[This is a continuation of My File Part II: Bites Away]
A few days after graduating from college and returning to my childhood home I found myself in our dirty cobwebbed basement rummaging through Tupperware boxes. These boxes were filled with contents from my childhood. Most of the contents of the hulking green metal desk where I had first stumbled upon my adoption records were packed away in these Tupperware.
I can’t remember what I was looking for, but that soon became irrelevant when I found a brown leather portfolio with some folders in it with my father’s handwriting on it. I recognized it, but didn’t know what it contained. Since my father’s death 7 years ago I have developed a deep infatuation, possibly even obsession, with anything he wrote. I figured the portfolio contained a journal or some other documents of his, so I pulled it out.
Now completely distracted by my father’s portfolio I repacked the Tupperware hastily and clamored out of the basement and back up to my room. This time instead of sitting on my floor I brushed old receipts, medical bills and my journal off my desk to make room for the portfolio.
The portfolio contained an old black three-ring binder and a few folders. The binder was neatly organized with plastic color tabs denoting different sections. The section titles were in blue ink in what appeared to be my father’s handwriting. The labels read: “Application” in yellow, “INS” in orange, “Letters” in blue…etc. Application for what? I thought. I flipped the binder open and realized INS stood for Immigration and Naturalization Services. Turned out this wasn’t my dad’s journal this was my adoption binder.
“Are you serious?” I thought, my parents organized everything into a binder? I wasn’t angry just impressed. I began reading through the seemingly endless paperwork they filled out just to “get” me. They worked through two agencies for over three years. Meaning they first conceived the idea of adoption a child before I was even conceived! They endured home studies, got letters of recommendation, had their finances audited and were judged to see whether or not they were “fit” parents.
They had to submit a “Letter of Motivation” outlining why they believed adoption was important and why they had decided to adopt. They had to prove they were going to be able to provide medical care to the child they adopted and that they were both healthy. Additionally, they each had to write a multi-page “Social History for International Adoption” which, from what I can gather, is a three page autobiography aimed at demonstrating to an adoption agency that they were “legitimate” parents.
This list goes on…and on.
As you might’ve expected I found in this file what had been missing from the last. I found the full – mouse-free – “CHILD STUDY REPORT”. I must admit, out-rightly, that as excited as I was to see the three pages that hadn’t been eaten away by mice I knew, after 10 years of wondering, that this document would do little to appease my curiosity.
The mouse-free documents didn’t contain any additional information of interest. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed, but was glad to have found an entirely new set of old papers to sort through. This binder would inevitably lead to disappointment. I ignored it and armed with a box of tissues, for the dust and the tears, and an unemployed afternoon I plunged headlong into the binder.
For the next few hours I read through the paperwork my parents filled out. Incredibly bored at times and touched at others by their sincerity and genuine dedication to do what they thought was the “right” choice, to adopt. I was mesmerized that they had worked for so long, three years, just to adopt a child they knew nothing about until a few months before my father picked me up from India.
I didn’t get through the entire binder. There were too many packets of paperwork, many duplicates in fact. I resorted to reading just the stuff my parents or the orphanage had written. When I was done I closed the binder, with all of its contents, and put it under my desk.
I felt relieved in a way. These findings lay to rest some of my curiosities, even if I hadn’t found some of the answers to my questions I now knew those answers no longer existed. Or at least they weren’t within my reach. I was glad in a way that this searching process was over and that I would have to be happy with what information I had.