Breathe. This is it. Only once before in my life had I been in this position. I looked down at the quickly, but carefully jotted down multi numerical international phone number. I remember this feeling. The last time was 25 years ago. To say I was in a different mindset is a breathtaking understatement. Strangely, though this had been a far more labored- often maddening search, I was far less freaked out. Instead of a stomach full of butterflies, this time there was maybe one- a big, rabid one- but just one. Age and a life-time of just "living" had changed me from the optimistic,
somewhat naive "polly-anna" to a far more jaded, yet learned individual. Both times my expectations had been realistic- yet, all those years ago, I somehow knew that it wasn't going to hurt. I wasn't so sure this time- but I'd had decades to prepare. Countless hours of wondering what this individual possibly had to hide- or was someone hiding him? Was someone trying to protect me from an awful truth that they, themselves couldn't face. Had I been given alternate names to throw me off the trail? Was I actually on the proverbial "wild goose chase"? The thought infuriated me. I am a grown woman- surely any horrible truth isn't any worse than being denied knowledge of the one thing that, as a member of the human race, I should have every right to know. Most people who aren't adopted don't realize that we, as adoptees, aren't allowed access to our actual Birth Certificates (if there even is one) unless we petition the courts. The chance of winning this "right" varies from state to state. I myself, was born in Australia. There, a whole different set of rules apply- and finding out what they are, let alone playing by them, is difficult to do from the other side of the world.
I sat in the San Francisco office of Jean Benward, Marriage and Family counsellor. Across from me, Jean was droning on about the effect that the sudden influx of such vital information can have on a person and that I needed to be sure that I was processing all of this in a healthy way. I gripped the edges of the manila envelope, sending silent ESP messages for her to get on with it so I could tear open my long awaited treasure.
A year or so earlier, I had returned to Australia for the first time since leaving it in 1980. My friend Linda and I, on a lark, decided to visit a psychic. The readings were wrought with your standard "psychic" style phrases eg. "You're at a cross-roads" (who isn't?). She kept insisting that my parents must be divorced because she saw me having two sets of parents (weird...). After I told her that I was adopted she then began insisting that my mother was someone famous (she knew I was an actress..) and that I should take advantage of The Adoption Act of 1984. She told me that a law had been passed that allowed Australian adoptees, after a several step process, access to the records surrounding their adoption. Needless to say, clouds parted, the sun shone through and a chorus of angels hit a crescendo. Whatever I had paid that psychic had ultimately been worth it.
I proceeded to go through the steps required to obtain my records. It turns out I had to go through a place called the Copelen Street Family Center- a Social Services type organization that had previously been The Methodist Babies Home. They were on Copelen St in a Melbourne suburb called South Yarra and it turns out that this is the exact property that I lived in for the first two months of my life.
I was assigned a "Case Worker" named Mandy. Mandy informed me that my records could not simply be handed over to me, it must be done by a licensed counselor. By this time I had taken a job as a performer on a cruise ship. One of our regular ports was San Francisco so Mandy was kind enough to arrange to have them sent to Ms Benward and we were able to meet up on one of my port days.
So, this was it. I was required to open the contents in the presence of the counselor- in the event that I needed clarification or suffered some sort of emotional break-down. At that moment, I was distinctly aware that the contents of that envelope were possibly going to change my life as I knew it.