Every year in high school our (awesome, ahem) marching band would take a trip to different cities to compete with other bands. Usually it was somewhere in the US, but one year we went to Canada.
I don’t know what it’s like now, but at that time if you didn’t have a passport, which I didn’t, you needed to have a birth certificate to cross the border. Maybe that was just for us kids in such a big group, I don’t know. All I know is that the chaperones collected our birth certificates and passports in case the people at the border asked for them.
Except, as a NJ adoptee, I didn’t have a birth certificate. I had a weird “record of live birth” that listed my adoptive parents on it and not much else.
So for the entire 13 hour trip to Toronto, I worried. I worried that my fake birth certificate wouldn’t be good enough. I was worried enough to ask the chaperone, a parent I didn’t really know, if they thought it would be OK, and what would happen if it wasn’t. She didn’t know either. It was very unlike me to show my nervousness, and bring up my adoption, to another adult, especially a parent or teacher I didn’t know well.
What would they do to me? Would they ask me to get off the bus? Would they interrogate me? How humiliating with 400+ pairs of eyes watching me. How scary. Would they tell me I wouldn’t be able to cross the border? Would my school leave me there? Alone? Or worse, would I hold up all 400 other people with us while they figured out what to do with the poor messed up adoptee? People who had already been on a bus for 10 hours and were pretty sick of it already? People who didn’t “get it” and wouldn’t have my back? If they dumped me at the border and my parents had to come get me, they would be FURIOUS. I didn’t want to deal with that either. I’d rather be abandoned! Truly. ‘Cause that scene would be ugly and I didn’t think I had the power in me to survive it.
Well, we made it through the border check. Did they ask for the birth certificates? I don’t even know. I just know I sat on the bus looking out the window, willing them to hurry up already, because it was taking too long. Every moment longer made me think something was wrong, and that something was me. Getting through to the Canada side was not the end of the story though, I had to get let back in to the US!
Writing this out, I know it sounds a little silly to someone who didn’t live through it. But it wasn’t silly to 15 year old me at the time. It was so NOT silly that I’m shaking writing it all down again. Adoption trauma is real, people, and it has far reaching consequences.