I’m sitting here at my desk looking out at the jacaranda tree in full bloom.
The purple flowers always make me think of spring and new beginnings.
As I write this, I wonder if it might mark a new beginning for the two of us. I know I owe you an explanation so I’ll try my very best.
I met your father on a camping holiday when I was 14.
We were at Mollymook, NSW, and his family pitched a tent next to ours.
We were both the oldest of our siblings and thought we were terribly cool, sneaking off to have ciggies on the beach.
I’d never had sex before, but I lost my virginity that holiday under a star-filled sky.
It felt so romantic.
His name was Mark.
He was a bit of a larrikin, always playing the fool.
But I loved his dark brown hair and the dimples when he smiled.
When we went our separate ways, I didn’t know his surname or even where he lived.
He’d mentioned he was from Melbourne but hadn’t been specific.
Back in Sydney, I was horrified to discover my period was late.
My parents were strict Catholics so it took me two weeks to muster up the courage to tell my mum.
I blurted it out as she did the washing-up one day.
Her back was turned to me and she didn’t bother to turn around.
She just took a deep breath and stiffened her shoulders.
“I’ll talk to your father,” she said quietly.
I can remember sitting in our backyard feeling sick to my stomach while I waited for him to come home from work.
He was predictably furious and sent me to my room while he and Mum discussed what to do.
For the next six months, my friends at school and even my siblings all just thought I’d put on weight.
Then, towards the end of the pregnancy, I was sent off to a home for disgraced girls to have the baby.
I was terrified, but when I caught a glimpse of you, I felt a rush of emotion that I’d never experienced before.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked.
The nurse pursed her lips, cleaned you up and wrapped you in a shawl.
She looked at me for a split second and said, “Boy,” before turning and leaving the room, taking you with her.
The glimpse of a crumpled face with a head of black hair was all I’d get of the son I’d just given birth to.
Waiting outside was a group of people who took you away.
“Will he go to a good home?” I wept.
No-one gave me an answer.
I was sent back home the next day, and for months I grieved the loss of you.
But I suffered in silence because, as far as my parents were concerned, we were never to speak of “that matter” again.
I cried myself to sleep every night.
I never went back to school and lost touch with all my friends.
Dad sent me to secretarial college and a few years later, I met a kind man called Clive* at the accountancy firm we both worked for.
I never told Clive about you.
He was Catholic too and would’ve been appalled.
Two years after our wedding, I gave birth to another boy.
This time, after the nurse cleaned and wrapped him up, she placed him lovingly in my arms.
Immediately the grief over losing you returned like a physical force as I cuddled my son.
“The hormones get you every time,” the nurse said, and I didn’t correct her.
Clive and I had another son followed by a daughter.
With each birth I felt those mixed emotions.
And as my three lovely children grew up, I often caught myself wondering if you shared traits with your brothers or sister.
Would you have Tom*’s eyes?
Were you sporty like John or arty like Alice?
I just hoped you had a loving family.
My kids grew up and flew the nest.
Then one day, I flicked through the post and a large envelope addressed to me caught my eye.
I opened it and as I read the contents, I dropped it in shock.
It was from an organisation that said you were trying to get in touch with me.
I had to sit down for several minutes to compose myself before reading further.
Over the next few days I was in such turmoil I could barely sleep.
“What’s wrong?” Clive asked over dinner. “You seem distracted.”
I brushed it off but was so torn.
I really wanted to tell him about you.
Next morning, we took our dogs for a walk in the local park.
A man who I thought would be about your age cycled past.
“Many years ago…,” I started to say to Clive but then stopped.
He looked up at me quizzically.
“Nothing, never mind,” I said.
Clive went to the doctor with severe stomach cramps.
He was sent off for tests and we received the devastating news that he had bowel cancer.
He’s now undergoing treatment – it’s been a terrifying few months for us.
Then yesterday, I received another letter.
This time from you, Harry*.
You had tracked me down.
In it you wrote about how desperate you were to find your biological mum.
How you’d been raised by a lovely couple and were a doctor.
A doctor! My heart literally swelled with pride.
You said you’d known you were adopted your whole life, but it wasn’t until you had kids of your own that you started to want to know about me.
I wish I could meet you, Harry, I really do, but I don’t want to break Clive’s heart.
Not while he’s so unwell.
He’d feel so betrayed by me lying to him all these years.
I’ve spent my whole life wondering about you and now here you are, right in front of me in paper form.
So close I could reach out and touch you.
Except I can’t.
In all honesty, I know I’ll never even bring myself to send you this letter.
It’s just too hard.
I hope that maybe one day in the future we will meet each other properly.
I would really like that.
I love you, I truly do. I hope, deep down, you know that.
*All names have been changed to protect identities.