It’s New Year’s Eve. The last day of the Chinese Year, and I am home alone reflecting on how much I have to be grateful for. Here’s just a few reasons:
- Of the 103 adoptees brought to England in the 1960s, by the National Children’s Home and Dr Barnardos, only 3 of us had birth certificates, i.e were relinquished, rather than abandoned. So we 3 had a bit of a chance of finding our birth family. Only 2 of us had by the end of 2019, and one more adoptee just did using DNA testing. I hope she is the first foundling of many to succeed using DNA. She found her sister who was one of the 600 sent to the States during the same period.
- The orphanage my Mother put me into was a good one, still exists today. Horror stories abound of orphanages in China where babies were left for days in layers of nappies. Basically the babies were fed, but not picked up, changed, cuddled or comforted.
- Although my adoptive family fell apart and my adoptive Mother refused to have contact with me from the age of 21, I had a good early start in life. A great schooling, all my health problems sorted, learnt ballet, the piano, went to Brownies and had family pets and went on family camping holidays to great places. I feel I really was loved, in those early days, and had a loving and close relationship with my Dad, who lived a good and meaningful life until he died aged 83, when I was 53.
- Less is more. I may not be in touch with my adoptive siblings any more but have my own small and wonderful family . So proud of them and grateful for their love and support in all my weird and wonderful endeavours.
- So many friends, old and new, near and far. Ones I see regularly and ones I see every now and again. But each and everyone of them there for me, cheering me on through the highs of life, and hauling me up from the low spots.
- Health and wealth and happiness, with some to spare.
- Living the dream in beautiful St Ives, a home right by the sea where I can swim and sing and dance and write. Play my saxophone and feel like I belong to a community.
- I found my birth family. And the siblings who survived infancy are all still alive, connected and living close to each other here in HK, when two of them spent long periods abroad and might have remained there.
And, unlike other adoptees who found their birth families but were rejected by them, mine have welcomed me with open arms, and big open hearts.
But today, I learnt how really truly, I am the luckiest girl alive. Alive.
I arranged for big sister Daisy and Mr Ngai to meet my hosts Mr and Mrs Leung for Yum Cha. All my family are keen to meet my hosts and thank them for looking after and out for me. Daisy may have told the story she recounted to the Leungs today, before, but if so, Winnie has chosen not to tell it to me. Mrs Leung’s English and Cantonese is excellent and after Daisy has talked for a long time, Mrs Leung, gently and calmly, but with a sad look in her eyes turns to me and says,
“Daisy is saying it was so difficult for your Mother when you were born. (I already knew that my Mother’s first husband had sold away everything, including their second son, to fuel his opium addiction and died leaving her destitute). She had no money to buy food and was living in a hut with nothing, barely surviving on welfare rice. She had been deserted by both your Father and Mr Tang (the man whose name she put on my birth certificate). She was desperate. She was so desperate she believed it would be better if she killed you all, the 4 remaining children. So somehow she got some insect (rat?) poison and was going to kill us. But an old man, Mr Li (Ellen, my little sister’s father) persuaded her not to. He told her to put me into the orphanage and get me out when things got better. He offered her a share in the little bit of land he had and said if she would help him look after it, he would share the produce with her. He also encouraged her, as she was illiterate, to find somebody to write a statement for me, and to get my birth registerd. But it was still a struggle to feed everybody, and so your Mother did not get you out”.
All the paperwork in my possession supports the likelihood the story is true. I also believe that the authorities were keen to start sending as many of us as possible, as quickly as possible, to fulfill the aims of the project to send the babies overseas. Mine and other adoptees’ parents were impatient for the babies that had been assigned to them to be sent. If there hadn’t been such a project, would my Mother have taken me back?
It all happened so many years ago now, and none of us can ever know the whole truth. As Napoleon said ‘History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.’
But if the story Daisy told Mrs Leung is true, I think you might agree that I am indeed, the luckiest girl alive.