grieve that child, who actually exists, but in a different reality.

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  12. wow . . . so true, Rebecca . . . I play Georgia on My Mind on the piano . . .love the title of this blog.

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  13. Such an inspiring post. I am adopted. If I could just mention my site about how to tighten skin I'd be happy :)

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