In 1979 I was born to a 14-year-old girl in Syracuse, New York. After my birth, she left Syracuse and returned to Maryland, her home state. In the Seventies, young girls were still sent away if they became pregnant out of wedlock and this case was no different. When she left, I was all alone with no mother to sooth my newborn cries, to hear a familiar voice and hold me close in this strange new world. She left, I believe, out of no choice of her own and without giving me a name. On that below-zero winter’s evening, my fate was left open to anyone who wanted me. Yet on the very night of my birth, a phone call was made from the hospital that would give my life a wonderful new direction.
It was about dinner time when a close friend of my mother’s, a nurse in the hospital where I was born, called to talk to her. Dinner time, as it is for most families, is often hectic, but it was always especially hectic at our house. Yes, there were two parents and a house full of kids, but ours was a different kind of family. My parents then had eight children, but all were adopted, some had different abilities, and they were a variety of races. Plus, they had foster children. So, normally, dinner time was too busy for mom to be on the phone.
With no caller ID available at that time, you answered a call when it came in. My mom let the friend know that it was not a good time to talk. This friend rushed to tell my mother about a baby girl who had been born that day at the hospital, and quickly described my hands and feet. She also told my mom that I looked like a Grealish. My mom let her friend know she would call her later and got back to making dinner. Finally, when sitting down to eat after things had finally calmed down, she remembered what her friend had told her, and she explained her conversation to my dad. She described the little baby girl that was born with only one finger on each hand, one toe on each foot, and that the friend described the baby as looking just like a Grealish.
At this time, my parents had just finished adopting my older sister Amy, who was born with Turner’s Syndrome. So they actually had all of the legal documentation in place that they would need for what was about to happen next. Upon finishing her story to my father, my dad simply replied “Let’s get her!” That was it. I would have a family, and three days after I was born I was home. This was a super-fast turn- around to adopt a baby. No pregnancy to get through, and no being on an adoption list for years hoping for a newborn. There I was, I had a home with a loving family and I was given a name, Bryony. My mother had told me that she found my name in an Irish novel that she was reading at the time of my birth. With Grealish being an Irish family name she thought that it was fitting. And being born with a disability, the meaning of my name – “The Strong One” -- would give me the power to be just that. Growing up, I never understood how important that meaning would be for me and how I would need to call upon that time and time again.
When you truly Live, Eat and Love well every day, wonderful things can happen.
Wishing You Joy, from the Fingerless Kitchen ~