In search of a birth mother…..
One evening, bored and still looking for answers I decided that I would look for my old children’s home/nursery. I remembered the name of the road was Ladywell Road, but sadly not the number. So I used Google map and found myself looking down a road that for some strange reason, thought that I might remember. I didn’t, of course I didn’t. No signs of children’s home or nursery just rows and rows of shops and three bedroomed semis. I googled for children’s homes and soon found a number 82 Ladywell Road, Lewisham. I again searched Google map, found number 80 and found 84, sadly no 82. ‘That’s odd.’
This then took me to the national archives, unsure how but that’s where I ended up and soon I was filling out forms to my many unanswered questions. I was informed that the children’s home/nursery was once a workhouse but had since been demolished but I could ask for some photos. ‘Yes,’ I asked and within a few days my email had a letter with five photographs. I had found the nursery and what a grim, cold, barren place it was. There were two photographs of the exterior. It was huge and more than one building. One photo showed the toilets with tiny sinks and toilets with no doors. One photo was of the dormitory and a series of caste iron cots and one photo was of a playroom and all were beyond depressing, I guess it didn’t help being in black and white but even so, what a cold place to live. There were no pictures on the walls, no drawings drawn by happy contented children. There was nothing, but cold, grim lifeless and barren.
I was told I could purchase these photos, ‘No thanks,’ I whispered.
I wanted to find out more, but not about this dump but more about what happened to me while I was incarcerated. I was directed with help from a few phone calls and soon I was talking to Janice O’ Rorke who helped with all my enquiries. I was told I would have to wait a few weeks to get all the paperwork. Some weeks passed and I being ever so slightly impatient, rang Janice up who explained that she had the documents and was about to send them off to me. I really wanted to speak face to face so asked, ‘could I come up?’ and it was hastily arranged that I would drive up to the London archives in EC1R, the very next day. The journey was one I had driven many a time but not for a very long time, same A40 and same Marylebone flyover, just alot more traffic. I reached my destination just in time to the heavens to open with a deluge of epic proportions and of course got soaked to the skin. I arrived and met with Janice who still clutching a large brown envelope shook my hand and made our way through the silent library of people tapping away while staring at computer screen after computer screen in silence. We walked into a small office where we began to open file after file.
What we saw, read and then discussed at some length was far from what I was told as a child, and the story was not a good one. We slowly but surely pieced the parts of this broken jigsaw together and what I was told and what was told about me, was false.
I know my adopted Mother would have told almost anyone who would listen all about my birth father. This of course had a serious and detrimental effect on my life but remember she wanted to adopt a non white child and as you are aware, she also changed my name to Kim from the book of the same name by Rudyard Kipling. I, even at the young age I was didn’t believe this story to be true. I didn’t care so much about the names called (though when accompanied with aggression, clenched fists and the word fucking used before the racist rants, it did) but what it did do is made me feel different to everyone else as all I wanted to do was fit in, not forgetting I had just spent five years of my childhood in a very bleak, harsh and cold environment where I was called some really horrible names, and had real issues with a fear of strangers, institutionalisation and various other choice issues. So for the entire time I was at school I was abused with racist name calling. I took it for a while but when you are constantly provoked and already have a volatile nature there was only going to be one outcome and I exploded time and time again, which in turn caused only me more grief. I was trapped. So what was the truth? My birth Mother did get pregnant, obviously but used any means possible to get her out of the mess she had found herself in, i.e. pregnant, single and now homeless. The man she claimed to be the father was in fact living with another woman and all she was doing was trying to put the blame firmly on his shoulders so he would pay towards the child, simple really and my adopted Mother would have had access to the same documents that I was now reading with Janice. It appears my birth mother had lied a lot about marriage, fathers and boyfriends to anyone who she felt would listen and perhaps help, and went from one bad relationship to another and more unwanted children. I then began to feel real empathy/sympathy but also extreme anger at my adopted Mother. ‘Why?’ was my initial reaction when here it was in black and white that this man was not the father and birth Mother had just tried in vain to get help. We read that my birth mother was ‘very attractive, with dark brown eyes, frizzy hair and a sallow complexion,’ (with the word Negro? in brackets) seems I shared something with my birth Mother as I obviously had the same eyes, sallow complexion.
I felt sad as I drove home through the busy traffic of London but I also felt anger and this is why. All my adopted mother had to do was tell the truth as it was written, i.e. my mother had quite dark skin and my father was unknown. I am English and born in London, that would have saved me from years and years of abuse, fighting, arguing and rage that I really didn’t need. By making me into this freak of her dreams, also made my life hell and that made me seethe. I can’t change the past can I? But at least now I know the truth.
So back to the computer and the search continued to see if birth mother was alive or dead and if dead, where, when why etc etc.
I joined the online site Ancestry and started putting in all I now knew, and with yet another married name for my birth mother a picture began to unravel. I found I had a half brother, I already knew of a half sister and I also found out that my half brother had died aged forty four of cancer, my grandfather also died of cancer and my Mother had died aged forty four of an overdose. I found out that my half sister had stated that, ‘the best thing that ever happened to her was being abandoned by her mother,’ yes, my mother. I found out that she was no stranger to the long arm of the law and spent time in prisons. I found out that the Hunter clan were troubled not only to others but also to themselves. Did I really want this search to continue? No I did not. So I thanked my new found cousin Tracy for her help and honesty and I decided that the end of this long arduous somewhat painful journey of discovery would soon end. I will at some point go to my Mother’s grave and purchase her a suitable headstone, lay some white flowers, say ‘hello and wave goodbye.’
I then thought about the grim gray unloved time spent in the shithole of a nursery and how it had affected my early years, the fear this child had to endure was undeserved and wrong. I thought about how I was picked due to my adopted parents wanting a non white child and being unwanted by so many because of my non white status. I am more than a colour, right?
I then thought about the massive change in my situation, from the deprived life to a new one many miles away, with parents and new siblings, the new schools and surroundings, it was heaven in comparison and although overtly strict it was better than where I had been and better away from birth Mother who only had time to have unwanted children and to cause damage to not only herself but to those around her. I looked at my adoption and life in a clearer light. I was and am a whole lot more appreciative of my life and those around me who helped me grow, yes there were terrible times but that’s life, isn’t it?
One thing that I do find hard to understand is where I got life right and how I became this person I am now, today, to me that’s the miracle to endure all the aforementioned pain, abuse and sufferings to become somebody I like and also a man my friends like. Would I change this life? I hear you ask, probably not because of what I have become without really anyone I became a survivor of life and still am. I have what I need, food, water and shelter and most importantly I am able to forgive all the hurt and still be able to love. There is no one I would rather be, so if your parents have somehow failed you by not giving enough maybe not leaving you thousands of pounds in their will, or not spending enough time and money on you and yours remember this, you were lucky to have them, probably more lucky than you realise.
So before you enter into the search for lost family remember it doesn’t always end up like it does on the TV series ‘Long Lost Family’ with the patronising toothy grin and inane wittering of Davina MaCall as she asks sarcastically, ‘would you like to see a picture?’ No Davina, I would not.
I near my sixty second birthday and at last I can be free of the past and understand more about life than most people reading this. The scars have finally healed and I have finally found contentment and enlightenment…No awards, no DCM’s pinned to my chest by some cloth eared royal,no praise,no huge income just pride in myself that I am a survivor,not many can boast about that…
This song sums my feelings pretty well…
I took a look at myself
What did I see?
Invincible and vulnerable
The reality I feel
Is also the disease in me…
Ah, well done,you didn’t give up halfway, thanks for staying the course. I was asked how I felt about all the above
1) Angry with birth mother?? NO
2) Angry with the lies by adopted mother?? YES
3) Are you happy you took this journey into the past?? YES
4) Were you sad?? A little
5) How did you feel when you found out your birth mother was a prostitute?? Nothing but pride, we all have to survive, right?? I have seen bigger, uglier whores in government.
6) How does it feel to have blood relatives after not knowing for almost 62 years?? Good
7) Are you angry or upset in anyway?? NO..I have a life and irrespective of the trials and tests,pains and misfortunes, I was given a life and for that gift I am happy, perhaps it’s why I am so humble and dislike the greed and self importance in humans lately. We have life,food,water and shelter, believe me when I say,everything else is a bonus including having parents,be grateful…
8) So where are we now??…See below……..
The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.
This piece is for those of us who have been plagued by suffering and have so often wondered, why me? What did I ever do wrong? Why does my God hate me so?
Two years ago, I was sitting next to a flowing river; the sun was shining on a beautiful English summer’s day. I was with my two rescued dogs, Bigfoot and Little bear who were busying themselves in play. I took my shirt and shoes off and then dangled my aching feet into the cold flowing water. I had water to drink and fresh fruit to eat. I smiled not just for a few moments but what seems ages, I just could not stop smiling. I had in my eyes and after an extremely long journey of self healing achieved what I had set out to become so many years before when I was a broken shell of a man full of pain and anger. I had at last become a contented man and a contented