Pic: My younger brother Jeff and I circa 1971; I was 3.
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 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 in a heart bigger than myself, I knew she’d feel betrayed if I went to see him and I never wanted to hurt her—lived my life to protect 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. To deny a man about to exit this life the chance to see what he had offered this world; deny him a chance to experience closure for a chapter which may have haunted him through health and illness, happiness and hardship.
But when my own child turned 13, I met my world from a different place, and came to see that regret is an ocean to be filled with more caring versions of ourselves.
For regret is bound to a self floating in place after which choices were obvious and impossible to let go of.
But in the current of who we are, one choice speaks many languages and if we let them, make also the world of a mother living her new life, with her baby and her new hope, and creates the lovely truth of the compassion of a 13 year old girl who did not know what to do except to love beyond herself.
And sometimes saying my own name ‘Amy Brook’ I can hear my mother defining our new lives. For that name means ‘beloved by the stream’ and in iterations of selves both past and to come, may I grow to live to the truth of this wisdom.