According to the birth certificate tucked inside my baby book, I was born October 1, 1968 at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View California and my name was “Amy Brook Palleson”. I don’t remember any of the other fluff on it—height, weight, etc.—just that the paper was black with white printing and hard to read—which even seeing it at a young age had seemed odd—and that the book itself was a mess of white out and scratch outs and corrections.
We can fast forward now, through memory lane, through years, through the solidification of who I was—via Rose and Martin Palleson (grandma and grandpa), Leeroyce and Deck Hogin (gammie and gampie); through aunts and uncles and cousins; through my brother Jeff born in early ‘71, my sister Alex in ‘75, and Clancy and Cindy, my father and mother—all the way to the couch in gammies living room where I lay quietly crying at 13 (or 12? I can’t even remember) because solidity is often invented, and my real dad was dying, asking to see me and only knew me as “Sophie”.
In the way of regret, I’ve often been to that place where I must explain my choice, that day I learned Clancy wasn’t my dad and the real one was dying. For that was the year I was bullied mercilessly—had started high school; was afraid to turn corners; lost all my friends—and would the next year change schools because of it so I was mixed up and scared and insecure and didn’t have much to hold onto right then.
But the bigger truth is that children know what’s expected of them and that secret was supposed to be kept. That’s why Mom had changed my name when she left him, that’s why she crossed it all out; changed my birth certificate; had my Rose and Martin/my dad‘s parents officially adopt me; because it was the new life she’d wanted and I was supposed to let her live this life. And I knew she’d feel betrayed if I went to see him, and I lived my life to protect her, and never wanted to hurt her even if it meant hurting someone else instead.
And of course he died, and so then did his only memories of his daughter, Sophie Stuckey, the name under the white out.
And there were times when I looked upon that day with judgment of myself for not saying yes—because it is not like me to extend myself into such seeming-cruelty—but when my own child turned 13, and I could see again what that experience must’ve been like for me, I met the world from a different place, and know he forgives me (as does his/my still-living family) and that I should follow suit. Because if we let them, our mistakes can make us into more caring human beings, and I can hear her living her new life, with her baby and her new hope, and feel the truth of it all in the new name she gave me, Amy Brook, for it means “beloved by the stream” and through all the lives past and to come, we may yet reach that world in which someday, that will be our joint and never-passing truth.