Monday, September 29, 2014

CHAPTER 2: WHAT'S IN THE ENVELOPE?

NOTE- in the interest of privacy, some names have been altered.

I ripped open the envelope with the thumb of my left hand.  Long,  squared off acrylic nails were a staple for me in the late 80's- so there was no need for a letter opener.  I removed seven or eight photocopies of various hospital and legal documents. As I fanned through them, my eyes came to rest on a paper that appeared to be mostly hand-written.  It was a questionaire of sorts and headed at the top was the underlined word Admission

Baby: Katrina Ellen Priest  
Date and place of birth: 7-4-65

So, she had taken the time to name me.  I can't begin to explain what it feels like to find out that you had a COMPLETE other name.  It's as though you've assumed an alias all your life.  Australians use the "of the" method of dating things.  I was born on the seventh day of the fourth month of nineteen sixty five.

Mother: Lynette Ena Priest
Age:21
Occupation: Nursing Aid
Address: Anzac Rd.  Mt Macedon
Nationality: Australian
Circumstances and No. of other children: -

There is a place in Victoria called Hanging Rock.  A film had been made in the 70's, by renowned Australian director Peter Weir, called "Picnic at Hanging Rock".  It was the fictional tale of a group of private school girls who went to the area for a picnic on St Valentines Day in the year 1900.  Several of them went missing, with only one ever being found.  At the time it was this supernatural tale which featured ethereal young women in white dresses giving in to the overwhelming magnetic pull of this great monolith- never to be seen or heard from again.  Though it was mostly fictional- there had been rumors that it was based on an actual occurrence.  Needless to say, the mystery and romanticism combined, had me obsessed with Hanging Rock and I was always eager for the occasional trip to have our own picnic and go exploring amongst the ancient rock formations.  Mt Macedon (where my mother was from) is a mere ten or so miles from Hanging Rock.  Perhaps I was a little overly dramatic at the time, but I thought that surely the fact that I had had such an affinity for "The Rock" was some sort of sign.
     So, I had grown up just forty miles from my mothers hometown.  It gives gravitas to the fact that, as an adoptee or someone whom has given up a child for adoption, you often find yourself studying the faces of strangers, wondering if that is her (or him).  It's entirely possible that we had at one time or another been within the same crowd at the same time.
  Father:  Malcolm Campbell
Age: 21
Occupation: Truck Driver
Address: 58 Fellows St, Kew
Nationality: Australian
Circumstances and No. of other children: -

  Kew was a mere 12 miles from where I grew up.  Though that is even closer, my focus for now was on my mother.  For some reason, I knew that she was the one to find first.

Husband- nil

Mother's Parents:  Mr and Mrs N. Priest

Address: Anzac Rd, Mt Macedon
Occupation: Gardener
Circumstances and No. of other children: Five. 2 brothers, 3 sisters.

Father's Parents:  Mrs. A Campbell

Address: 58 Fellows St, Kew
Occupation:  Managing Apartments
Circumstances and No. of other children: One sister.

Religion: Mother- Church of England  Father- Catholic

Remarks:  Mother-Build and Colouring: 5'9", slim, Light brown hair, Blue eyes.

                               Education: Fourth Year
                               Personality: Pleasant
                               Interests: Swimming, Sport, Sewing, Reading.  Singing.

                  Father- Build and Colouring: 5'11", Medium build, Auburn Hair, Brown eyes

                               Education: Leaving (Catholic Boarding School)
                               Personality:  Gay
                               Interests: Cars, anything mechanical

     The most significant information from this section was that my mother listed, though seemingly as an afterthought, that she was interested in singing.  Singing (and performing in general) was my passion- and my chosen career.  Having grown up in a family that not only weren't interested in the performing arts, and didn't think of it as a viable hobby, let alone a career choice, THIS was an epiphany.  This was my "Oprah Winfrey Aha Moment".  I probably uttered an audible "yes" or a shriek of some sort.
      I was also surprised by the fact that my mother was so tall (and my father was not short).  I, on the other hand, had always been on the shorter side.  It had been one of the many things people found to tease me about.  My fifth grade teacher had once asked me if my mother had put a brick on my head.  Yes.  A teacher.  I was given various nicknames- Shortstuff, Midget, Muscles (irony I suppose).  Because of our last name (Dixon)- other kids had fun with coming up with family pseudonyms.  My brother was quite tall, so all of his friends enjoyed calling us "Big Dick" and "Little Dick".  That was fun.
      The fact that my father had auburn hair explained why my mother was told that I may have curly, red hair.  Both of these attributes were wholly unappealing to her- so she spent much of my childhood cutting off anything that may resemble an errant curl, and was increasingly relieved that the hue was sticking to a non-descript shade of medium to dark brown.  My full face of freckles, however, was a dead giveaway that red-heads had been somewhere in my lineage.  I also took note of the fact that my father was described as "gay".  Naturally, in 1965, the word held a different connotation than it does nowadays.  I was heartened (though not surprised) that he was being described as an outwardly happy person.  As someone who had always been singled out as the most expressive (read-loudest) person in my family, this was another small revelation.  My adoptive parents were always quite conservative and were never comfortable with expressions or emotions.  That is just who they were.  They were good people and I know that they loved me, and I loved them.  The fact is, they just didn't get me- and I didn't get them.  It's a simple case of aliens trying to live together.  That's the only way I can think of to describe it.

There was one final hand written sentence at the bottom of the questionnaire.

Lynette to marry in about three months, has......

  It just cut off like that, as though there was more to say, but someone thought better of it.  What was that all about?