Dear Mum and Dad,
Before I met you, life was pretty tough for me.
My birth father ended up in jail when I was young and my mum battled a drug addiction.
Before long, things became so bad that me and my sister, and two brothers, Daniel, 12, and Shawn, six, ended up in care.
My sister and Daniel were adopted out, but Mum cleared up her act and Shawn and I wound up back with her.
Sadly, it wasn’t long until she relapsed and was back to her old ways.
We spent years living in homeless shelters and caravans, but no matter how bad it got, I tried my best to protect Shawn.
‘It’ll be ok,’ I’d reassure him in the darkest of hours.
One day, when I was 15, I came home from school to find my mum seething with anger.
Enraged, she grabbed my throat and threw me onto the lounge.
‘Are you ready to die tonight?’ she snarled, before she dragged me to the balcony where she attempted to throw me off.
Fighting back, I ran to the bathroom and locked the door.
I knew I had to leave - and so the next morning, I did just that.
Getting emergency accommodation from the government, I threw myself into school work.
By then, a judge had granted an emancipation from my parents.
Determined to be independent, I got three casual jobs, saving enough money to buy my own caravan.
One of my jobs was an admin role and it’s there where I met your wonderful daughter Andi, then 17.
‘Come for dinner. You can meet my sister, Alyssa, and our parents, Bill and Gina,’ she offered one day.
You’d heard about my story through the church we went to.
We had such a lovely evening and you were all so welcoming. It was the first time I could recall feeling the warmth of a family dinner.
Around two months later, the two of you had a proposition.
‘Move in with us. We want you to experience the rest of school like the other kids. You can keep one job and focus on your studies,’ you offered.
I was amazed by your generosity, but also hesitant,
Life hadn’t been kind to me. What if you changed your mind and I ended up homeless?
After a few days of thinking things over, I decided to go for it.
I can safely say, it was the best decision.
‘This is going to be so fun!’ Andi smiled.
You’d kindly converted the garage into my bedroom, kitting me out with clothes and books.
At Christmas, you even got Andi, Alsysa and I matching pyjamas.
It was so great to hang out with the girls - but it wasn’t always just fun times.
Just like them, I had chores to do, curfews to stick to and family meals to attend.
You both embraced me as your own, showering me with love and kindness.
No longer having to work so much, I focused on school and got the grades to go to uni where I studied communications and behavioural science.
‘Well done, love,’ you told me, Bill.
Living at uni, which was two and a half hours away, I wrote the occasional letter.
But we didn’t stay connected. I already felt like you’d done so much for me and purposely kept a distance.
Beginning the next chapter of my life, I married my boyfriend Danny, then 22, in 2007 and became stepmum to his girls, Abby, then three, and Emma, one.
You couldn’t be attend as coincidentally, Alyssa had her wedding the same day, but you were apologetic and phoned me to say congratulations.
Five years later, in 2012, I gave birth to our daughter, Molly.
Peering down at our tiny bundle of joy, an enormous sense of grief flooded through me.
I didn’t want my birth parents to be her grandparents, I wanted that to be you two.
Dropping by your place for dinner a few months later, I looked at you, Gina, and asked if I could call you ‘Mum’.
‘Of course!’ you cried, hugging me.
From that moment on, you were Mum and Dad to me.
And to Molly you were Nanny and Pappa.
We spent weekends and holidays together, enjoying heaps of family time along with Alyssa and Andi.
Then, in 2021, we were visiting when you handed me adoption papers.
I was floored and tears filled my eyes.
‘Are you sure?’ I choked.
Nine months later, it was official. Aged 37, I’d finally been adopted.
‘You’ve always been our sister, but now it’s real,’ Andi and Alyssa gushed.
It felt so special.
Sadly, my biological brothers have both passed away, but I am in touch with my biological sister.
I’ve since forgiven my biological mum and we occassionally talk since she got clean.
I endured such a hard childhood, but I know how lucky I am to have Alyssa, Andi and you two in my life.
You’re such brilliant grandparents to Abby, now 19, Emma, 17, Molly, ten, and my other girl, Willow, seven. And you treat Danny like a son.
Recently, I wrote a book, Always Forever, teaching kids about unconditional love, which is something you both gave me.
I can never thank you enough for the kindness and light that you brought into my life.
Without you both, I know my world would be very different.