The Hartleys formally adopted me through family court, and as part of the process, I picked my first name to use going forward. I chose David because it represented strength and seemed to fit me better than my original name, Oswaldo. I also took their surname, Hartley, as my own. It was an honor, and I felt so proud to officially become a son in the Hartley family of Cos Cob, CT.
When I arrived in the USA, I started to live with the Hartleys in Cat Rock Road and became a part of their family. The adoption was a mere formality, legalizing what had taken place long before. As soon as I arrived, my parents enrolled in North Mianus School in the fifth grade. I didn’t speak the language, but they thought spending a semester in fifth grade would enable me to learn English. Additionally, my Mother enrolled me in an English for an adults night class at Greenwich High to ensure I learned English quickly.
At home, I learned to work hard and gave back as much as I took from the Hartleys. My Father taught me how to use his vast arsenal of metal and woodworking tools. We would spend nights after dinner in the basement working on one of the many projects my Father had going at the time. Also, he taught me how to manage the day-to-day operations in the film rental business they had at the time. I worked in the company after school every day.
My Mother taught me how to be creative, develop a storyboard for her documentaries, write a screenplay, cook, and work in the garden.
At night, after dinner, we would watch TV, I would do my homework, and play board games with my parents. My Father loved to play darts and was really good at it. It took all my concentration to get good enough scores and not lose every time. Sometimes, I would be good at it and hit my Father. He was very supportive and would praise me. I think he just let me win so that I would be encouraged. He was great with his hands and had an extensive workshop in the basements of the house.
Those early formative years at the Hartleys gave me a sense of purpose and a great background to succeed later in life. Because of them, I grew up in a great town, finished high school, went to college, and learned much about life and my place there. Even now, I am quoting my Father on technical aspects or learning how to wire a house. My Mother was more creative and spiritual, and I have a vast well of knowledge about psychology, the environment, creating things, and being in touch with my inner self because of her determination and understanding of life. We used to have long conversations about the meaning of life, how it fits in our present reality, and what to expect of the future.
All those skills stuck with me as I became an adult and are still with me as I write this memoir about being one of the Hartleys and growing up in Greenwich, CT.