Hello...this is blogger Linda's cute house, decked out for Valentine's Day, Saturday.
While mostly we write about what is tearing our hearts out, I want to share today and through the weekend the wonderful heart-warming card that I received from my daughter Jane in 1984, when she was seventeen.
This is really huge card--by huge I mean it's 20 inches by 12.5 inches--and the picture on the front is of a little guy in red outfit, a "Ziggy" character who is surrounded by a sea of people, doctors, nurses, tennis players, firemen, ladies in hats, cops, students, a Frenchman in a beret, a guy with a cello, hippies, a witch, a woman with a briefcase, a hobo, a waiter, a maid, and so forth...and the message above Ziggy's head says:
JUST THINK, VALENTINE! ONCE WE WERE PERFECT STRANGERS, BUT THEN FATE STEPPED IN, AND THROUGH SOME MIRACLE, OUT OF ALL THE MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, OUR PATHS CROSSED!
Inside the card says: NOW WHAT?
Jane had written a note inside that said: I just wanted to say I love you (underlined several times) in a very special way, to a very special person, on a very special day. Love, Jane.
She added ♥ and a smiley face.
So now you understand that though we mostly write about the troubles of a relationship with our children, there were some very warm/loving/happy times...which I need to remind myself because I also remember this:
I hadn't seen her for a while and she was not speaking to me, when I was asked by her parents to come to Wisconsin to take care of our granddaughter while they were away. I jumped at the chance. Jane was married and living with her husband in a one-bedroom cabin in the woods, but granddaughter Kim, who had moved in with the grandparents when she was six, was still living with them. Jane was probably working full time at that point, and anyway, her ability to manage a job and Kim was questionable. I know it's confusing, but so was Jane's life. Her epilepsy made her life unstable.
The adoptive family returned, and we went to Mass Sunday, the day before I was to leave. I had not seen Jane the entire two weeks I was there. Jane and her husband were expected to be at Mass, as the Catholic church in their small town in Wisconsin has only one service on Sunday. I was standing at the end of a pew. Jane came in as the Mass was starting and said hello to what seemed like half the people in the church, continuing to nod to this one and that one even after she slipped in next to me. I felt like an absolute idiot, as half of the people she was saying hello to knew who I was (the dreaded birth mother!) because I had been there several times, knew the priest, et cetera. After what seemed like an interminable amount of time, Jane at last turned to me and said, Hello.
If there was ever an way to show me how angry she was with being adopted that was it. We--her adoptive parents, granddaughter, Jane and her husband--went out to brunch afterward, but again she barely acknowledged my existence. Her parents tried to normalize the situation without much success. After brunch, I did speak to Jane and her husband without anyone else around outside the restaurant. I do not remember what was said. The next day I flew back to New York. I still had absolutely no idea what I had done to cause her to reject me. We had not had an argument. She never gave a reason, she had just drifted away. I felt terrible, I cried a lot. Linda talked me through Jane's birthday one year.
In the middle of this separation and silence, I was on a panel at a CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) retreat. There I was talking about how to normalize our feelings and heartache, trying to help other mothers learn from my experience, when my own daughter wasn't speaking to me. At an imaging workshop given by Carol Schaefer, author of The Other Mother, I ended up in tears as I visualized Jane walking across a bridge with a present for me, a small package wrapped in rich pink tissue paper. Who knows what that was except my fondest hopes....
I heard Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound, say that we mothers should once say to our surrendered daughters and sons: I'm sorry. I'm sorry you were adopted. That's it. No adding, It was the times, you don't know the pressure I was under, my parents made me do it--just a simple, I'm sorry I let it happen. I'm sorry.
I called Jane a few weeks later on a Saturday afternoon, and, with pounding heart and a flush of sweat (yes, I was anxious), did just that. Said I was sorry, plain and simple. She said she didn't know what to say, but we spoke for over an hour. It was a good conversation. She did not call back the following week or month. More time passed.
But one day, Jane called out of the blue, and we went on as if the disconnect had never occurred.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry you were adopted. If it's possible, every adoptee needs to hear those words once. Maybe the occasion of Valentine's Day--an ancient holiday with roots in the pagan culture--is the time to do it. Adoption leaves a lot of broken hearts in its wake. If it's possible to help a healing, and mend a sorry heart filled with hurt, maybe this is one way.--lorraine
PS:In the bizarre-news category: Kristen Chenowith, whom we previously blogged about as she said in her memoir that she was not interested in searching for her mother, says that she believes her natural mother may have congratulated her at a beauty pageant before disappearing in a crowd. Could be true, I suppose, as some of the stories in the National Enquirer are. And having heard a million strange stories about mother/child relationships, this just might be true.