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The Quest of Kathleen~Cathleen

Quest - Theodor_Kittelsen,_Soria_MoriaIn April of 1997, Joni Mitchell revealed that she had found and reunited with her relinquished daughter, for whom she had written “Little Green” on her “Blue” album.
On that same weekend seventeen years ago, Cathy and I were attending the American Adoption Congress Conference together in Vancouver, WA. There was a special announcement at the conference as the news broke and told the story worldwide that Joni Mitchell, the famous musician, had reunited with the baby whom she had given up at age nineteen. Joni and I had both been female musicians facing a turning point decision at the same age. The fact that she had let the world in on this most personal event rendered new courage for me to be open about my experience, and to share the truth about me and Cathy.

When we got to the conference, Cathy and I found that there weren’t very many attendees who had been in reunion for more than a few years. Being in reunion was still a new concept. We were among the few who had come as a reunited pair to explore what was there for us.

The featured presenter, Betty Jean Lifton, had inspired us to overcome some of the challenges we had faced in our relationship with her book, The Journey of the Adopted Self. Now after eight years in reunion, we were in a new phase without a map. When we asked Betty Jean if she could write something on long-term reunion, she said that we were the ones who should write that story.

So we did.

We drew up our outline ten years ago and decided to write our chapters without sharing with each other until we were done so the reader could integrate our experience as a whole and come to their own conclusions. As we approach the final draft of the final chapters, we also begin to prepare ourselves to share its pages with each other, with you and with the world.

Now, Cathy and I return to the American Adoption Congress conference – themed “Building Bridges for Changes” – as presentors to read from our book, Kathleen~Cathleen, and describe the experience of the birthmother and the relinquished adoptee in long-term reunion. This is the beginning, the first time that we share our story with each other, and with the world.

In light of the new birth record access laws in Oregon that affect not only adoptees, but for the first time in the nation, first mothers, we are encouraged to be brave and deliver our efforts in the hope of deepening understanding. We appreciate your support, your comments and your heartfelt thoughts as we open the book on Kathleen~Cathleen.
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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Flashback

Kate at 4After a couple of trains to Portland in the past month, it was Cathy’s turn to take the train north to Olympia to write together this past weekend.  A blog about what happens when we write is this week’s focus. To talk about writing and to re-experience the issues we write about are two different conversations.

The former has to do with the unusual process we devised early on to share topics but not our content with each other. So far, that has given us the freedom to speak honestly and it has lent an element of trust that brings us close together.

Our secrecy surrounding our writing with each other also has given us permission not to talk about the things we write about. The fallout from what we don’t say remains to be felt when we share it all. There’s a good chance we will need some extra care and guidance once we finish to share what it is we’ve created.

What an unusual pact we’ve made! It is an act of trust – to say what is true for each of us in spite of the impact it may have. It scares me to think about reading about ways I have disappointed her. We have based the work of the past eight years on our personal truth. “The truth shall set you free.” The truth is what we perceive it to be and that means there will be flaws in the story that rise to the surface to self-correct as we speak from two directions. The intrigue has become part of the story.

Sometimes the actual experience of writing ambushes us by waking up subliminal unrest and moving us in unexpected ways that tells each of us that even though we have talked about our relationship a great deal over the years, we are still in the thick of experiencing it with all the consequences of our separation and reunion; who we were, who we are, and who we’ve become – to ourselves, to our families and to one another. Our relationship is part of our connection and disconnection with the world around us.

A good example from my side is a small but significant event that occurred last summer at a writers retreat called Fishtrap. I’ve been on the advisory board, presented on panels and taught songwriting at the Fishtrap writer retreats over the past ten years. It is a place I consider a harbor as a writer. I have written some of my best songs there, including “Travis John” “Before You Go” and “Wallowa”.

Cathy and I read from our book for the first time at last summer’s Fishtrap. Cathy was sequestered in a car away from the building while I read. Conversely, I sat in the car while she followed my reading with hers. The audience was the first group to ever hear us read our separate sides to the same chapter. As they listened, they integrated the collective truth that rose from our four-minute excerpts expressed in our own voices from our mutual story.

When I came back into the lodge after Cathy’s reading, I was struck by the feeling in the room and the faces visibly moved by our story. Comments of enthusiastic support rallied around us and we were encouraged to finish the book and get it out into the world. We had crossed a threshold by sharing our words out loud and in public. It was a big moment for us. Victorious. A first.

The next day I approached a publisher at the retreat to ask about finding an agent. I was nervous because this is one publisher I had hoped to send our book proposal to. I had broached our project with him a few years before. At the time, he had said, “Let me see it when you’re ready” and his words stayed with me as we worked and wrote. Now that I was bringing it to him, I introduced Cathy and told him where we were in our process.

What I thought happened next and what Cathy saw happen were two different things.

I thought I was presenting my daughter and our book to him. His response was that our subject was not something his company was interested in. I retreated to make room for the buzzing circle of writers waiting to approach him. My guts felt tight and I held my breath with an odd sense of relief for having tried. Rejection is something writers are supposed to expect and get used to. This was the first.

What Cathy saw was me poking the publisher with aggressive body language that told him about our book project as though he couldn’t have it, that it belonged to us and that there was no way I was going to give him our book. She was confused.

That five-minute interlude turned into a conversation that went on for hours between Cathy and I in front of her tent up the hill from the lodge, watered by tears so deep I couldn’t stop.  My daughter watched me with a serious face and listened to sobs of loss bound up inside her first mother, as they loosened into a river, undiluted by the passing of forty years. I tried to explain myself but knew I was in over my head. I didn’t know how to let go of this.

I was confused. I had no idea I had came off as a bully rather than the friendly herald I thought I was announcing readiness to share our book. Instead, my conversation was seen as aggressive and defensive, as though to prevent our book from being taken by this powerful publisher who could deliver it to the world. I had made a stand, he rejected it and I rejected him. What was happening?

I didn’t want them to take my baby. This was not about Cathy writing a book with me, it was about me giving her up and getting her back and now that book was getting closer to completion, I was giving her up again. The book was the baby. It was a massive bit of transference. I tell myself this isn’t therapy; it’s a metaphor – an emotional artifact. My job is to gather the truth and simply to tell the story the best way I can, simply and as the narrator. Not so simple.

The truth is that the truth isn’t what I thought it was. I thought I was trying to write a story of events as they happened. Instead, I find myself holding on to the baby in the story with my life – and this time, with everything defined and embodied in words, as if she would stay with me – I wasn’t going to let her go anywhere but where she belonged, with me.  The old sorrow takes the baby back again and again as though the story never happened or needed to be told.

I don’t know if I’ve ever lived out a metaphor like this before. Now I wonder if what I think I’m doing may only be a front for what I wish to do; to know her, to love her and to let her go to be part of the world – this time in a world we share to the end. It’s my job to finish my side of the story. The ending will take care of itself.

To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, go to ReunionEyes.

Expectations

Sisyphus by Titian, 1549I asked Cathy pick the blog topic these last couple of times, partially to see what themes are on her mind (since I can’t read it) and to give her the lead for this installment of our autonomous, mutual blogs.

I didn’t expect the header “Expectations” to come back. That’s a big word that leads us up and down the map of our relationship and juxtaposes our position and balance in each other lives.

When I was pregnant with Cathy in 1970, the expectation was that I would disappear long enough for her to be born, give her up for adoption and then return to life “as I knew it.” I relinquished her with the expectation that Cathy would be adopted by nice people who were mature compared to me at eighteen years old, stable in every way and in a good position to add a beautiful new baby to their household. I expected that they would love her. I expected that, with luck, we would be given the gift to meet one day. I also had a core understanding, based on the papers I’d signed at the attorney’s office and the rules of closed adoption in 1971, to expect nothing.

Every season that passed through Mother’s Day, birthdays and holidays, a quiet sadness marked my internal calendar.  I kept a positive face on my history and did what I could to live in the present. I didn’t expect my daughter in my life.

Then we met in a way I never expected. It was serendipitous, even miraculous.

I had been conditioned through almost two decades to dismiss my feelings of attachment to my first daughter. Breaking the rules by going into reunion brought me into an unexpected realm of freedom that birthmothers do not experience. It’s taken me many years since we met in 1989 for me to adapt to Cathy’s way of allowing me a place in her life. I didn’t expect to feel so close to her after being so removed. It’s a closeness that I protect now even when I don’t realize it.

That feeling of closeness also houses some unexpected pressure from both sides of my heart. On the one hand, I expect myself to be patient because no matter what happens, I am a participant in Cathy’s life now; she affects me and I affect her and that alone – our ongoing relationship – is more than I ever expected.

My feelings are different from straight maternal feelings. My feelings as her birthmother (I still hate that word) are woman to woman, not quite sisters or aunt and niece, not quite mother since I signed off my right to claim that role, but somewhere in between – I am like an invisible mother incognito who follows her daughter by heart. She is my child even though I was not the one who raised her. That sentence is a paradox that causes a thousand streams of possibilities between us to sing “what if’s.”

Sometimes uncomfortable questions arise on the other side of my patience that cause me to wonder.  Am I being tolerated more than included? Am I fooling myself with wishes and expectations that go nowhere? I do get to participate in her family as grandmother to her children and (yet another) mother-in-law to her husband.  But often the reality is that the gifts I give are left unacknowledged, earrings still in the gift box on the windowsill in the kitchen months later, a gift certificate fussed over at a local gift shop in time for her husband’s birthday only to be left unpicked up. Invitations arrive last minute, if at all, as an afterthought.

This happens so frequently that I wonder if it’s just their own personal culture to receive gifts as though they are beside the point and don’t warrant or expect to respond? Is it a generation thing – manners forfeited as unimportant? The amount of care or money that goes into those gifts lies mute instead of striking the happy chords they were intended for – gifts to express love between loved ones.

The disconnect of no response begs a question – how are we connected and who am I to take it to task now when I gave her up back in the beginning, the biggest gift of all, to a family of strangers? Who do I take myself for? Does it matter? Maybe not. Is it my fault? Maybe.

Expectation riding anticipation flattens into disappointment and eventually shame, lack of self-worth and default birthmother sadness take over. I hum and busy myself about other things enough to quash the noise in the corner of my heart that’s yelling “What the heck? Am I talking to the wall?”  Yes.

The happy feeling of love expressed is replaced with slowed down communication, detachment and practical conversation about any and everything else – certainly not neglected gifts. I reestablish my voice in the loving, caring tone of a mother-person with infallible, unconditional love for her found daughter no matter how hard she pushes me away. Like Sisyphus, I come to realize the absurdity of my situation and attempt to reach a state of contented acceptance. Not an easy trick for a human, much less a mythical god.

Relinquishment rejects the child. No matter what the reason behind it – youth being mine – it is the most primal rejection possible for a newborn baby. Could it be that her offhanded rejection of my gifts now plays out the deeper story of a gift refused as she cried in the arms of her adoptive mother all those years ago?

If that’s the case, then I expect to hold her in the arms of my heart with love and understanding – even at a distance – until my love becomes real and sinks in. Perhaps she can grow to expect my love more than the gifts and loving words that pale next to expectations to be with me when she was born. Maybe she doesn’t even know why she feels this way and I do – as is sometimes the case with mothers and daughters.

Maybe I’m off track here but maybe not. It makes a weird kind of sense that we are still on tender ground when it comes to gifts we wish to give to and receive from each other. The original gift of life has been received. The gift of each other is still in delivery.

If we are as honest underneath as we attempt be in writing, perhaps someday we will get to exchange gifts of all kinds with the joy, love and delight that embodies them.  I expect is that love will answer what questions remain in our hearts in time. My deepest expectation is that that will be the best gift of all.

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

The Priority of Writing

Railroad Uke drawing by Steve EinhornThe priority of writing has become a full-fledged player in my race for time. Everybody I know is chasing tasks and goals and the convenience of modern technology both helps and hinders getting to home base. Buzzing blackberry, the ding of new email arrivals. What to answer, what to wait on, what’s right in front of me as the seconds on the wall clock tick-tick-tocks.

Sitting in my bathrobe here at the kitchen table when I should be packing for the gig – we’ve got to be on the road to Hood River by 1o o’clock and there are a million things to do. A song I really like, half-written on my granddaughter’s art board, yells at me not to forget about it behind where I sit. My suitcase is open from the last trip and awaits a fresh refill of clothes and I still need to take a shower! Where’s my coffee? If I wait to finish packing, I won’t get back to this. So I rush and race to find these few words in stolen moments. I need to remember to breathe and as I do so my grin comes back.

Cathy and I are neck-and-neck in a race for getting our writing done in parallel and on time. We’ve been eight years into this book. It needs to be done soon. We’re in the middle of our final draft. The chapters we’re working over now haven’t been touched in three years. We’ve learned so much since then – this draft is thick with rewrites and revisions – to simplify and tell it better and better each time. The story’s there.

Our story holds a lot of power over us to be told. It never gets boring and the motivation grows stronger with time. We encounter people who would benefit from our experience every week. It also brings up things that would be quite happy to sleep quietly in our psyches if we didn’t have to do this. But the truth is that it’s worth it and we’ve been given too many gifts not to share what’s happened with us because it can happen for others and they don’t know it yet. Reading our story might give them the insight they need to explore and discover as we have. Love has multiplied and continues to grow between us. It’s worth the pressure.

Before I moved to Olympia, Cathy and I had a summer filled with writing together in my basement writing space. It was a protected spot. I’d make snacks and be sure we had things to drink and comfortable music to listen to as our keys tippity-tapped. It was a luxurious season of shared time for us in Portland.

The one time I broke down suddenly tearful, afraid that in the end, when I finally get to read her side that I would discover how disappointing I was for my daughter, she told me that she loved me and my fears disappeared. Now it doesn’t matter how hard it gets. This is something unique we get to do together and we offer our story knowing there are people who need it more than we need to keep it to ourselves. Life is confusing but the answer always seems to boil down to love.  I guess I still am that flower child I was back in 1969. Some things don’t change and the truth promises to set us free. “Love is the answer” is my mantra.

Far from that summer in the writing space, Cathy and I chase our time and doggedly grab for the next words begging attention to keep the true story gestating in its own ingredients, healthy and growing, until it’s ready to be in the world.

I take the train to Portland to write with her, she takes the train to me to do the same. We are on the rails and moving, separately and together, committed and dedicated to share a most unusual tale that, in the end, once it’s done and out in public hands, will touch others who are connected in parallel with some part of our experience.

Maybe then, a new level of understanding will come to the forefront and the shadows that wrap us all will flee and what remains will be the truth and renew a million opportunities to connect and love one another.

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

A Chord

I am 5 years old…  My father has shown me a trick on the piano as we sit together, his fingertips settled on the keys to play.

“One key, skip a key and then press the next key.  Doe – re – mi, doe – mi, see?  Harmony!”

“Now watch. If I move my fingers up to the next note, skip two, press three, there you have it again, harmony… but it’s a little higher, doe – mi.”

A lock of his brown hair falls out of place over one eye and he looks like a kid, like us – always something just a little out of place, no matter how well we put ourselves together.

“Now, you sing it when I play it.  I’ll be doe and you be mi.  He puts his long finger over my little one and we press middle C together.

He sings “doe.”  I follow under his note “doe” imitating the sound, my little voice under his.  He walks up “re” then once more to show me the third note.

“Mi” he says gently, “that’s your note.”

I hear the sound and sing it louder, “Mi.”  His “doe” still sounding, in chorus.

“We’re a chord!” he says smiling.

I grin, looking up to him. “Let’s do it again!” and we do.

I am 14… My father sees I’ve gotten bored with the autoharp he gave me for my birthday four months ago.  My eyes look longingly as he plays his guitar with me in a chair across from his in the living room.

“Dad, can you show me how to play the guitar?”

“Sure honey, here.”  He holds up his guitar by the neck and hands it to me and then picks up my brother Mike’s classical guitar leaning in the corner of the  wainscoted walls and throws it comfortably on his lap.

“Here’s what you do.”

He begins to show me.  I follow his fingers around the neck with mine, finding the stations for each fingertip; G, C, D. “Four Strong Winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high, all those things that don’t change, come what may…”

“Okay, go try that for awhile” he says.

Thirty minutes later I’m back for more.

He laughs when he sees I’ve got it.

I am 15… My father has driven me to The Experiment, a new folk club with psychedelic walls that has opened in the next town just up the hill from the train station in Bernardsville, New Jersey.  It’s my first audition, six months after my first three chords.  I’m young and the owners are busy until I sing, “The way I feel is like a robin…

The bartender behind the counter stops circling the counter with the wet terry rag. A smile cracks the owner’s face and he leans against the doorjamb, clipboard folded across his chest.  I close my eyes and press into my guitar to sing.  I get the job.

Forty-five years later, that day is still one of my father’s favorite stories.

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To read Cathleen’s counterblog, 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 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.

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