Okay, so I’ve been AWOL for about a month. What makes me happy is that I’ve gotten A LOT of messages, emails and calls about why I’m AWOL. I know it’s not natural for me to be quiet. I’ve even been quiet inside my head, and I tell you, when my inside voice isn’t talking, it’s damn scary in there. It’s good to know someone reads my stuff and everyone isn’t sitting around hoping I’ll just shut up already.
I answered each person who asked with “I’ve just had something going on” and then I got questions about what, exactly, I was talking about. Was I sick? Was I up on charges for something? Was I on a bender? My answer was no, but my “issue” has been of such a personal nature to me that I’ve been extremely quiet, for me.
This is going to be a long one, so get comfortable.
Anyone who reads my blogs knows about my great love for my mom, The True Southern Lady. I’ve written of her manias, her rules and her ever abiding love for me. I hear her voice in my head daily telling me my shirt needs another button buttoned, my earrings are a touch too much or just that she loves me. Both of my parents gave me such great love and confidence and were so close to me that anyone who knew us probably never guessed that I was adopted.
It was no big deal. I was a baby, I always knew about it, and frankly, there were lots more interesting stories in my life. My mother, in her typical way, told me about being adopted by telling me that yes, there were plenty of people who made dresses at home, bless their poor hearts, but she preferred to go to Lord and Taylor and choose the finest one they had. She varied on this theme now and then and substituted homemade coconut cakes versus the ones made by the bakery at Rich’s, which everyone knew were the best. For some reason I got the picture in my child’s mind that they picked me out from the low lying, horizontal freezer section in the A&P on the corner of Clairmont Rd. and Briarcliff Rd. in Atlanta, though I’m fairly certain she never mentioned that.
So my folks were my folks. My mom, I swear, had a psychic link with me always. She found me in more bad situations than I care to remember. Many times I would be cruising as a teenager and look over and there would be her big blue eyes, glaring a hole in me. She was my friend, my confidant and my mother. My dad, too, was everything a dad should be. Loving all of the time, but with a constant brewing disappointment at my inability to throw a ball.
So, I never looked for my birth mother. My only thoughts about her were vague, hippy filled fantasies wherein she morphed into Joni Mitchell. My mother, being who she was, baked a pound cake for her friend, a judge, and had my records opened. Of course it was illegal, but no one stood a chance when Frances asked for anything. She told me as a teenager that she had more information for me, but I was too busy doing everything I could get away with and some things I couldn’t and just wasn’t that interested. If it wasn’t a boy in a sports car, I really couldn’t have cared less. We spoke of it occasionally over the years, but truly, I just had all the family I needed.
When Mother died, she left a big file of stuff for me. Suddenly I had my birth mother’s name and long letter, written to me from my mom, with other details. Still numb with missing her, though, I just let it go.
So, the years passed and meanwhile I signed up to be a bone marrow donor. In early March I was notified that I was in a narrowed down group and was asked to provide more information. Of course, I had none. This is something I really feel led to do and it killed me that this would hold me back. While it wouldn’t actually keep me from donating, it would keep me from matching the most lists.
So, quietly, without telling anyone, I wrote to my birth mother, drove to the post office and mailed the letter.
You know how, when you take Dayquil and drink a cup of coffee you feel like you’re not real? That’s exactly what it was like. I put more thought into mopping my floors than I did in that letter. I know there’s a thing called automatic writing that happens during seances, and it was kind of like that. Some part of me wrote it and the rest of me looked the other way in abject horror. Looking back, I feel someone, God maybe, who knows, just did this for me.
Once done, I came home, had wine, went on with life.
During the night, I awoke in a sweat filled panic, went to the downstairs bathroom and was desperately sick. I thought about terroristic threats to the post office. I plotted whether I could intercept the letter. I prayed the mail man would be drunk.
For two more days I walked around hoping I’d have a stroke. I cried when I couldn’t find socks that matched. I shouted at The Goose because he snored. I called The Boy horrible names. It just so happened that Cricket was home all week for spring break and I’m sure she worried (more than usual) about my sanity. I went to see a movie with her and had to leave the theater frequently to have panic attacks.
On Cricket’s birthday, three days later, after two rockin’ margaritas, I sat in my living room watching her open her presents. I casually opened my computer to check FB and email and opened one I didn’t recognize. The first line was one of the sweetest lines I’ve ever read in my life and, sadly, caused me to run to the bathroom, once again, and be ill. Without disclosing something that’s very private, it started out “I never knew I wasn’t breathing for 48 years…” and suddenly, it was very real and I realized that I was dealing with an actual human being, not the Joni Mitchell from my imagination.
Cricket saw me run to my room and came after me to find me curled up on the floor, keening like a harpooned seal. Looking back, it was another humorous moment in my family but, at the time, felt like unanesthetized dental surgery. She ran and got The Goose, who began flapping around me asking what was wrong. None of them knew I’d sent the letter and fully believed I’d gone around the bend, once and for all. “Issomethingbrokenareyoudyingdoyouhaverabiesissomethingonfire”, the questions came at me, strung together and meaningless. I just pointed to my computer and The Goose began to read. Then he had to sit down. He had to read with his lips moving because it was just too much. He’s been begging me to contact her for years (because he believes he is always right about everything).
“What is wrong with you?” he kept yelling. “I don’t know what to do with you like this! I’ve never seen you act like this!”. There was a TON of confused shouting and I was crying, which is practically unheard of. I believe at one point I tried to slither under my bed.
What killed me is that, in my heart, I felt like a traitor to my parents. No matter how many times The Goose told me how happy they would be for me, I ached for them and knew that I could never allow anything to diminish how much I loved them.
Then a very wise (and stylish) friend said something to me that changed everything. What she said was “you didn’t stop loving Cricket when you had The Boy. Your love grew. When you light a candle from another, the first doesn’t go out, silly, you just get more light.” From that moment on, I put the guilt away and tried to find a place to put all this new.
I don’t remember what happened after that. I know her letter was amazing. My main fear in this whole thing was that her family would find out about me and she would be embarrassed. I sent her the letter disguised in a card in hopes no one else would see it.
Turns out, they all already knew.
I made it to a first meeting, before which I discovered half a lint covered pain pill in a drawer and swallowed it with vodka to make sure I didn’t bolt from the car along the way.
When she met me for the first time on the steps of her glorious antebellum home, I thought to myself, “Well, damn it, who is this woman? Are there other people here?” because she looked to be about my age. A truly beautiful woman with a sleek blond bob, tiny and wearing a green sweater that could have been plucked from my closet. I could hardly bear to look at her, it was just that intense. And so, I turned to her husband, a clone of The Goose. Both 6’4”, wearing blue shirts, they looked to be the ones related. Her lovely husband wrapped his arms around me and said something like “I was one of the first ones to hold you” because he was her friend at the time of my birth and I felt truly at ease.
Just like that, my fuzzy head started to clear up and I realized that these people were not afraid I’d intrude into their family and ruin things. They really did want to meet me and, over the next few hours, I discovered just what incredible, loving people they really are. Also, looking at her beautiful self, I am thanking the gene fairy. Darn, she is one really cute woman.
Throughout this month, I’ve met her daughters. They are super intelligent, beautiful women, but that’s not the half of it. What they are is cool chicks. Girls I’d pick for friends. Girls that wouldn’t hesitate to misbehave with me. Girls I wish lived next door. I’ve met their pretty children. My kids have met them all. In fact, my kids have been so supportive of me that I absolutely do not care if The Boy fails Latin. He has hugged me and told me he loves me more since this started than any other 16 year old around, and those of you with 16 year old boys know that’s saying something. Cricket has been right there, talking me through everything. The Goose, always a know it all, really has known it all during this. While my brain has been on DEFCON 1, with sirens and flashing lights, he has talked me down off the ceiling, calmed my fears and debunked my guilt and lunacy. Although I cannot allow him to know he’s been right, he really has been my rock, just like always, and gotten me through this great but scary time.
I only told one or two friends, The Trophy Wife and Peaches, my running partner. They kept a daily vigil with me, monitoring my feelings and allowing me to be alternately happy and crazy. God bless those two girls because I almost talked off their pretty ears.
On the way to take my kids to meet the entire family, my two swore repeatedly that they would hate their 16 year old cousin on sight. Within 10 minutes, they’d all fallen hopelessly in love. They cannot wait to see him again. We had wine, played cards and there was lots of trash talk and laughter. Kids ran amuck, men watched golf and naps were taken. Cricket’s kid pheromone kicked in and she was, within an hour, being sat upon and stroked by a myriad of little girls, braiding her hair and playing with her earrings. Some played a tipsy game of badminton, but I don’t think I was one of them. I can’t picture a more perfect day.
This has been a lot to wrap our heads around for all of us. My family has no frame of reference for family. I was an only child, I never knew brothers or sisters or even aunts, uncles or cousins. My kids adored my parents, who were omnipresent in our lives, living only three miles away, but grandparents can only fill in so much. My kids did have extended family on The Goose’s side, but, sadly, they were not the kind of family anyone would want. They, except for one sweet, long distance aunt, were the stuff of nightmares. The Goose is truly the Golden Goose to be so wonderful and come from that nest of vipers. So my kids didn’t understand the beauty of a real family, complete with cousins, aunts, uncles and filled with familial buffoonery. On the way home from our incredible day, The Boy said, “Holy smoke, is that what a real family is like? I love it!”.
So, this is our new reality. Every time I see her, my birth mother and I laugh and say, “Can you believe this?” I look forward, every day, to seeing an email from her. She is nothing short of a delight. The awkwardness is almost gone and, as Cricket says, I am hardly on good behavior with them anymore. I love it that her girls have embraced me, not minding sharing a little bit of their mom with me. I revel in the fact that one’s 16 year old son friended me on FB. It makes me feel cool.
I know most reunion stories don’t go like this. I’ve heard that most of them don’t. I guess that’s one reason I never planned for one. In my wildest imaginings, I never thought we would meet, much less that I would meet her family. It all still feels a bit unreal, like Christmas morning. What we have here is like an arranged marriage. It is now up to us to make our relationship. But we have so much in common, likes and dislikes, love of antiques, hatred of the cold, that I can’t see that it will be difficult.
There should be a better name than birth mother. It sounds cold and clinical and doesn’t translate what I owe to her and what I feel. What she did for me was to protect me, at great cost to herself, and provide a wonderful home for me. She gave me a life and then allowed me to have a fabulous life. It is the most selfless, generous thing I can imagine. All the while, I felt she was loving me from a distance, just as, on special days like my birthday or Mother’s Day, I would pray that her life was just as happy. It seems as though it has been. Maybe this is why we can come together now as something more than friends.
I know that my parents can see me and, as usual, they are happy with anything that makes me happy. Honestly, viewing us from Heaven, my mom is probably more worried about the fact that I am still wearing a bikini at the age of 48, shameless hussy that I am, and my Dad is most likely more focused on The Goose’s golf game. They are bragging on their grandchildren, playing celestial bridge and Mom is disgusted that my cat sometimes gets on my counter. Their love is, as ever, unwavering and abundant. There is never a day that I am not thankful for all the love and confidence they gave me and so happy that things went the way they did.
And so it seems that love is the easiest thing to multiply, even for a math idiot like me. As the Goose and I lay in bed the other night he turned to me and said, “How is it, that with all the horrible mothers out there, you ended up with two this great?” I’d like to come back with a flippant answer like “well, I always recycle” or “because I don’t step on spiders” but I realize that I am beyond blessed with this and I feel almost guilty for the sheer happiness. I know I don’t deserve all this but I’ll certainly take it.
And now, that I’ve gotten all this off my chest, I can get back to writing about serious subjects like squirrels and pigs. Thank you all, who wrote to me and cared when you thought I must dying, otherwise, how could I have been so quiet. I might point out, though, at no time did ANYONE offer to bring me a casserole or bake me a cake.