When talking about the basic details of her life, Alison Dolan has to be flexible. After all, she spent spent much of her childhood believing she was from rural Pennsylvania. Then she learned the truth.
As a newborn, she was found on a cold February morning in a Budweiser box left amid the trash in a Bronx alley in New York.
But she can't be sure she was born there.
"I am asked almost every day of my life, 'Are you Italian, are you Spanish, are you this, are you that?'" Dolan said "One person said, 'You look Italian, you should say you're Italian.' Well, all right, I will."
The only clues Dolan has to where she came from are in a brief newspaper clipping from 1987, containing sparse details of what condition she was in when she was found, and in the memories of a neighborhood woman from almost two decades ago.
She was a tiny baby with her umbilical cord still attached, cleaned up and taken to the hospital by two teenage boys who heard her cries on their way to school, according to the newspaper article.
The doctors said she had hypothermia from spending six hours outside on the snowy ground that day. Because of her miraculous survival in the cold, the newspaper article about Baby Alison in an incubator made the front page.
Now, 19 years later, Alison has grown up in the care of Kevin and Jo Alene Dolan, a couple who were so touched by the newspaper story, they adopted the girl. They named her, raised her, and when she was 12, they told her the story and showed her the clipping.
"I thought when I first read the article, that one of them [the two teenage boys] was my father," Alison said. "Then after speaking to a woman who lived here, and saw the boys, and saw them carry me, she said they were good Catholic schoolboys, and they weren't 17; they were 14, and I'm like, 'OK.' So I sunk back and said, 'Maybe not, maybe they're not my father.'"
She carries that newspaper clipping in her wallet at all times, she said.
"It's my story," she said.
And that story is what she is using to start assembling her own autobiography, and she hopes to pick up more facts along the way. She knows it's a long shot but she's hungry to find the woman who left her that chilly morning.
"I just really want to know what happened, want to know for sure, and not feel this empty void I've been feeling for the past seven years since I found out," she said. "I'd like to know what happened and put it to rest and move on in my life. And I think finding her and knowing what happened would help me."