CLEMENCIA | THE UNTOLD STORY
[ k l e h - M E N - s e e - a h ]
I was as young as I could possibly remember when my Mom told my sister and I we were adopted.
She once asked us, “What do you think your birth mothers are like?”
My sister replied, “A beautiful princess!”
I replied, “A witch.”
Who's to say why young children make such profound statements?
My sister and I are only two months apart. We were raised like twins, and even wore the same halloween costume until we were 12. 12! She is blond, blue eyed and fair; I am a brunette with brown eyes and an olive complexion. Aren’t we cute?!
My Mom had 8 miscarriages before we became a family. 8. I don’t have my own children yet, but as I’ve grown to understand it, the magnitude of that number does a deep and helpless dive from my heart to my stomach. You can only understand a person better once you learn a thing like that… a woman's seeming invincibility… how could she endure? Well she did.
My Mom had a career as an OR nurse, but what she really wanted was a family. She married a wonderful man who stood strong and unwavering by her side. He would become a wonderful father, and my Dad.
As the miscarriages passed one by one, my parents decided that adopting children would be the best pathway to a family. They applied everywhere, all over the world. They didn’t care where their children came from, they just wanted to become parents. After an inconceivable amount of time, the first phone call came for a baby in Virginia, and the adoption had to happen immediately. My parents picked up and went to Virginia at a moment’s notice, and returned home as new parents to a baby girl, my sister! Their prayers… answered!
Two months later, the second phone call came for a baby in Bogota, Colombia - that was me. They told my parents that instead of traveling to South America, they would bring me up in two months time. My first two months of life were spent in an orphanage. I had a big red birth mark on my face and became quite sickly. I was passed over by other potential parents as I lay in my crib. In that time, and by an unknown source, I was named Clemencia Calderon.
Two months later, I laid in a doctor’s arms, sick and soaked, on a plane to New York. When the doctor put me in my Mother’s arms, she said I looked up at her and let out a big sigh of relief. I was finally with my family. I was finally home. My parents named me Tricia Anne.
Within four months of that first phone call, my family was now 4. My sister and I, too young to understand our fortune, had veered completely from our given pathways at the very moments of our births, and without a doubt, had won the family lottery. As my Mom always says, to this very day, and never without tears brimming in her eyes, “It was meant to be."
Two years later my Mom was rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section, and as my Dad watched the birth, the first thing he saw was my brother’s tiny arm, hand in a tight fist, raise up from my Mom’s belly. Extraordinary triumph! We were now 5. Mom, Dad, two rambunctious two year old girls and a perfect baby boy. It was hard work, but it was all they ever wanted. It was more than any of us could’ve ever hoped for.
You don’t realize the sacrifices your parents make for you until you are old enough to conceive of it yourself. It is the nature of being human, maturing, seeing your parents through a weathered heart - softened, broken and repaired with enough cracks left to sustain seeping love and empathy for their stories - for a lifetime of stories before you arrived, for all of the stories of how you arrived, and for all of the stories that you create together.
Over the holidays, as the festivities wound down, my Mom and I sat in the dining room eating her legendary apple pie.
She asked, “Do you want to know more?”
“Yes, more… I will help you in any way I can… if you want…”
By More, she meant my Untold Story… the story of Clemencia.
Until my late-twenties, I was quite content not knowing More. I had been raised by two extraordinary people in a wonderful family who had provided for me in ways far beyond my greatest dreams. I didn’t have a need for More, and when I did think about it, it felt dark and impossible, and so far away.
Things changed for me when my sister had her first baby boy. As I held him in my arms and saw her resemblance in his fair skin and tiny expressions, I felt something deep down within me crumble. Would I ever hold my own child? Would I ever see my face in his reflection? Would I ever meet someone who was… like me? It is a strange thing to be adopted… to know unconditional love for all of my days, but to look back beyond that and see nothing - no past, no generations, no memories before I existed. It is a strange thing to begin one’s existence at two months of age.
It is the Untold Story… it is the story of Clemencia.
Now, I am ready. I am ready to journey into the impossible depths of my past and try and uncover the truths that await. If I can not find more than the orphanage, than I will go to the orphanage where I spent my first two months of life and tell that story. If I can go back further, then the story will continue. Either way, it ought to be told.
The pathway to where we are right now - you, the reader, and me, the storyteller - was never clear. The last decade has been a rollercoaster of starts and fails and start all over again and fail and get me off this ride already, and when will I ever gain clarity, and when will I figure out this damn thing called Life… But now, here we are, together. Somehow I managed to find my way to this, to you, and from here we have created a connection and now have the opportunity to journey forward together.
Everyone has a story to be told. Everyone has beauty and hardship, gains and losses, life and death, milestones and journeys, and as we travel throughout our lives, our stories countlessly intersect and connect with the lives and stories of all those around us, near and far. It's a beautiful thing, isn’t it?... this inevitable and extraordinary web of life! As I look back, I see now that all of my creativity, my singing, my art, my adoption, my family, my struggles, my gains has brought me here, weathered and prepared to tell the stories of these intersections, to give people a chance to share without adulteration, to connect, to heal, to exult the experiences that make us human, and give us meaning and purpose.
What is your story?
Is it a moment, a day, a year, a lifetime?
Is it loud and clear, is it complex and abstract?
Does it revolve around the people in your life, the people you have lost, the back-breaking work you do, the work you yearn to do, the issues you have always shunned, the issues you intend to conquer, the every day joys you find in the smallest of moments, the extraordinary milestone that is about to occur?
What is your story?
Everyone has a story.
Let us tell your story in your own voice,
let us tell your story in our voices together!
You be you, and I'll be me, and together we will tell your untold story…
the story that ought to be told.
the day i became a citizen of the United States