People always ask me “When did you find out that you were adopted?” But for me, I cannot pinpoint one particular moment when that happened. I feel like I just always knew. From the time that I was very small, my mother used to say, “You didn’t grow in my belly. You grew in another lady’s belly, and then we came to get you. You are our adopted angel.” I remember her telling me that before I was ever in school, or old enough to realize that this was even something different than other children. And I accepted it so comfortably, without a question. Actually, I felt kind of good about it. My mother had a way of always making me feel so special.
I was quite content with my family and my life, and the story of my adoption that was told to me again and again was a very happy one.
That story goes like this:
My mother desperately wanted to have a baby, but due to some fertility issue on somebody’s part, her and my father together were unable to get pregnant. So they put their names on a list to adopt a baby, but the expected waiting time to adopt a child in Massachusetts was four years. My mother’s heart was aching.
Wanting to help, my mother’s cousin and his wife, Bobby & Barbara Manzelli, introduced my parents to their friends Walter and Naomi Sullivan. The Sullivan’s seemed to be people of power and had close relations with a man named Cardinal Cooke, a Cardinal working in New York City, and they asked him to help my parents to find a child to adopt in the state of New York. Through him, my parents were connected with a Sister Una McCormack, the executive director of the Catholic Charity Bureau in Manhattan, and it was she who was able to find a baby in New York City for my mother in just ten short months. My parents were overjoyed, and felt that some great blessing had come upon them.
They drove four hours to NYC to get me – my grandfather at the wheel, grandmother in passenger seat, and my parents in the back with a pillow upon which they could hardly wait to rest me.
My mother and father entered the room at Catholic Charities. It was a big room with a big crib in the middle of it, and a big mirror. They didn’t realize it yet, but that was a two-way mirror behind which nurses were watching to see the authentic reaction of the parents when they meet the baby for the first time. In the case that there might be no warmth, no connection, then they had the right to discontinue the adoption process.
My parents crept up to the over-sized crib and peered over its bars. There they found the “tiniest peanut” with a big bush of black hair on her head, lying quietly on her 10th day of life, waiting for them. Upon first sight, my mother burst into tears and threw her arms around my father, the two of them jumping up and down in excitement. But that just wasn’t enough to contain the depth of their joy. So my mother hopped on my father’s back and they began galloping around the room in a piggy-back ride of sheer bliss, crying and laughing with shrieks of delight.
Meanwhile, the nurses who were secretly watching this scene were so moved that they too began to shed tears. Everyone, including my grandparents, ushered into the room to celebrate with my mother and father. One nurse approached my mother and said “I have never seen such a connection and a display of love. I would like to arrange for you to bring your baby to the archbishop and receive his blessing.” And so she did. And so I became her blessed little adopted angel.
As prepared for, I drove back to Massachusetts on a pillow. My father had to move to the driver’s seat because we were all almost killed multiple times on I-95, as my grandfather kept taking his eyes off the road so that he could turn around to look at me with his big gloating smile. It was a day of happiness for everyone.
So much so, that when these travelers turned the corner on Piermont St. to return home to their apartment in Watertown, MA, they found that the entire street was lined with lawn chairs filled with family, friends and neighbors, all waiting to celebrate with them. And there, hanging across the front window of the house in preparation for the festivities, was a bright yellow home-made banner that read: “Welcome Home Baby Danielle.”
This is the glorious story that I grew up listening to, in all of it’s colorful variations. It is a sweet story that warms my heart even now. To me, it is a story of a baby who started her life on this planet by being unwanted by the people who made her, lying alone in a crib with no one to call her mother. Then, in only ten short days became the most wanted and highly celebrated little creature in her own small piece of the universe – loved, adored, and deeply cherished. I can really feel how these extremes have influenced my life in the most profound and complicated ways. And my life itself has become a beautiful unfolding of this beginning, in all its mystery, complication and glory, and a great healing of all that came with it
I am so, so grateful..