A Question of Birth


I am sitting on the small porch of a rented beach bungalow lost in my thoughts as I have been for most of the week. This is not my home and soon I will have to leave this beautiful paradise. The gulls screech overhead and the sound of waves crashing against the shore do more to put me in a meditative state than they distract me, though I do find the setting distracting as well. I thought I would be able to accomplish some writing, perhaps dig into some of my financials, which were a little less than pretty this year, or even bury myself in a book or two while on vacation. Instead, I find I am reflecting much on my life and my memories. I run a finger over the small scar on my left hand just above the pinky finger. It isn’t noticeable to anyone at all, only to me. And, I notice mostly because I know what it is. Nobody has ever spoken about it in my family. In fact, I am not sure my family even knows. To take a greater leap, I am not sure my family is actually mine by biology. No one has ever spoken of that either but there are signs, and I have strange memories, things that can’t be explained in the family in which I was raised.

There are people who are born with a sixth finger. Polydactyl is what it is called. Through history, stories have been passed down in regards to what this extra digit might mean. Famous women, like Anne Boleyn, who had her head chopped off by her former King of England husband was rumored to have had a sixth finger. Many women in the colonial United States were burned as witches for small genetic anomalies such as this benign extra digit. For me, I doubt the circumstances were quite so nefarious. More likely it was due to the time period in which I was born and the rampant fear and prejudices against that which appeared different. Most people are unaware that there was a rather long period of time in the United States when the medical profession had very limited oversight. During the time of my birth, it was quite common to fix these anomalies and not bother to mention it to the family. In my case, I doubt the hospital wanted the family they had sold me to, to become aware that the new baby girl they had paid premium dollars for had an extra digit so they removed it.

I don’t actually have any proof of this. I have proof of the adoption. Those documents I have seen. The reason I question my genetics is that the story goes that I was adopted by relatives, blood related to my biological mother. I don’t think my parents ever thought I would go digging into my own history and discover papers regarding my birth on my own. Why would they think it? I was happy growing up. I had been given a very privileged existence. For me, digging into my history has less to do with my familial compatibility and everything to do with the series of dreams I have been having. They are coming more frequently, and seem to be more intense. I have memories now that I cannot separate from real or dreamed moments. This is why I also know that the tiny scar no one notices but me is from a finger that has been removed. I can still feel it there. Sometimes, when I am reaching for a glass I can feel it spread out to grasp the cup and add leverage. Other times, like when I play around with my guitar, I will feel it strum against the strings and even hear a slightly different cord being played. Once when I was seven, I had my hand next to the car door when it was slammed shut. I screamed in pain, jerking my hand away, I could feel the skin tearing away from my flesh as I ripped myself away from the door. My parents tried to console me, thinking it was fear of almost being slammed in the door causing my hysterics. In fact, I got a pony that year for my birthday and I think it was due in part from the accident that never quite happened. It was a sort of consolation, and perhaps guilt, gift.

The dreams tell me more. I actually see myself with the finger present. I have special gloves designed so there is a spare finger insert. Not exactly spare, since I have a necessity, and use it. But, I see a woman who I know is me sliding on her gloves and I watch her, curiously, as she goes about her business completely unselfconscious of this appendage and yet obviously totally aware since she has her clothes specially designed to accommodate it. She seems unaware of my presence. Yet, I know her and I know she is me but not me at the same time. I know her thoughts. I know her life. I know why she sometimes looks in the mirror and gives back that wistful smile. I have done the same thing myself.

I sigh heavily and drag myself out of the overly comfortable deck chair. The dreams. My family. My genetic history. My life currently. I go in search of a much needed shower, make fresh coffee, a light lunch and find myself back out on the porch staring at the surf. It isn’t as if I think I will solve the mystery in the next couple of days. In fact, I didn’t realize this vacation was about any of this subconscious prompting. Over the last few days though, I have come to understand how important it is to find out who my blood mother was. Oddly, the dreams have already pointed me in the direction of Native American heritage when I dreamed I had blood on my face. I wiped it away and my skin was red. I wasn’t aware of any such blood ties but it made me curious and prodded at a memory of something in the documents relating to my birth.

By some stroke of pure luck, I do actually have in my possession the diaries of the nurse who was involved in my adoption. While the practice of making extra money on the side was more common than was know by the majority of the population, it was not a common occurrence for this nurse. In fact, from her diaries, I would say it rather haunted her. It is my good fortune that she was disturbed enough about the event that she actually followed enough of my early adoption and eventually began calling me by my name instead of just Baby Girl. There were other markers, of course. She practically described my parents home, their estate actually, as if she had lived there herself. It made me wonder if she had seen the inside before I had actually been placed there. I don’t think of her as, the nurse even. Not anymore. There was always something unwritten in the diaries. I could feel it. Her name was Margaret Leeks. She was about twenty when I was born. Perhaps it is only that she was so young that she felt badly for me.

I laugh softly thinking of Maggie feeling bad because I was adopted. I wouldn’t be in the world of real estate most likely, had I not been. It is because of my father that I even learned anything about property and wheeling and dealing in the trade. I grew up with amortization charts, finance rates, equity and market values. I was spoiled richly, not rottenly, as a child. It was something of a trend in the diary though, this abject remorse, as if Maggie knew something about me that she never quite said. I had pondered the idea that she might have been my mother but I know from later passages in her life that when her first child was born, it was actually her first born child. She did write once though, when referring to me, something about being afraid if my people ever found out. They told my blood mother that I had died in childbirth.

My stomach rolls over at the thought. How devastating that must have been for my birth mother, to carry a perfectly healthy seeming child, fully nine months within her body, only to have been told the baby died at birth. I have debated on whether I could gain more insight if I would only discuss the birth with my parents but I feel them. I know them too well. They would somehow take my search for truth and understanding, as blight on their abilities as parents. The two are not remotely related but I can see where they would make that leap in consciousness and nothing I would be able to say or do would be able to keep the disappointment from showing on their faces. I may be a big girl now, but I never want to see them look at me that way and I would never want to hurt them. Until this week, the idea of digging up my past wasn’t even that important to me. The paper trail I had stumbled over fell into my lap over the last couple of years, I hadn’t even been looking for it.

All of which, makes the dreams take on just that much more significance. I hadn’t been looking for a past. I hadn’t been looking for a mother. I don’t need to know my genetics or what my blood family is all about. I didn’t need to know any of those things. I didn’t think I did. Last night though, the dream was about my name. Not the name I had been christened with and grew up knowing myself as, this message came from a shaman in my dream. The details are a bit hazy now but I know there was reference to the Dalai Lama, but only, I think as a comparative to who this shaman was. He seemed older than time itself and I called him father. I was aware that he wasn’t my real father or a God figure. He was something else. I would say I knew him as the father of my, well, clan for lack of a better description. He looked me in the eyes and he knew my soul. My heart broke open with joy and I could feel the tears in my eyes and I called him father. And, he loved me. You see it flowing from his eyes.

That was about the point he said my name, only I couldn’t hear it. Every time he spoke it, his lips would move and it was like the sound would fade out on each syllable. Static on the line of dreams, I suppose. It didn’t matter. I understood the message. He pointed to my hand, where the missing finger was and then to his heart, then he touched my face. His old wrinkled face moved into a slow smile and all I could see were crevices of age and wisdom. Then the face became a map and I was looking at my home, my city, and I saw. I am not sure what I saw. I think I saw Michigan. I think that might be where I have to start looking for the string that unravels the mystery of my blood. I know it is important because I saw the blood on my face, and my face was red.

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