1 Day, 5 Years
edited: Thursday, February 21, 2002
By Steven G. Poyzer
Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2002
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A reflection on the first five years of my life.
1 Day, 5 Years
I can only wonder as to what kind of day it was on that day in December 1950, as I can only imagine the circumstances surrounding my being forced into the world on that day. What prior causes or coincidences had brought a young woman and young man into the delivery room at Rochester General Hospital? There is so much of this that I will most likely never know, and there is so much I have in my own way chosen not to discover. There are times when ignorance is truly bliss.
What I do know with some certainty is that, I was born, with a different name than I have now, a son, to these two young people on December 17th, 1950. I know their names, I know that the young woman, Margaret, was no more than a girl and that the young man, Kenneth, was in the Navy at the time. I have been told that they were married, although that may have been a white lie, to spare my feelings and to allow me to escape the trauma of a different revelation. I know that the young woman had a mother, who would have been my grandmother, that had hopes and dreams, that I would become part of her family, and that these hopes and dreams would affect the next five years of this infantís life. I also know, December 17th, 1950, was the last time I ever saw that, young woman, the young man or the grandmother, whose hopes and dreams for her grandson to be part of her life would go unfulfilled. It was also the last time they ever saw me!
My recollections of those five years begin hazily and I have but a few clear memories. I was told, because the grandmother had hoped that her daughter would have a change of heart and reclaim me as her son, that I spent the first five years of my life in foster homes. I donít recall the early foster homes I spent my infancy at, I can only imagine they were adequate, as I survived them. I am told that I passed through several of them, although I cannot recall whether they were good, bad or indifferent. I have surmised that at best they were indifferent. I have come to believe that during the fifties, and possibly even today, most foster parents, were or are in it for the money and not because they loved children. Why else would they not have kept me?
My earliest memory begins at the age of three. It was Christmas time as I recall, and a kind social worker had brought me a "Tonka Truck", and not being used to being given gifts, I did not know how to respond. The foster mother seeing this roughly pulled me aside and in a harsh voice said, " You march right in there and thank that lady for the present." She was right, of course, to instruct me in proper manners, but as I had mentioned, I had not received many gifts in my short life, and I was shy, embarrassed and now frightened that I would be spanked. So with tears in my eyes, I stammered out a quiet thank you to the nice social worker and ran and hid. Oh how I treasured that "Tonka Truck"; it was made of metal, painted red, green, shiny, and new and, most importantly, it was mine. I kept it with me, as a child would cling to a teddy bear or favorite blanket, over the next several years until it finally fell apart. I do not recall much warmth or kindness from that foster home, but I do remember the social worker and her kind gift.
Another year passed by and I found myself in a different foster home. I was four years old, and because my birthday was in December, I was allowed to begin kindergarten class early. I didnít know it then but later on I would pay a penalty for that. I can still remember the city school classroom, the big tall windows with the bright sunlight streaming in, the hiss of the old cast iron steam radiators along the wall, the warm milk and graham crackers for snacks and curling up for naps on a towel on the floor. Forty-seven years later I still miss the warm milk and graham crackers, and naps. The most memorable experience of my kindergarten experience was a class bully. As I mentioned earlier I was a shy child, probably withdrawn and distrustful of most other people, and I was small. To this day I cannot remember what may have brought it on, but on the way home the class bully punched me in the nose. My nose bloodied and crying, I arrived at the foster home doorstep only to find that the foster familyís real son had run ahead to tell my foster father that I had gotten beaten up and was crying about it. I suppose I had expected some sympathy and comforting, but that was not what I received. My foster father came through the door red-faced and shouting, " What are you crying for you sissy, canít you fight back?" and I was sent sobbing to my room without supper. There was no outward sign of concern or sympathy, just the cold reality that I was on my own. Once again my belief in the overall failure of foster homes as a loving, warm and nurturing environment was reinforced.
It was during this period of time that my young life was to change again. A young couple started coming to see me. They would take me on picnics, to movies and to parks to play. I know I didnít really understand it all then, but somehow I knew that these people were interested in having me as their adopted son. I also knew that I wanted a real mother and father who would be kind to me and maybe even love me. A family I could be a part of. Eventually, it happened. This couple adopted this shy, withdrawn and frightened, 5 year old little boy, and became the parents who have raised, nurtured and loved me. I have always looked back with pride on my adoption because, not only did my mother and father choose me, I got to choose them. How many kids get to do that?
I am one of the lucky children. I finally found a home, real parents, a new last name, a large extended family, with grandmothers, aunts, uncles and plenty of cousins all willing to accept me and love me. Most of all, I was given a chance to live a normal life, with real parents. I wonder sometimes how many other children have been brought into this world, unwanted and uncared for and never get the opportunity to find the security and loving warmth of a family that I have found. Itís taken me many years to become strong enough to remember and write about these five years, and there are the memories and scars that remain, but I realize that these years as all that followed are part of who I was, who I am and who I will become.