“Mom, was I adopted?” I asked her in a quiet moment between ballet class and homework. She furrowed her eyebrows in that same way I had seen reflected in the mirror the past 12 years.“Adopted? Don’t be ridiculous. Ha! You were not adopted.” She tucked a stray blond hair behind her right ear.
It was a lie and she knew it. Oh, sure, there were photos of her when she was supposedly “pregnant” (adult code for “fat”), but she was obviously hiding something.I tucked a stray blond hair behind my right ear. “Come on, Mom, you can tell me. Really. It’s okay. I can handle it.”
“MOV, would you stop? You were not adopted. End of story.”She and I both knew it was actually the beginning of the story, because clearly I was Russian royalty. Every night, after my fake mom would tuck me in bed, I would get out my special “I am adopted” journal and write letters to my birth parents. I knew it was only a matter of time before their identities were revealed to me.
My father, I decided, was a king. Or at least archbishop or knight. And married. My birth mother, on the other hand, was most likely single. And beautiful. It was a classic case of them meeting at the wrong place at the wrong time, him already being married, and her finally finding her soul mate.They had no choice but to give me up.
I often wondered when they would swoop in to get me. Would today be the day that one of them would just show up at my seventh grade science class and say, MOV, pack your bags we’re going back to Russia?
“You have your dad’s laugh, you know,” a new cousin would tell me once we had a big family reunion and they signed over the majority of their fortune to me, the only missing link in the Russian dynasty, “They never stopped looking for you, never stopped loving you.”
We would sit around for hours catching up, my new mom telling me about her successful modeling career and my new dad telling me about political regimes he’d overthrown, while I would show them my latest algebra test (A-) and tell them how I was captain of the chess team.
I’ll admit, after all these years it would be sad to have to say goodbye to my adoptive family and especially my younger sister and brother (whom my adoptive mother actually was miraculously pregnant with, because I remember both pregnancies), but it would be for the best. I planned to send my (former) family a postcard from time to time, and possibly a (small) box of chocolates on Mother’s Day.
I wondered how I would look in a tiara, and at what age my glamorous and wealthy-beyond-belief “real” family would let me wear it out of the house. Even though my adoptive mother refused to let me get my ears pierced or wear lip gloss, I knew my birth mother would allow these things (did I mention she was a model?).For six months, I mentally prepared myself for the day that my birth parents would come to reclaim me.
“MOV, help me with the dishes please,” said my adoptive mom. I knew that royalty would never be asked to do such menial tasks. “MOV, can you watch your brother for 10 minutes so I can take a shower?” It was practically slave labor, something my birth family would be furious about as soon as I told them. “MOV, it’s your turn to walk the dog. Don’t forget to take a plastic bag with you.”It was unbearable.
Then it happened. My birth parents were killed in a plane crash. Or murdered in a political coup. One of those. I cried every day for a week.I knew that now I would never get to meet the brave woman that had given me up for adoption in California* when I was mere days old (*yes, I know that California is far from Russia—I had not worked out those details of why she was giving me up in that location, but honestly it is irrelevant to the story). I would never get to play chess* with my birth dad (*a game I was sure he excelled at). But mostly, I would never know the love that was an inheritance of $50 million dollars that had been set aside for me in trust.
My cruel adoptive mother had of course burnt all the official records, making it impossible to trace back my lineage with the solid proof that I so desperately craved. It was pure selfish motivation on her part. She did not want me exposing her crime of denying my royal heritage.I hadn’t thought about this smudged piece of my past for decades, until the other day. Tall came home from school and asked, “Mom, was I adopted?”