“Ignore the man behind the curtain!” The Great and Powerful Oz bellowed as smoke and flames shot into the air around his enormous translucent head. This command struck sheer terror into my heart. Not Dorothy, though. She marched right over to that curtain and yanked it back, exposing the knobs and levers and fraud of a polished showman. She was far braver than I am.
Sometimes I worry that if I ask too many questions I’ll expose something ugly and raw that I would rather not know. I don’t agree with, “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” as national policy, but on a purely personal level I have used it more times than I would like to admit. I’m not proud of this cowardice, but I do own it.
I was raised in a family that kept secrets. As far as I know, I was the biggest secret of all. Nobody was supposed to know that I was adopted, least of all me. I might be scarred. I might be ruined. Or, worst of all, I might turn out like my birth mother, who was obviously incompetent or worse. She must have been, or she wouldn’t have found herself in a position to give up her baby. Me.
It took so many years and so much preparation to finally gain the courage to peek behind that curtain and ask, in so many words, “was I adopted?” It’s an easy question, really. Basically a yes or no would do. What I got in response was, “Would it matter?”
Yes. It matters. It matters that my entire personal history has been a lie. It matters that somewhere out in the world there are people with whom I share a genetic tie that, in spite of the lies and omissions of truth that began the day I was born, cannot be denied. Until my own child was born I had never laid eyes on anyone who was related to me by birth. I had never before seen myself in anyone else, and it was a strange experience indeed.
So, yes, it matters. I wish you had come out from behind that curtain years ago. I wish you would have trusted me with the truth of my existence. I would have loved you still.