Things I’ve Lost

I’m a lister, meaning I make lists. Not just to-do lists, but tallies of things that interest me.

I confessed my list lust to sister adoptee and writer Suzanne Gilbert recently, when she published an ongoing inventory of “Discovered Dads.” (It’s her birthday today, by the way. Happy birthday, Suzanne.)

I have a need to catalog. And it’s of the strangest stuff. But once it’s done and on paper, I feel I can stop dwelling on it.

So this is therapeutic.

I wanted to add a photo representing “things I’ve lost” but of course, how can I when it’s lost? If I could post a picture, I wouldn’t miss it so much, because at least I’d have the damn picture. In my book, I mention a number of irreplaceable items that went missing one way or another. It’s just another theme in my life. I have always craved “proof of existence.” Documents, photos, tangible evidence that I am real.

If you are not adopted, you probably don’t understand that. If you are adopted, you may be nodding your head in recognition. We weren’t born, we were adopted. We need proof.

I was not given a name before my adopted parents came to get me from the hospital. They were gifted with an ID bracelet and bassinet card (along with me), to put in my baby book. The bracelet had ARDAHL spelled out in tiny pink “blocks” and I supposedly wore this, but my birth mother made no mention of it. And they make sure the legal veil held firm between my birth mother and my adoptive parents. They knew next-to-nothing about each other.

So I think the bracelet and card were a cute scam, part of the package deal to make me look “as if born to” and given after-the-fact.  My amended birth certificate says I was born to my adoptive parents. The family doctor (who delivered me) also facilitated my adoption, so the extras were probably something he did.

I still have those things in my well-documented baby book. My a-mother was not the neurotic sort who pretended she gave birth to me, so the pages about pregnancy and time in the hospital were left blank. Just the bracelet and card are glued in. I used to run my finger over the tiny, smooth beads, arranged in a circle, as if to fit a baby’s wrist, happy to have this tactile link to when I first arrived in the world, in the nebulous days before I came home.

(Obviously) I could go on about this forever. Instead, here is my list of things I’ve lost:

  • My original birth certificate.  (this, at least, can be replaced starting this July)
  • My amended birth certificate.
  • The sketch my birth mother made of my face, from memory, of the one time she saw me.
  • The newspaper clipping my birth mother saved, of the “Christmas I Remember” article.
  • The postcard Craig sent me from Germany.
  • The one good photograph ever taken of me, on my wedding day.
  • The bit of earth where I buried my “missed” baby.
  • All the emails from my paternal sisters.
  • The voice mail from my maternal aunt, wishing me happy birthday one last time.
  • My adopted mother’s wedding ring.
  • The program from the first time I saw The Nutcracker, when I may have seen my sister dance.
  • The photos I sent to my birth father.
  • All my cats who disappeared.
  • My sisters.
  • My grandmother.
  • My father.


Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread


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