I was adopted by a family when I was 6 days old, almost by chance.
The Balseiro family was an ordinary family: mother, father, daughter and son.
One day, the Balseiro’s dog died. So Leonor, the head of the family, took some money and went to the closest pet store to buy another puppy. While she was waiting in line, a man who was also waiting for his turn, asked her why was she there. She replied that she wanted to buy a puppy for her family. This good man lowered his gaze and remained lost in his thoughts (which surprised Eleanor, she did not dare to ask him anything).
A few minutes later, the man told Leonor that he had been wondering if any family would be as willing to adopt a baby as a dog. That comparison sounded very strange. So, she told him: “Why are you telling me this?”, and he replied: “Sorry, it’s just that I know a 16-year-old girl who just gave birth. She’s just a young girl and she’s all alone. She’s from a small village which is on the outskirts of the city. She came to the city to work. Her family doesn’t know that she was pregnant, much less that she gave birth. She wants to give the baby up for adoption in exchange for some money, so that she can pay the fare to return to her village”.
Leonor gave her all the money she had, which was enough to buy a dog and maybe a little more, and returned home with a six-day-old baby wrapped in a blanket.
To this day, I could never imagine the faces of the three members of that family when they were expecting a dog and instead a 6-day old baby arrived, who had no name, no papers and no exact date of birth.
The story goes that the first thing that woman did was to call the family doctor for a general check-up of that new member. Everything was fine. Now, they had to register his and give him a name: “Let’s name him Victor, like his grandfather”, said Leonor. But the date of birth was still missing.
Since then, I celebrate my birthday every May 1st.; my mother’s command. According to her, it was the perfect day because no one would ever forget to greet me.
And so I grew up, with those memories of a family that was absolutely mine, without any suspicion of not looking like any of them, at least physically. And they, who had adopted me when they were middle aged, started to leave.
My dad, Juan Antonio, left when I was five years old. My brother Juan, when I was 8, and my dear mother when I turned 15. All three of them left without being able to tell me about my origin.
I found out the truth of my story when I was 16 years old. It was a strange feeling for me, not being able to thank or complain, since I had no one to ask.
In August of 1983, after my mother’s death, not knowing where to go, I was again welcomed by a family who were friends with my parents. In fact, they were such good friends to my parents that I even called them ‘uncles’, and they were the ones who welcomed me, in the best possible way.
It was at this time that I began to experience a new sense of family and with such good memories. So many memories that when the month of May arrived again to celebrate my first birthday with them, the house was filled with new aunts, uncles and cousins. I even had to introduce myself to some of them.
I remember well, when one Saturday afternoon in October of 1984 I was told, face to face, that I had been adopted. The first feeling I had was of gratitude and sorrow. Pain for not being able to thank my mom for so much love and sacrifice (with everything that implies raising a child trying to be a mother and a father at the same time).
My mother sent me to San José de Morón School (which was one of the best in our neighborhood) and, although I knew she made a great effort to work all day, I always felt her absence at typical school plays and parent-teacher meetings.
During the past months, I thought a lot about my family of origin. I tried to imagine that 16-year-old girl, pregnant, at that time. I think a lot about the courage she went through with that pregnancy, alone and far away from her family.
I can’t help but imagine her at present, and when I see a woman of her approximate age pass by me (if I am 51 years old, she is 67), I ask myself: ‘How does she look like?’
I never knew about her, nor her name, nor that town she returned to at that time. I am well aware that it would be almost a miracle to find her since I was registered directly with my current name and surname. There was no legal adoption process (during those years, this ‘direct’ adoption was usual). Nor do the relatives who were present during those years are alive anymore.
I usually think of questions like: ‘Would I like to meet her? Would I like to see her face to face? What would I say to her when looking into her eyes?’. I asked myself all these questions and some more also, but the word ‘claim’ never appears in any answer; it would be more like a thank you. I write it down. It seems easy, but who knows what my reaction would be in that situation.
As a reference, I have a friend who was able to find his first mother in a small lost town in the depths of our country, and I was able to ask him what he said, what he felt, and he answered: “That’s it, I closed my story, and I thank her”. And I thought it is something simple and enormous at the same time.
Today, I have no choice but to accept that the feeling of a ‘claim office’ opens to me when a doctor asks me about my family history of this or that, and I answer that I really don’t know, since I was adopted. The doctor smiles and apologizes (to which I invariably reply that he doesn’t have to).
I am Victor Balseiro, Leonor and Juan Antonio’s son, and although they left many years ago, and aware that I still don’t even know the name of the woman who, at only 16 years old, had the courage to give me up for adoption, I sometimes look up at the sky and ask myself: “What planet did you come from?”.
Víctor is a Proud Adoptee.
He is also a radio producer and radio host.
You can listen to him every Wednesday at 7PM at
www.radiogrote.com: ‘Histories of the Soul’,
songs and interviews.
*La Voz del Hijo Facebook is a private group, exclusive for adoptees. Join us!