July 8, 2009

I know my name, but who am I?

I grew up in the likes of a Buddhist ashram chanting Hari Chrisna. It is perhaps my most memorable memory from childhood. I was raised by a group of burned out hippies who knew and followed Timothy Leary through the '60s. I was reading books like the 'Bhagavad Gita' and 'Be Here Now', the former written from ancient text, while the latter had barely come out in print. Those books meant nothing to me then, but I would read them again a dozen years later so as to understand them. Here I would learn about Arjuna's journey towards battle and his talks with Krishna, and follow the antics of the good doctors tales. I spent my mornings watering flower gardens, tending a gold fish pond and grooming foot trails that led from one building to another. There were round adobe-like yurts and small buildings spread out across a few acres of land on a thousand acre ranch in the Arizona desert. My hair was down to my butt and I had the nickname Snake. I was also a ward of the State.
When I was 11 years old I ran away from home and I ended up living in a group home in the Sonoran Desert near the base of the Rincon Mountains. I lived there with dozens of people. We were men and women, and boys and girls. And we were all there for different reasons. Some of us were sent there, while others just came. We were lost souls and runaways. We were bullies and thieves. And we were disheartened victims of abuse. In 1973 I was a runaway. For almost two and a half years I lived this life, and then one day I walked away. Everything I learned; everything I believed, it all happened here.
Early on as children we are marked by scars and injuries both mental and physical that we carry into the future. They are the wounds that link our past to present; uniting infancy with age. They bear witness to the people we become and are a testament to the lives we lead. It is rare to go through life without them.
At night we would gather in the dining hall. Wood carved tables and chairs filled the room. The walls were made of stone and cement at least one foot thick. A large round open-faced fireplace was in the center of the room for those cold winter nights. I still remember the smell of mesquite wood burning. They built that place two years before I came. In the summer the students and teachers united, and months of work followed. Boulders of river rock had to be moved into place. Eight foot sections of railroad ties were stood upright and were the supporting structure for the walls. Layers of cement and river rock were poured in between them. Inside giant timbers ran across the ceiling locking out the light of day. I do not know how long it took them, but I can imagine the months of pain. I can almost feel their blisters and certainly there is blood inside those walls. These people left other things as well. Small relics as reminders. On one wall you will see a handful of marbles embedded in the cement in an intricate design. There are names in the cement floor and you will see a peace sign next to an Anhk. There are green and purple glass insulators protruding out of the walls here and there for coat hangers. Burned into the wood you will see symbols such as the Yin and Yang, more peace signs and the Hindu Om sign of Absolute.

Inside there was a corner library. Bookshelves lined the walls. Over the next two years I would read most of them: Carlos Castaneda, William Goldman, Kurt Vonnegut and Wilson Rawls. There are titles I can’t even remember and titles I can: The Catcher and the Rye; Mister God, this is Anna; and Gibran’s Prophet. Sitting there at night I would read line after line and verse after verse. I was particularily enamored with Castaneda's story 'The Yaqui Way of Knowledge' because I am a Yaqui Indian. This story was unique to me because in its own way it tied me to a heritage I knew nothing about. I eventually outgrew my fascination with Castaneda. Don Juan was a little too colorful of a character for me and so I stuck a little closer to home.
My parents and I never spent much time living together, sometimes I think it was act of preservation. But the fact is they were my parents, and the only parents I ever knew. When my mom died a few years ago I remember that feeling of loneliness. I remember thinking that I was all alone and that I was an orphan. I have felt that way from time to time ever since her passing. And I have always felt like I was the last of my line save for my children. All of that changed today. Today we finally received my adoption records. I don't think I've ever felt this way before. Today I have a name for both of my birth parents. I think I'm going to have to let that sink in for a while.

19 comments:

*mary* said...

I'm glad that your adoption information finally became available. I'm sure it is a lot to take in.

I love hearing these stories from your childhood. They are always very interesting!

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

*mary* It is a bit overwhelming.

And yes, I had a very interesting childhood.

Krëg said...

KICK ASS! I'm glad you were able to get your records.

Excellent post, too.

tkdmama said...

So glad you got your records finally. I imagine you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the new knowledge you just encountered. May God bring you peace and contentment with this knowledge.
I love reading what you have written. It is always so vivid and full of life.

Ungrateful Little Bastard said...

Ohhhh I remember that day, when I found my name. It's a really precious and fragile time, take care of yourself. I'm so, so glad you've gotten your information. Finally.

Zakary said...

I'm so glad you got your papers finally.

Love this post.

Pop and Ice said...

I can't imagine a childhood like that. Somewhat magical, yet a ward of the state, adopted - it's all so confusing!

I'm glad you've received your adoption information, even if you do nothing with it but know where you came from.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Kreg.....No doubt! And thanks.


T, We are very happy about the news. Just a few more steps to take. Thanks for the nice words.


Zakary, Thank you Zak, and it was a fun post to write.


Pop and Ice, It was definitely a very interesting childhood. The place used to be a buddhist ashram pseudo hippie commune. And then I guess they figured out they could make some money taking kids in from the state. That lasted for about 3 or 4 years and then the state went in later and shut them down. It is now known as This. I am trying to get registered with my indian tribe so that is why we've been working at getting my records opened. Confusing...Yes! I think they sold out to an affiliate. We made pottery, rode horses bareback and took long walks in the desert. HA!

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Ungrateful Little Bastard,

Thank you again for all your help (sniff...sniff). Precious and fragile seem to sum it up. I don't know yet what I will do with this information, it is a lot to take in. Thanks for being there from the beginning. I will be working on the tribal angle for now, since that is what this was all about in the first place. Regarding the other angle, if I go looking I let you know what I find. Hmm? That leaves another angle. :-)

Laoch of Chicago said...

Very fine post. This is very well expressed.

Taking a moment to sort out how you feel is wise in my opinion.

Debbie said...

Wow. I am speechless. That must be such an odd feeling for you to have that information. Amazing.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Laoch, Thank you. It was an exhausting day in the end. Lois and I were totally zapped by the news. It was a lot to process (still working on it).

Debbie, I couldn't even open up the envelope. When we walked in the house I set it on the kitchen counter and walked out of the room. The girls and Lois were gathered around the counter and I hollered over my shoulder for her to open it. I still didn't look at it until they had all left the house to run to the store.

Sunshine said...

Your story is very emotional and touching and i watch mahabharat so many times and everytime i watch learn something new and interesting. I always ask my mom how could Arjun feels that way and why krishna said that quote... She always explains to me that everyone in their life one time they feel that they are very close to the people and they dont want to hurt them for good reason sometimes god give you strength to do what needs to be done. and for good cause..

I am glad about the adoption you got it done proud of you

Take Care

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Sunshine, Thank you very much. :~)

kristine said...

How did I miss this?

Do you know how well you write?
Such huge themes, if we can call that about a real persons life, but such big emotion, in such pure and true words.

Thank you for sharing all of this. I cannot imagine, honestly, I cannot imagine it. I'm thankful that you are writing of the experience.

Your recollection of your childhood is important.

Thank you.

I'm happy that you have your records. Finally.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Kristine,

:~)

It is all very sobering. Oddly enough I just read over my records for the second time just the other day. I think most people may have read over their records at least a half a dozen times by now.
The questions I pose to myself now is: Is this enough? Or do I dare go looking to find them?

kristine said...

It seems as if (from my very sheltered view - not knowing anything at all of any importance) that your answer is in your question. Know what I mean.

kristine said...

Just reread this.

thank-you again. I think this should be published somewhere.

I think of my youngest child, whenever they finally come to us. I hope we have some information about their family. We may. But we may not. If they are abandoned we will not have much. We've already decided if that is the case we will hire an investigator to try to find out as much as possible.

Thank you for being our youngest child's adult voice. Thanks for writing.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

It was very strange to read the adoption papers. There was very little information other than the fact that my mom was a minor, we were removed from the home and our names. I say our because I was adopted along with my blood sister. It gave us the names of our birth parents and are birth names and that was all. Well there was also a photocopy of a card that appeared to be some I.D. card with an address. I think it might have been a place a residency. There wasn't any kind of information about my father. There is also the fact that they had two children together and we are a year and a half a part. So I know that my parents at least had a history together. Neither parent showed up for the adoption hearing. I was with my adoptive parents for almost two and a half years before the adoption was finalized.

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