I put “relinquished” because not everyone was…some were stolen, others abandoned, some lost? I ask because there are many reasons, many causes for our path leading to adoption. My own cause for becoming vulnerable to adoption lay in new circumstances and old roots. There was something stemming from modern circumstances and things arising from ancient roots and mores. I know this because my natural mother told me.
She did not like Japanese men. Born in Hawaii, Nisei, she decided that Japanese men were spoiled. Her circumstances enabled the possibility for her to find a man who was not Japanese. She liked that. On the other hand, finding my father who had a certain social status, who was completing his residency in a hospital in Honolulu, she found someone who could betray her. He was the oldest son from a family in Cuba. It was a family that boasted of its Catalan roots; and a family who (at some point) kept black slaves. I don’t know the depth of what she knew about his family. She knew how many sisters and brothers he had; she knew they were affluent. When she became pregnant, she wrote him but never heard back. I suppose he had gone back to Cuba. There are a jumble of stories. She says nothing about him or what happened.
This is where the older elements come in. She was unmarried. In Japan, this was a problem. It was a problem in Hawaii too. I don’t know any details. In Japan, some women would abort their children and put the fetus in a jar and place it at a Buddhist Temple. I imagine that she felt a great weight of history. Generations of Japanese women were directing her actions.
Hawaiian culture was also playing in from another direction. She said a friend offered to raise me in Hawaii. She could not accept the offer of Ohana. Another friend even offered to marry her. In the end, she took me to Colorado and had me. She left me at the hospital. She took two months to decide. In America, another possibility existed…adoption. But that too was complicated because in 1955 adoption practice required same race placements. She knew nothing about that. She knew nothing about closed records.
As adoptees, our lives began in a variety of circumstances…some or all of the motivations for our ultimate adoption (or fostercare) may have come from old social mores. Some from a combination of new possibilities that were in a way unripe, that society could not fully embrace. In consequence, the shape of our lives has taken a fairly new course and enabled (on the one hand) new experiences with new questions…and simultaneously, demanded and forced a “new” course of life. In ancient society, the parents always had absolute authority to decide the “fate” of their children, even to the point of exposure and death. Ancient customs and ways loosened up for some of us because of our natural parents modern circumstances…but ancient mores and beliefs still played a role, as well as the new.
Our origins are may be a blend of new and old: in what way are adoptees new and old? How do we enact what are ancient roles (or do we) and how do we find a new one?