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  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Gambutti

Not the Whole Story

At age six, my parents told me the story of my adoption, a fairy tale my dad put a happy ending to. “Adopted” sounded to me like a grown-up word. Something that required special treatment. I didn't think I was born like other kids. There was no mention of another mother.

I imagined a family that came before my parents. I couldn't see my father or mother in the mirror. I had no adopted brothers and sisters until a baby girl was adopted to be my sister. I continued to fantasize about the "accident" that separated me from "the others." I couldn't ask Who are the lost people? Who are they to me?

I met my birth mother in 1993 when I was forty-two. It was a revelation, a re-birth. I had persisted in my quest for kin for over a year, and now was face to face with the woman who gave me life.

The South Carolina Law only allows me--through Catholic Charities--to have my "non-identifying information." In the State's opinion, at age seventy, I am still an adopted child, and can't see my birth records. To find my birth mother before internet access, I circumvented the law, and a network of search angels assisted me. These advocates understood that adoptees have an intrinsic right to know their origins.

Karen, my half-sister, later told me that our mother had been watching with keen interest; "fixated" on TV shows that featured mother and child reunions. None of us suspected the drama that was unfolding as I searched historical records and phone directories. Neither was Karen aware of me--her younger sister. Secrecy has kept people who should have known about each other, and given the wherewithal to search, apart.

Sisters and Mother
at Walmart in 1993. I'm on the left--we are all about 5'7"

Thanks for being here!

Mary Ellen (Mel)

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