The first conversation I had was with Aunty Wana, she helped to piece together the family picture and find out where I fit into the story. She assured me that no one would come after me for retribution, as I had worked out pretty quick that I was the product of an affair. Aunty Wana gave me Malta’s phone number and with much fear and trepidation, I gave my new found sister a call.
Malta is a big softy. Warm, open and just beautiful. She welcomed me, I was family, regardless, blood is blood and family is family. She invited me to her house for the weekend and we spent a cold Saturday snuggled up on her couch under blankets, sharing our childhood stories. She is a foodie, and oh what joy that could be found in a warm beef stew on a cold afternoon!
She shared with me her memories of Dalbert and her childhood, a man I will only know through the stories from his children.
Then we wandered around the Auckland Art Gallery and found ourselves in the room with the beautiful Māori portraits by Gottfried Lindauer. We discussed whakapapa and the importance of family and the history of Maori people. Then we talked about our own family history. What does it mean to know your ancestors? To be able to trace family history back generations? What does it mean to belong?
I had grown up with the haunting feeling of being abandoned. It just seems to be the baggage that comes with being adopted. It didn’t matter how many times my mum told me I was her ‘choosen child’, I still felt the deep wound of rejection. Now here I sat, discussing family with someone I was connected to and I felt love from this person who really didn’t know me at all. A sister, what a treasure I had found, what a beautiful gift I had been given. Through Dalbert's two marriages, he had fathered 10 children, that's a lot of siblings! Malta told stories of what it was like to grow up with so many brothers and sisters. I can't even imagine this.
My mum was pregnant when she adopted me. She had been trying to have more children, but she couldn't carry them full term and had lost seven babies. So even though she was pregnant, she went through with my adoption because she thought in all likelihood, she would lose her baby. But a new surgeon came to town with a new procedure to ensure safe passage of her precious cargo and my brother was born six months after me.
We had grown up like twins, inseparable. We started school together (even though he was technically too young!) and stayed together through every grade. He was my best friend. But when he was twenty four, Quintin was working in Sydney and riding the train home late one night, there was a terrible accident.
He had been standing in-between the carriages, up on a ledge some how and the train jerked. He stood over six feet tall, so as he feel backward, he put his hand up to steady himself and he hit a hot wire. He was killed instantly. It was a devastating blow and one of the darkest seasons of my life.
For years afterward I would see him, catching glimpses out of the corner of my eye. It was always someone else of course, same height and build, my mind could just not accept that he was gone, I could just not reconcile that I would never see him again.
Now I have a sister. I know we are only family by a technicality, we have the same biological father, but I feel there is something deeply profound about our connection and I would like to know her more.
I don't know how many of my siblings will want to meet, no one knew I existed, I have always been a secret, so to knock on the door of people's lives at this stage of life, may be too much for some.
I will however begin the journey and first of all I would like to meet Brownie!