As a teenager I never paid much attention to the fact that I knew very little about my time in India as a baby. I was somewhat curious about my biological relatives wondering whose smile I had and more importantly (for a boy heavily involved in sports) how tall I would be. I figured most kids didn’t know much about their time as babies either and didn’t think much of it.
That all changed the first time I watched my sister flip through her baby book.
I was in awe.
It contained pictures of moments after her birth, her first words, memories, logs of things she did as a baby and any notable progress she made such as how old she was when she could first make a fist or eat solid food or the defining moment of outgrowing the label baby by taking her first steps.
I remember stopping her hand as she moved to turn the page because I was so fascinated with how much of her life was recorder, how much of was known. She found it interesting, of course, but she wasn’t obsessed with it. I suppose my sister had seen it before and she knew those things about her early childhood things I did not know about my past. Things I yearned to know about myself after flipping through her baby biography
Looking at her book was like cheating on a test. On the test to know one’s past my answer sheet is very shabbily filled in with huge swaths of unanswered questions, whereas my sisters sheet more closely resembles the answer key.
I, too, was a baby once although I don’t have a baby book. I do, however, have a file.
Its pretty much exactly what you think of when you hear that someone has a file. Papers are crammed and jammed together in different manila folders held together in a large blue file cabinet folder with white metal hangers loosely bound by a flaccid tan rubber band.
I first found this file when I was in middle school.
We had a huge metal desk that housed our Gateway 2000 Desktop, its drawers were filled with pencils, measuring equipment, my collection of Sim games and Need for Speed, old checks, a few toy wind up cars and our file drawer. I was rummaging through the desk when I first spotted a folder that had my name on it. I stopped my search and pushed the neighboring folders out of the way and tried to pry the folder out of the cabinet. After some finagling I triumphed.
The folder was large and blue and contained drawings and books from when I was in elementary school and assorted medical records from doctors visits. I sifted through them, apprehensively. After sorting out the junk I found what I was looking for.
I knew it existed.
From the time I understood what adoption was I had wondered if there were any records at all of my time in India. If there was anything akin to a baby book for me. I had never asked my parents for fear they might be offended.
I pulled the file out of the “Kumar” folder and tossed the “Kumar” folder back where I had found it, in the drawer of the desk. I took hold of the blue folder with both hands and walked upstairs to my room. I closed the door, sat on the hard wood floor, and opened the folder; my heart pounding.
“This was it” I thought. This folder might contain the answers to questions I’ve been too scared to ask. I began wondering if this folder would contain information about my biological parents, where I was born, if I had siblings or most importantly of all why I was given up for adoption.
“NO!” I stopped myself.
I couldn’t let myself get so excited. I had no idea what was in the folder and getting too excited could just lead to disappointment. I tried to calm myself down a bit, but by now my mind was racing.
I looked back down at the folder sitting innocently on my dusty bedroom floor, old pieces of tape were sticking out the sides, pieces of the printer paper that had perforated tear-away egdes on both sides, colored construction paper protruded out of the bottom and I could see the edge of what looked like a golden seal underneath a piece of paper that resembled paper bag material; possibly another folder, I hoped.
Reaching down I slowly pulled the rubber band off the top and lay it on the floor. I immediately opened the folder and let the cover flap open, weighed down by white metal hanger it lay open. Staring right back at me was a mostly blank manila folder except for the upper right corner. In this corner a black and white picture of a small Indian toddler with his mouth half open in an attempted smile stared up at me. There were some scribble marks on his face, but it was still easy to tell this cute little Indian orphan was me.
Amazing how much this picture made me feel like an orphan. It looked like a picture of one of those children on an Oxfam or Unicef poster. Lost, unplaced and clearly in need.
I took a deep breath. “This is it” I thought as I pulled back the manila cover still having a hard time believing I was actually about to find out who I was.
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