‘You’re always scribbling bits of stuff’ says Martin. ‘You should write a book’. I have learnt to view the word scribbling in an affectionate way, rather than see it as a criticism. I’ve explained that the scribbles underpin the serious writing, in the same way musicians practise for hours and hours before the public performance, runners train for marathons. Writing doesn’t just happen, a lot of scribbling comes before the stuff the public gets to see.
But today, I’ve never been more thankful of my scribblings. Or of my attempt to keep this blog going, The blog began as a way of keeping a record of this journey, but I realize it functions on many levels. It keeps friends and family up to speed. Allows me to process and order my thoughts, and prompt next steps in the hunt for my birth family. Forces me to keep up a discipline of writing each day to a standard that’s good enough for now and I’m happy to go public with. This is a fine balance, it would be quite easy to lose focus on the root tracing and spend too long on fine tuning my writing for this blog.
First important scribbling
Apart from today’s blog my main writing ‘task’ has perhaps been one of the trickiest things I’ve attempted. A simple letter to a half sister I have never met, may never meet, who may or may not know I exist. How to write it with empathy, even if she knows I exist it’s going to be a big shock to find out I’m here in Hong Kong and would like to meet her. How to write it to reveal the right amount of facts to her. It’s likely that I know things she may not. But I need to tell her enough for her to know I am not a scammer, which apparently sometimes happens. How to write it so she understands there’s no shame attached to her, and my, Mother’s story. There’s a common misunderstanding that all the babies abandoned or given up for adoption are/were because the Mother was a dancing girl (prostitute). And families close ranks to hide this shame. In her statement as to why I was given up for adoption my Mother mentions three men, her first husband who died, my father and the man she was co habiting with on the night of my birth after my father abandoned her. If my sister knows of this and is ashamed of this part of my Mother’s story, she may close down, refuse to see me.
Am I able to write a letter to her that will persuade her to meet with me?
Second important scribbling
I also wrote another important email today to try and get somebody to help me. After 2 meetings with Social Welfare Department Adoption Unit, I am still very far from being able to read all that is contained in a very large file on my adoption case. Stuff that is of no interest or use to anyone else but me. Languishing in an archived file, but not available to me, except when the social worker reads an extract. Things like the description of my Mother’s 16’x16′ hut, dirty and unkempt. My sisters playing outside, one rosy cheeked, the other in rags. Chickens in the corner of the hut. And more importantly a paragraph in one document describing how my Mother has asked from her hospital bed to be allowed to see me in the orphanage before she goes back to China to take some things to sell in the hope of earning the equivalent of about 2 pounds sterling. And within the file, more like this. Much more.
Other adoptees have run into the same problem with SWD. This is the department my solicitor wrote to in 2004 asking for help in my root tracing search. And they said they couldn’t help and just sent a very small photo. This happened to another adoptee too, but because we were adopted internationally to the UK another Hong Kong department were involved – International Social Services (ISS). One member of staff from ISS was very instrumental in helping my adoptee friend trace her brother and so I have written to her and received an instant reply. She is going to a) see if she can intervene on my behalf regarding the SWD file and b) check to see if they hold any other case files in their own archive.
And finally, scribbling an entertaining pitch
My reporter buddy from the South China Morning Post has also given me another writing task. To write my story in the natural way she hears me tell it to all the people she’s introduced me to. Not to labour over it, but to write a short pitch for her to submit to her editor to get the green light for a feature piece.
I recall Margaret Atwoood’s wise words:
Your words are your voice, and your voice is like your fingerprints.
Everyone’s fingerprints are human, but no two sets of fingerprints are identical. No one else has a voice that is exactly like yours.
Tell the page your story. Set your voice down on it.
The page is very discreet: it won’t pass your story on until you allow it to, so you can tell it anything, without fear.
Thank heavens for scribbling. Now where did I put my 3b pencil and note pad?