In the course of writing my solo show, I?ve been digging around in old folders of stuff relating to my adoption. Mainly it?s my original birth certificate, notes of my search for my birth mother, the ?script? I used when I first called her, a photo and an accusatory letter she sent to me. And a school essay titled ?A Perfect Day?.
It?s a strange and embarrassing fantasy piece from my childhood, which makes it perfect for my show. It?s in a ratty school exercise book which I know is from my primary school but I?m not sure how old I was. Between 11 and 12 I think. I know it was around the time I learned I was adopted. The main thing I remember being told was that my real father was French and so began a series of fantasies about who he might be and how we might meet.
The writing may seem a little immature for that age but remember you have to make allowances for us special children that were ‘pre-owned’ (my new stigma-free term for adoption).
I?m not sure how I?ll be using this in the show, but I thought I?d share a few raw excerpts. These are lifted straight from the essay, complete with original spelling, tense changes and other grammatical errors. The occasional snotty yet witty observation is just my way of feeling superior.
A Perfect Day
Margaret Gallant, Lenham Primary School
I was on a day trip to France. We got on the Gowers coach at 8.10, the driver was called Thomas and he wore a blue suit. At Dover we were stopped and they checked our documents and then we got on the ferry. We ate our packed lunch and then I had chips in the cafeteria.
*The first of many food references. Why the fascination with our coach driver?
At the Eiffel tower we have to fill in a questionnaire. It was very busy and I missed the lift and was scared and sick but a mans voice asks me if I?m alright.
*Is it you Jesus?
He?s wearing an ironed blue check shirt with the top button undone and cream trousers with brown slip on shoes and lovely after shave. He has brown eyes like me and and his hair is short and well styled with brylcreem.
*Wait, is my dad gay?
Pardon me he says in french but I think I know you. People look at us and I know they can see the recognition and I bite my lip and look up at him. You do, I said? He smiles because he understands there is nothing else to say.
*What the hell have I been reading? Did I also toss my hair as I bit my lip? Oh and the word is resemblance not recognition. Show off.
He put his arm round my chilly shoulders. Dad, I said I acknowledged you would find me one day. I wanted to, you’re my special girl he said. I went red when he said that. I have never had children because I lost you he said.
*God, the things men say when they?re trying to get us into … wait, is my dad a pedophile?
Do you want to go to the top he said. Yes please I said. He was in charge of the eiffel tower and we went up in a special lift that was for special guests. At the top he bought me an ice cream and a hot dog with onions and a keyring.
*All traditional french delicacies. Nowadays I prefer my hotdogs with onions and ketchup
I saw the rest of my class and they were looking at us jealousy. My teacher came over and asked who I was with and she looked angry and said I shouldn?t have left the group. My father said hello, this is my daughter Margaret and put his hand protectvively on my shoulder.
*And snarled ‘back off bitch, she?s mine’.
Afterwards we went to the shops and then we had dinner. I had a toasted cheese sandwich. *After what? Did we buy me a nice new nightdress?
Then it was time to go home. He asked me if I would like to live with him but I said I had to get on the coach. He looked upset but I said I would come and see him or he could come to Lenham. When I left he gave me a 5 franc note and folded a corner and wrote love from your dad.
*The bank refused to cash it. Bastards.
If you want to know how the story ends and the grade I got for it, come to see my first solo show at FronteraFest in January 2006 in Austin, Texas. Dates announced in October.