Tag Archives: family

It’s all good…

Visiting the topics inherent in Kathleen~Cathleen brings us all into some sensitive territory. The truth is that although it’s a controversial subject, Cathy and I enjoy each other.  A great deal of what we cherish would never have come to light if we hadn’t explored the shadows our relationship sprang from.  The patina of our relationship between us grows richer and more exquisite and the sheen never dulls with time.  We are aware of the irony and paradox we live with. The closer we get, the deeper the loss is felt.  Still, it’s better than the void. It is worth the risk to have what we share.  It holds a place of honor in my heart, in my family, in my life.  For this, I am grateful.

To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

Forty Years Later Letter

Dear brothers and sisters – Stephen Joseph, Michael Francis, Brian Frederick, Mary Ellen, Kevin John, Deborah Marie & Regina Marie,

I am writing you today as your sister. I need to tell you some things and share a part of myself that got sideswiped when we were all still together – a part I never really recovered with you. It affected Mom and Dad, too but that’s a different letter that needs to be written another day. They did the best they could.

I want to tell you some things – complicated things – but before I do, I want to tell you that I love each one of you for being my brothers and sisters. Even Johnny, who left us by accident before most of us were born, is counted – the one who took on the mantle as the family guardian angel as our first brother and was the first one of us. Even though he was gone, Johnny was always there as part of my first memory – I was the next one born after he left. He was a part of the family fabric as first son, as though he was standing right there. He was looking after us from heaven, as Mom always said. No matter what we were doing, where we were or how we needed him, he was there – checking in. I felt his oversight when I came out of brain surgery. I knew it was him and that he was there with me – guiding the doctor’s hands, making sure I was okay when I woke up. Dad was there by my bed, my head all wrapped in gauze. I think he felt him too.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry I couldn’t share Cathy’s birth with you. I know now that she, like Johnny, was a presence in our family – invisibly but palpably – not only for me, who grew, felt and watched her grow from my secret belly, but for you, too – each of you, who knew without saying or telling that news of Cathy was missing from the table.

If Mom and Dad had folded the indiscretion and Cathy’s existence into our unfolding cast of characters in the family story, chances are that none of us,  and least of all me, would have been able to let her go.

I’m sorry for the loss of Cathy in your lives right from the beginning. Gaining these past twenty-two years between Cathy and me since she turned eighteen has been a gift beyond hope. Thank you for loving her now, even in the limited ways to be found – and for loving me anyway, besides and always. I love you too. I feel you inside the beat of my heart when I say “my brothers and sisters.” We learned love as a family. I do love you.

Your sister,

Kathleen Mary

To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.

Three Poems

One

Girls in white dresses dangle rosaries in the May procession.  I sneak Mom’s cigarettes and smoke in the woods with my best friend, Bonnie with breasts, teased hair and gum.

Two

Grandfather is taking my brothers on a fruit boat to South America. Being a girl means I stay home.  I didn’t know there was a difference – until then.

Three

Cloistered nuns without voices pray

To heal the world outside the gates

That keep them safe from it.

I want to join them; an offertory…

And then you kiss me;

I sing instead.

~~~~~~~~~~
To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

Language for Invisible People

One challenge of life-in-reunion is finding language that supports it.  Adoptees become the usual “daughter” or “son” after the initial “adopted” child fades to becoming simply “the child” of their parents – adopted or otherwise.  The parents are considered the “adoptive parents” socially at first and then that term is dropped to “parents” by the time the child comes of age unless there is a conspicuous reason to include it.  “Adoptive parents” become “parents” and “birthmother” disappears to become an historic reference – a woman who’s name and true story remains veiled behind the faceless storybook role she plays to produce the consequence of her decisions in the form of a child. Of course, the generation when my daughter was born preceded open adoption.  From discussions with members of triads (birthparent, adoptive parent, child) involved in open adoption, I wonder if the gap has closed much or whether it remains enigmatic.  My gut says it’s still a can of worms.

The word  “birthmother” was coined a few years ago to define the role I am in.  The definition can be found in the medical or law dictionary but it’s not to be found in standard dictionaries. If you google a dictionary online, it comes up short – no results.  Dictionaries that do include the word “birthmother” define it as “a biological mother.”  That sounds like a word for a breeder. It has a clinical ring to it. I am not a breeder.  I’m a conscious person living an intentional life who became unintentionally pregnant at an early age.

When I am introduced by Cathy as her birthmother, it is because she needs to differentiate between her adoptive “real” mother and me, her “unreal” mother.  It’s a painful setup for me but I am powerless to change it. I bear the consequences of my decision and becoming nameless is one among many.

Words are important in our society.  Without a name, it does not exist. So for now, this is a word I need to embrace no matter how it makes me feel.  There is no satisfying word she can use that protects me from the loss of my limb, the child I brought to bear.  I am part of a paradox that includes and excludes me from the definition of the word “mother.” Even my child takes an explicitly matter-of-fact stance on whether the “M” word is one that I have her permission to use. I do not. So it goes.

When I introduce Cathy to people, it is as my daughter and she’s okay with that.  I’m glad. I am grateful to use the word “daughter” for my first child, the baby I bore unable to raise.

The possessive “my” before “daughter” looks innocent enough. In reality, that two-lettered word is loaded with contradiction for any mother who has relinquished a child.  Papers with my signature lay buried in a file cabinet somewhere in New Jersey as proof of a dispossessed child and any claim I ever had on her. For eighteen years I didn’t know if she was still alive while her real “mother” watched her grow by day and night, one year after the next.

Now we have been in reunion for twenty-two years.  It is a relationship lined with familial aspects of mother and daughter.  It is also a relationship that bars me from using that word out loud.  Ever. Our relationship is defined somewhere between yes and no, visible and invisible, possessive and dispossessed, a word and a wordless place.

There is a body of layers – physical, emotional, spiritual – between my role and our connection.  There may never be a word for me that answers the heart between vanquished mother and reunited mother. Maybe having the word doesn’t matter as much as what we are saying to each other and who we are being with and for each other.  There is no one like me.  There is no one like her.  We are unique in our bond and words cannot break or bind it – words can define or distract but in the end they are only words.

On the outside, I am cool and collected.  Nonplussed and immovable. When I get flustered, I remember that what we have is an unusual and remarkable gift. If I take it for granted enough to get annoyed, all I have to remember is what it was like when I didn’t know where she was, what she looked like or how life was treating her.  To know these things is nothing short of a miracle for me – no matter what I am called or not – and I hold on to that knowledge like fine gold. Our connection makes me much more than a breeder and less a nameless mother under indictment.

There is love between us.  It’s a love that belongs to us. We get to share this love with family, friends and deep community who share our lives in Portland.  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  … I will care, watch, listen, tune in, pray, sing and wait.  My mother heart beats blood we share.  If the perfect moniker is to be discovered for who I am to my daughter, it will merely be a word for what is already there.
~~~~~~
To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

mothertone & ReunionEyes

Mother & Child

Kathleen~Cathleen

mothertone –  That’s me.  A me you might or might not know.  Either way, it’s a slice of life as I know it and a possible surprise to the unsuspecting friend, acquaintance, fan or customer. Blog “mothertone” speaks from my voice as a birthmother.  I’ve been in reunion with my forty-something daughter, Cathy, for twenty-two years now.

If you already read this on the Quality Folk blog, you might like to click the blue arrow above to previous posts for more background. Welcome to the story of the story.

Cathy and I have been writing Kathleen~Cathleen for seven years.  It is a memoir from two perspectives, me the birthmother I am and she as the child-in-reunion she is. For seven years we have been brewing on the same chapters, designed to describe the turning points in our relationship.  We are committed to being in relationship for life. Kathleen~Cathleen explores the challenges inherent in a long term relationship-in-reunion.

Housed in the framework, the culture of our times, we found ourselves in an undiscovered place – a crossroads with no roadmap. There was no language, literally no words, to tell us what to call one another or how to introduce each other or carry on in society. Even today, there is still no word in the dictionary for what is only recently referred to as “birthmother.”  An ancient delivery system of child to an family, the word itself seems to have been banished from a designated definition, place or description in the book of words. No discussion can exist that uses a word that doesn’t exist.  A turning of the linguistic back created an invisible wall between what is and what is not to shield the saddest of separations in the family domain, that of child from mother and mother from the child.

Cathy and I are protective of the truth harboring our relationship.  Since the conception of our book in January 2004, we decided to write freely – together – but not to share our writing with one another until we were done.  We would leave the truth of our words to describe our mutual experiences and let them grow in a  garden of chapters, unaffected and uninterrupted by the gaze of birthmother on the words of her child and the child’s eyes on the mother’s as they attempt to describe the journey from and to each other from the inside out – a memoir in duet.

Kathleen~Cathleen.  Our names are just one of many synchronicities common in our story.  “At 18” opened in labor & delivery and was followed by an eighteen year-old girl calling the adoption agency to inquire after birth records only to find that her birthmother had called the same day.

From beginning to end, this story describes life-in-reunion in the long term – after the honeymoon glow grows dim and the shadow of loss comes to anchor in grief, and the journey through the uncharted rift of relinquishment-in-reunion that comes to roost in all the colors and shades of reconciliation.

Many drafts in, the beginning is finished and our friend and editor, Barbara, hand-delivered it in New York City on Mother’s Day, two weeks ago.  For the first time, eyes and hearts will take in both sides of what we’ve each written and they will decide what we’ve got here.

We think we know what we’ve got here.

We’d like to share it with you.

So now, we’ve started new blogs to begin to talk about it.

My daughter, Cathy’s (Cathleen) is ReunionEyes and mine (Kathleen) is mothertone – our side roads from the life and adventures of she, as mother of two young sons in Portland, Oregon and me on the maternal side of the singing, string-playing songwriter you’ve been running into over music all these years.

I know it’s on the personal side. That hasn’t stopped anybody from following the thread of our history over the years – the music, the art, the writing, the shop, the stories – it’s ALL been personal – all along.

We just happen to be in a business that is about people, folks, community, music, harmony; and this is one of my stories about being a girl who came of age between two worlds and grew old(er) and wise(r) with some grit, salt, tears and laughter mixed in. It’s all in there.

If you prefer, you can stick with the music, the ukulele, the song-singing, the music calendar and not stop to worry yourself about the intrepid territory (did she say birthmother?) described there.

We’ve always been out, Cathy and me, but that’s a whisper in a noisy storm of unspoken stories shifting to be heard.  It’s been a very quiet theme all these years, decades, centuries – why yell about it now? Well, it’s too a quiet story to hold it back forever.  It may just be that the time has come to let this story out.

So this is just one way of talking about our story. Blogging from both sides is an interactive side-journal to writing the book.  The blog is one way for both of us to talk about our process and the things that we think about – inside and outside of our chapters.  We’ll write freely about mutual topics we choose. We won’t expose ourselves to each other’s views and answers to our questions in common just yet.  YOU, the reader will learn what we both think  – long before we do – and you’ll come to your own conclusions – a bit wiser than either of us. The story is bigger than the two of us put together. That’s why we decided to tell it.

Kathleen~Cathleen and the two collateral blogs are a social experiment between Cathy and me.  We have chosen to commit our experiences to words, in the hope that understanding for people affected by adoption, relinquishment and reunion, will grow and that they will be encouraged by what is possible.  Imagined or realized, reunion opens much more than a door to a greeting from a long lost relative.  It is a family claim.

Now, according to ground rules Cathy and I established for ourselves seven years ago, we are going to blog freely without visiting each other’s blogs or writing.  We are still deep in drafts of Kathleen~Cathleen. Our aim remains to remain in a free-zone from the influence of each other on our writing until we have completed the story.

Someday soon we will read it all and this part of our shared privacy protecting words and chapters will be finished and over.  Until then, we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing for a long time now. It’s a safe way for us to tell the story. It gives us the room to breathe as we approach turning point chapters in our relationship and spit out the hard parts along with the rest, some in words that haven’t been said out loud before this.

So, I hereby invite you, dear reader, to witness a previously unexposed part of the life of Kate; the Kate you know and the Kate you don’t.  My blog at mothertone will reflect the dilemmas and victories of a birthmother-in-reunion. You are also invited to Cathy’s blog and thoughts from the world of an adoptee in longterm reunion at ReunionEyes.

We hope that our work on Kathleen~Cathleen will create a roadmap for anyone seeking reunion and that it will give them courage to seek what’s possible by reading our story.

We appreciate your comments as we bring our project, book and blogs into the world. Another birth of sorts – only this one belongs to the family of man – the story belongs to all of us.

Feel free to explore mothertone and ReunionEyes for a taste of what we’re up to and respond with anything you’d like to share.  This is an interactive effort that we hope will benefit anyone interested in understanding or pursuing reunion.

Harmony is no small gift. We appreciate that much of what is discussed on these blogs may come as a surprise to readers, even close family and friends.  Please bear with us as we allow the true discussion to cross the table – if not yet with each other, then with you. We appreciate the protection of our privacy as we begin to introduce our process of writing Kathleen~Cathleen and the variety of forms its effect may have take flight.

Thank you for the incredible support so many of you have given us over the years – in our music and art – as we continue to participate in the ongoing parables of Life we share, observe and sally through as a community in art, music, heart and soul.   – kate

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To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

dr. phil called …

Otters by steve einhorn©2008The phone rang on a rainy Thursday morning, January 15, 2004. I was working the City Desk, as my desk was affectionately called, in the upstairs office of our musical instrument shop. Artichoke Music was the folk musician’s hub in Portland, Oregon. My desk overlooked the main floor where I could see my husband, Steve, as he encountered customers of all shapes and sizes passing through our doors. He was responsible for the bounty of beautiful instruments hanging by their proud necks and waiting to be lifted, played and taken home from the blonde maple walls that held them on display. Steve was a zookeeper of sorts. He loved the instruments, knew their history, all of their idiosyncracies. He played the go-between and facilitated matching the stringed woody creatures with the people who came itching to play them. I loved watching him work with the people. He was a trustworthy guide with experience, humor and grace. Our customers loved him and so did I.

The caller on the phone surprised me. It was Sharon, a therapist my eldest daughter and I had seen years before. Dr. Phil’s show had called her because of her groundbreaking reputation as a social worker in the forefront of adoption and reunion therapy. She was also a birthmother in a longstanding reunion with her daughter. She and her daughter had led therapy groups for birthmothers and adoptees in reunion, respectively. Cathy introduced me to the idea after she started in the adoptee group and, taking her lead, I began attending the group for birthmothers. The experience helped us during a time when this kind of therapeutic support was unheard of and we pioneered the world of reunion under the compassionate wings of these two remarkable women.

The Dr. Phil show was looking for a “veteran pair” in reunion for a show they were planning. They needed a mother and child in a reunion that had come to maturity. The production assistant got the directive to call Sharon for a lead. Sharon was calling me because Cathy and I were the first ones to come to mind. Would we want to do the show?

Before giving the network our contact information, she was checking to see if we would be interested in telling our story on Dr. Phil’s show. They would fly us down to Los Angeles the following Tuesday, tape the show Wednesday morning and run it nationally that afternoon. Maybe Cathy and I could take an extra day in L.A. and make a holiday of it.

I called Cathy on her direct line at Nike, told her what was going on and asked her, “What do you think?  Do you want to do it?”   She said, “Sure. I need a haircut before we go but sure, let’s do it.”

I called Sharon back and gave her the news. She passed it on to Dr. Phil’s production assistant who would call me later with details.

Cathy and I have always been “out” with our story and circumstances. I don’t have a television but I knew who Dr. Phil was. It was my mother’s favorite show. The tabloids were always full of him duking it out with Oprah. Were we ready for something like this?

I waited for the call at the shop. The phone rang and the producer’s assistant interviewed me for a half an hour. She peppered my answers with exclamations, “That’s amazing!” and “Wow, that’s fantastic!”, “Good story!”

I hung up feeling like I’d just been plucked out of my usual routine and dropped off at the starting line for a race I’d never imagined entering. More like a dream than awake, I nervously wondered if I was about to become cannon fodder for some bizarre media setting to blaze our tender story in front of millions of viewers around the country one day, left to ashes the next.

Dr. Phil’s assistant told me she’d get back to me the next day with details for the show. The call came in as scheduled on Friday afternoon. Thanking me for my time and willingness to share our story, she told me that Dr. Phil would not be using us for the show after all. Frankly, she said, our story didn’t leave Dr. Phil with anything to work with.

I called Cathy at work and asked her if she’d gotten her hair cut.

“Yep”, she said.

“Dang!  I hate to tell you this but it’s not going to happen; they don’t want us because our story is too far along and we have good results in our life and relationship and there’s nothing left for him to do to help us on his show.”

“What!  But I had all the people picked out to play our parts in the movie!” she belly-laughed.

We hung up and went back to work; me selling strings at the counter at Artichoke Music and she from her desk in the design department at Nike headquarters ten miles away.

Ten minutes later my phone rang.

I heard the tickle in her voice as Cathy said, “You know what, Kate?  The heck with Dr. Phil!  You know that book of our story we’ve been talking about writing for the last ten years?   Let’s do it. Let’s write it. We’ll shop the story to Oprah. Oprah loves happy endings. Her whole show is dedicated to inspiring people to follow their dreams and succeed. We’re perfect!”

And that was the beginning of our book, Kathleen~Cathleen.

Two weeks later we began to meet. We made an outline and laid out the chapters based on the turning points in our relationship. We would write the same chapters from our unique perspectives; me in my role as the birthmother and she as relinquished daughter in-reunion. In the first chapter, “At 18”  – me pregnant in labor and delivery and her side eighteen years later contemplating reunion.

To tell the true story, we would write independently. We made a pact not to share our writing with each other until we were finished. We would meet regularly, sort out any mutual thoughts about the structure of the story and write, laptops touching, our separate sides, views and experiences of the same chapters. Then, when we were ready we would read it to each other, together. We didn’t know how long it would take. We wanted to deliver the honest story from both sides. From there we would find an editor and a way to share it with the world.

It has taken courage for us to tell our story. We have included our real names and experiences as birthmother and relinquished daughter who have come into reunion as adults and found our way into each other lives from that moment on.

We know this is not simply a story about birth, relinquishment and reclamation. It’s a story of hope, identity and humanity. It is a story of the invisible tie between two lives sustained in different worlds and coming of age apart from each other.

We bear similar fruit, like grafted trees. She, my branch removed and grafted to another host tree, left my wound to recover and scar up over time while she matured into a healthy, unique tree apart from me in a different stand of roots.

When the season was ripe, miraculously, beyond logic and the odds, we found one another. Between the sweet and bitter truth of our story, we found a stretch of road upon which we now travel back and forth to one another. We are not the only ones. This is the road we have charted together, mother to daughter and daughter to mother. We are a pair. This book is our invisible map and how it came to light.

Today marks almost seven and a half years since we began our book. It’s almost done. Our manuscripts are thick. We still have not shared a word of our chapters – that will come when we’re sure we’re finished. It won’t be long now before we fully share our sides with each other.

Our friend, Barbara, has been the recipient, editor and holding station for our chapters.She has helped us refine it to pitch to publishers and make it ready to share with the world. It was she who hand-delivered it in New York City to its first reader this Mother’s Day. This reader is the first one to integrate the truth of our chapters, even before we do. This is a faith walk, a labor of love and an act of trust between my daughter and me. When the reader knows more than the author does, something revolutionary is happening.

Our original concept was caught in a zeitgeist when my daughter called me early on Mother’s Day morning to announce that a book much like ours was reviewed in the Parade magazine of the Sunday paper. She was frightened that our work had been for nothing. I was sure it was a sign that we were on the right path. Even if we weren’t the first out of the gate with our book, we were in the race to dispel the myths that have rendered adoptees and birthmothers invisible, not only to each other but to the world and communities they live in.

Perhaps the time has come for all of us to tell the story, each in our own way, of the oldest secret in history – the true story of relinquishment, adoption, reunion and reconciliation. We are not alone.

~~~~~
To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

mother’s day 2010

Life has its quirks. Just when you think you’ve got some things figured out, the mystery reinforces itself. Staying open to the surprise of not knowing as much as you think you do is one of the consistent charms of being awake and curious. If I ever get it all figured out, it’ll probably be over.

One of these topics for me is motherhood. Now there’s a word that evokes response that is completely subjective and strongly felt, no matter what side of the word you live on. None of us would be here without one and everybody has an opinion they feel deeply about.

I grew up in a large family. I watched my mother selflessly hand herself over to the day-to-day and wondered if that was what was waiting for me. It didn’t occur to me to get married and have kids. I didn’t think any more about doing that than going to the moon. It looked like a lot of work and there were other things I wanted to do. From the eleven year-old perspective, life in the world was worth exploring and the freedom to discover what lay ahead, under rocks and over bridges as a free agent seemed a lot more appealing than wiping snotty faces of small people who need naps and feeding a husband you hadn’t seen all day.

That was eleven. At this side of sixty; three husbands, two daughters and two stepsons later, I ask myself if the reason I didn’t hear from any of my children on Mother’s Day is rooted in that eleven year-old resistance to motherhood and a life outside the box as a traveling musician. Or maybe we were just too far out of cell range…

I didn’t know what made it all work in the family I grew up in, but “love” was the reason I was given when asked. “God’s will” was another answer to some of the scarier, deeper youngster questions, like “Why was I born?” “Why do I have so many brothers and sisters?” “Why do we have to go to church?” “Why are we moving?” and “Why do we die?” “God’s will” covered a lot of territory. It wasn’t the answer to why I had to eat my peas at the dinner table but it was a holding place for many of the deeper questions. In retrospect, “God’s will” may have stimulated my sense of urgency to work for civil rights and social justice. Bucking the system for a better world seemed like my best defense to a blanket holding tank I felt a strong need to avoid. “God’s will” changed lives, justified wars, broke people and made them sad and powerless. Working for civil rights, against The Vietnam War, pro-Women’s Equality, gay rights, all became platforms for change that made more elbow room on the playing field for the disadvantaged. I was naive and irrepressibly optimistic. Motherhood looked submissive and didn’t appeal to me. I decided to become a folksinging songwriter instead.

Then I got pregnant. I was eighteen years old and it was two weeks after Rowe & Wade went through. I got the word that new life had started its motor inside my body and I had two weeks to decide what I was going to do about it. The doctor handed me a script with the phone number of a certified abortionist. If I did nothing, my condition was going to turn into a person with all the quirks and needs built into its DNA. If I had an abortion, I could put off motherhood until another time.

I was young and had dropped out of college after an unsuccessful freshman start. Since I didn’t know what I was doing next and “God will” wasn’t clear, I opted to take the next six-plus months and have the baby, give it up for adoption to a nice family who wanted a child to take care of, and then get on with whatever life had in store for me. These were dues and I was paying.

That’s what I did. It was in the olden days of homes-for-unwed-mothers, alias pseudonyms for birth certificates and a months-long disappearance act from the local scene to pull it all off. Eight years later I had another baby. She filled the void and began to heal a hollow sadness created by my relinquishment. Everything about her made me happy. Then her father wanted more children and I left.

Years later, in reunion with my first daughter and reunited with my second daughter, my life steered toward a man I loved and married with two stepsons, 11 and 5 years old. The boys were young, beautiful and traumatized by divorce fallout. I was an outsider but had a sense of humor and could cook. They liked my youngest daughter and wanted her around to scamp with. The kids chose each other. They invited us over. Perhaps they sensed my mother-apprehensive nature and unconsciously thought I might be safe. They could ignore me without offense and I would be part of the background of home with legs that walked around and talked to their father. I could be motherly at times and put good meals on the table. They had their own mother for the rest and she ruled the mother ground in their lives with a regal hand.

Sixteen years later, the four children are grown and gone happily into their adult lives. The girls are beautiful and mothers themselves. The eldest has two gorgeous sons we love without bounds. The youngest has the first grandchild, a young girl who won us all over at birth and will always be the first. There was no question from the start that she possessed my heart in no small way.

The boys are men now, handsome with beautiful hearts and single. The two brothers are close and they treat their youngest sister like blood. The oldest boy was present at both births of my oldest daughter’s sons. They are proud of their roles as uncles to our grandchildren.

We are a family. Hallmark holidays do not define our family. The children in our family have other parents in their pool to consider. Ex-spouses and primary caregivers. We have blossomed into a small tribe of diverse, compassionate, bright and loving people. Life is complex. Proximity is sometimes out of range and we forge ahead to what is in front of us. We give what we can to help them, whatever we have. We hope they feel the love we feel for them. A great deal of the time, I wonder if they even know how much love is here inside for them, how much each of them spends on my mind every day.

I want the eleven year-old in me to go away and get busy making a better world so I can concentrate on making a turkey dinner with all the trimmings and find the place for my family to gather around the table. I want to cook all day and lay their dinner down in front of each one. A prayer slips off my tongue and whispers a hope that God’s will brings my children home and fills them with questions that I can only answer with love.
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To read Cathleen’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
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mother’s day 2011

Reunion Day

Kathleen~Cathleen

The earth spins on its axis between sun and moonlight as oceans undulate under millions of waves rippling across the depths of its watery face. We look out from the green path between old growth cedars waving from the hill above Budd Bay skirting the southernmost inlet of Puget Sound.

Living in the rainforest bears no small relationship with water. Living with a Pisces makes sense here. The wet, the sunbreaks, the salty breezes beckon doors open behind and in front of us in our wee house so we are outside inside and inside out. Bundling wool and fleece above rubber-booted feet and under capped heads and sunglasses protect us from the elements of fickle weather and the ambush of mythical sunlight that makes us giggle in surprise.

The season turns.

Blue bells crow amidst long arcs of fronds pointing to flower seedlings patted into the ground by Lucy’s little hands. The flowers in Mary’s May garden are growing into gangly pre-adolescents in anticipation of full bloom ahead as they strive to gain ground in front of the kind-faced statue of the blessed mother. We are excited for their colors to come out. To my delight, the forget-me-nots from our Portland garden gleefully show off their happy faces as they resurrect who they’ve always been once again and strut their stuff way ahead of the pack in their pots on the back steps. Old kitchen to new kitchen, the migration of home to home follows an intuitive map in new surroundings.

Home. Parents move from the home they knew to a home in assisted living – reluctant at first and now, comfortable and happy. As long as Ole Dad has keys to car (can you spell freedom?) and a place to play his guitar for the Lord, it’s all good. Mom reads her paper and loves to get news in the mail. Handwritten letters make the cross-continental trip from northwest to southeast in a stream of reminders that its beloved reader is cherished by one of many children who wish not to be forgotten in old age. In a blink of an eye we see our future in their faces and turn to grab today like a pirate’s treasure before youth blurs to memory in a watery mix between body and soul.

“We were like children laughing for hours” sings Eva Cassidy’s in my earbuds, “…because I know you by heart.” That song kills me. She kills me. The delicious quality of her voice always brings my tender heart back to life as it beats under the noisy thoughts in my chattering head. I’m thankful for her voice and always say a small prayer for her wherever it was she went when she took her voice and left.

Prodded, I wake up my heart and take it for a walk to the local coffeehouse where I can hide out inside her voice and lose myself in the lining of dark wood walls and java to stream through thoughts while gazing out the window under sunny blue sky and fat clouds stridently sailing underneath in billowy puffs to kiss its belly until they disappear into each other.

The day is beautiful. I am happy to be in it. Ordinary. Quiet. I listen. One step removed from all that propels me into action I stop, holding my space as though sitting on a step betwixt to and fro, perched to watch and soak in the world around me as it spins outside my vision and holds me by the feet. I am thankful for gravity without asking. It’s just there and I am here, connected by nature. For now.

“One foot in front of the other” rings my mantra as we traverse the climate change. I walk.

My heart galvanizes as it navigates the territory of its nature inside the family and music of this past year. The love for my children wriggles its way into the life I lead and this time, this Mother’s Day, my heart is safe and full and more sure of itself than before. I plunder the wrinkles of my past to discover love between the folds no matter how the sheets lie.

My firstborn turned her fortieth year this month and suddenly I see myself as I was not so long ago – and then my eyes catch a reflection in the mirror to add another twenty years to the creases springing from my eyes as they crinkle into a grin. She has defined her life differently than mine but we are not so different behind the scenes. I treasure the common ground that belongs to us. We took a long and intrepid path to meet in this field plowed with the bones of our ancestors.

My oldest daughter and I have been writing a book for seven years. It’s beginning to shed its skin in anticipation of its walk in the world. It won’t be long before we lift the blinds and let the light shine on our story.  I was pregnant with her when I was eighteen. She was eighteen when we met. The story is beginning to shed its skin in anticipation of its walk in the world.  It won’t be long before we lift the blinds and let the light shine on a tale run on wheels of synchronicity against all odds. We made a pact to tell our story simply to help others who may wonder what can happen when the truth is found, face to face. We inhabit one of the oldest love stories. It is both tender and cruel. Without giving it away, it needs to be told, as all good parables do.

Her younger sister is in training to save the world through global economics, fair trade and saucy songs. The two beauties, my daughters, boomerang from both sides of my heart like trapeze artists of the highest order as a big hallelujah springs from crown to toe. I am a lucky mother.

The geometry of our journey has drawn us through the flux and flow of high places and deep ravines. I have traveled a long way to their joy. Their brothers are my stepsons from early on and we commune in a peace that comes with truth and love over time. I’m more sure-footed than before. I am here for them and they know where to find me. I can still mess up but they won’t disappear and neither will I. The psychic gut that ties the rope of our bridge is woven with love knots strong and intricate enough to hold us easily as we cross over to one another. We share each other so sweetly now. I relish this time and swing gladly into the paradox that has become our family.

The songs looking to find and follow the road home have found redemption waiting for my traveling heart. I set my bundle down. Grandchildren gather and clamor for hugs amidst laughter and kitchen noise. A lost mother finds her children waiting to greet her as she takes her place at the table. Prodigal mother, daughter and sister. Pass the butter and break the bread. Home at last. Hallelujah.

Mercy High, Mercy Low (Cathy’s Song)
by Kate Power ©1998 BMI/Katidoo (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kpse1)

I can’t love you more than I do
True lovin’s hard to explain
You’ve seen me through
You see through me
You see the things that I do

Mercy high, mercy low
No goodbye, just hello
Come right here
Don’t you go
Here under sky
On stepping ground
Take my hand, turn around
and we’ll waltz up sweet memories

I do love you more than old shoes
More than the sun on the rain
There’s nobody’s got somebody
The way I got you on the brain

Hold me, let’s dance together
One, two, three
Steps break like sudden feathers
And hearts break free

I was so wrong, you were so gone
I never got over your name
Just to lose you, forever
And we’re dancing together again

Hold me, let’s dance together
You lead me
Waves break in turning weather
and hearts break free

I do love you.
I do love you.
I do love you.
I do love you.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.