65: Hope for the Future

65: Hope for the Future

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

Hope for the Future

…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us.

~Romans 5:3-5

When I was born they named me Hope. Don’t ask me who “they” were — I don’t know. It could have been the college kids who had an “oops” one night and knew they couldn’t keep me. Or maybe a secretary at the Department of Welfare who had to fill out my paperwork and figured I would need all the positive energy I could get. Maybe it was a foster parent. Obviously, my beginning wasn’t the norm.

The way it all went down was very non-traditional. My adoptive mom, Patricia — Pattie for short — had given birth to three adorable young boys, all healthy and full of personality. Light-skinned, blue-eyed, towhead to mousy brown, and ages two to ten. Sam, the oldest, was named after a long line of Sams in the family, fifth in line to be exact. Andy was sixteen months younger than Sam, more fair-skinned and with a slighter build. He had an artistic eye and loved to perform. The youngest, Greg, was still toddling around at two years old, charming folks with his “gregarious” personality and his spontaneous nature.

Happily in love with these three boys, my mom had always wanted a girl. Really, what is the experience of having a baby without the ruffles and lace? Or playing dress up with the sassy, pink, little girl outfits and combing shiny smooth hair into ponytails and adorning it with ribbon? For my mom, the family would not be complete without a little sugar and spice.

Interestingly, and for many reasons, Mom was drawn to the idea of a bi-racial baby. First, she knew there were a lot out there who needed homes and she liked the idea of being able to share that and give one of these children a second chance. She also knew if she wanted to have a fair-skinned Caucasian child, she and Dad were capable of taking care of that themselves. And third, she had recently taken a course at the local women’s college on black history and found herself fascinated with the trials, tribulations and strengths of the African American culture.

At this time, in the late sixties, there was an abundance of mixed-race children up for adoption. It was still a period when people of different races weren’t encouraged to be together, when these relationships could even be considered taboo. When a child came along in one of these relationships, sometimes, in certain circumstances, the only choice was to give the child up for adoption. There were so many of these cases that the Department of Welfare ran announcements in the newspaper about particular children who needed caring families and a stable home.

And this is how my mother fell in love.

She found an article in the Rocky Mountain News about a little girl, Rene, who was available for adoption. The headline read “Alone in the World.” It stated, “Rene is just six weeks old, but she already has a winning personality. She loves to be cuddled and shows curiosity about her surroundings. Because Rene is of Negro-Caucasian descent, it is difficult to find a home for this baby. She is one of about fifty children of special needs who have no prospects for adoption according to Denver Department of Welfare social workers.” There was an address and contact person at the bottom of the article. My mother clipped it out of the paper and made up her mind. She was going to adopt a mixed-race baby girl. (Race never was an issue for Mom. Years later, when my brothers were teenagers, she put them on a bus to send them to high school in a predominantly black neighborhood.)

So my mom and dad began to fill out the forms, went through family interviews with social services and put in their request for the type of baby they wanted. Mom’s only stipulation was that she wanted a baby between two and six months old. My father, an obstetrician, stipulated a healthy birth mom.

The application and interviews helped the social workers approve the candidates and match the babies with the families. But it was a process, and by the time the Downing clan was approved for a new addition, little Rene had been adopted elsewhere.

After starting the process in the heat of the July sun, six months later, in the dead of winter, my parents received the call. They had a five-and-a half-month-old baby girl just waiting to be taken home and loved. My family packed up a blanket and clothes, and the five of them piled into the car, knowing their lives were about to change.

It wasn’t a ceremonious exchange, but more like, “Here’s the little girl you ordered.” The cost of the entire adoption was about twelve dollars. This was something my brother Greg used to like to tease me about when we were growing up. One of his favorite insults was to remind me that I wasn’t even worth as much as a twenty-dollar bill.

My mother instantly fell in love. After she dropped my father back at the hospital to work, she took my brothers and me first to the hairdresser and then to the church to show me off. I had an olive skin tone and chocolate brown eyes, with a little tuft of curly black hair standing straight up on the top of my head. I looked nothing like anyone in my family, but if you really wanted to stretch the association, my father had black hair and brown eyes too.

You could say that I was my mom’s birthday present. I arrived six days after she turned thirty-two. Although I had a name, Hope, which was fitting for my circumstances, my mom wanted one that would fit my new life. Even though I was never physically part of her, she wanted me to be an everlasting piece of who she is.

She is Patricia Carolyn. And since that day she picked me up at social services, I have been her second half. My name is Tricia Lynn.

~Tricia Downing

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