Tag Archives: kathleen~cathleen

Old Family Photos

DottiePix_Cathy_DanceRed1

After I had relinquished Cathy, I received three small photographs of Cathy as a little girl. Sr. Alice, my liaison in the adoption, had become the surrogate grandmother in Cathy’s adoptive family. Sr. Alice and I had been close during my pregnancy and she was the one who prophetically told me that “twenty years from now, the laws will have changed” and cued me to let the agency know where I was if I wanted my daughter to be able to find me when she turned eighteen. This became a turning point in the reunion story what would become our shared book, Kathleen~Cathleen.

Meanwhile, three small greeting cards surprised me in the mail over the first ten years following Cathy’s birth with a snapshot in each one that gave me a hint of my daughter’s face. I preserved them in such a good hiding place, that at one point they became lost to me until my husband uncovered them while putting our things away after a move a few years ago. Those three little pictures of Cathy were my touchstones during the years of our separation and proof that told me she was alive and growing – and hopefully thriving. I pondered deeply who she was under the face of the little girl in the pictures.

Ten years ago, Cathy and her husband and parents, Dottie and Pete, came to our house for Christmas dinner in Portland. Cathy had bought a house down the street with room for her parents, and they were still in the chaotic mix of moving in. Her parents were on their traditional visit for Christmas, and her mother had brought a handful of pictures of Cathy while she was growing up. Dottie and I sat with our heads close together on the couch and she described each photo as she handed it to me from the top of the pile in her hands. I tried to hide the swoon I felt in my gut as snapshots of Cathy’s past were delivered hand-to-hand from her mom to me. My eyes scanned each scene like a pair strong magnets to find signs of happiness and sadness in the face of the girl we both loved.

I was moved by Dottie’s generosity. I had asked her on a prior visit to Cathy’s if she might bring a few pictures to show me someday. She not only kept her promise and brought them, but she passed them on for me to keep.

When we finished with the last photo, she handed them to me and said, “These are for you.” I slowly folded them back into the plastic bag she had brought them in and held it with both hands on my lap like a delicate and sacred artifact. I looked at Dottie and thanked her for the gift of the photos and got up to put them away upstairs where they would be safe.

I opened the top drawer of my dresser and slipped them under my folded clothes like a hidden treasure and felt my face heating up in a threat of tears. My stomach clenched and chest tightened like a balloon filling to burst. Laughter rang out from downstairs over the holiday music playing in the background. I looked in the mirror on top of the dresser and my face looked back in sad distress. A few tears splashed on the cherry dresser top and I wiped the wet runners that raced down my cheeks. Crying always made me mad. I pulled for air deep into my lungs and said to myself, “Stop. It’s okay. She’s okay now. She’s here in my house now. We’re celebrating. She’s happy. We’re here, all together. It’s okay now.”

I dabbed my face, ashamed at the stab of deprivation and jealousy that screamed to explode into a tantrum between my ribs. Not now. This was not the time to let feral feelings run wild. I locked eyes in the mirror and wiped the smeared mascara underneath my eyes and slowly exhaled. Checking the mirror again to see if the redness in my face had subsided, I practiced a smile to reset my face back into a festive expression, and then turned to walk back down the stairs and rejoin my family drinking toddies by the crackling fire. There was much to be grateful for. There was so much to be grateful for.

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

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Cathy’s Wedding

peach1rose5394The day before Cathy got married I had a meltdown. Steve and I had been asked to host the champagne reception on the mountain following the ceremony. Her parents would host the big party back in Portland in a chic ballroom on Alberta Street. Cathy wanted all sides of her prismatic family to attend her wedding: her parents, her friends, her birthfather, my side of the birthfamily. Cathy’s quirky humor extended to assign her ex-boyfriend (and now best pal) as a bridesmaid, and her groom’s ex-girlfriend was best man – this was Portland, after all. My kin closest to Cathy would be there.

The preparations were cheerfully coming into place. The sunny August weather boasted Portland at its best. Two of my sisters, Mary and Gina, and the wedding minister, Janette – who had also married Steve and me – were lined up in my kitchen to dunk strawberry tips into vats of warm chocolate and set them in dozens of rows on foil-wrapped trays to refrigerate. Mary and I had gone to Pastaworks to pick up the bags of cheese, tapenade, fruit, olives, and baguettes to go with cases of Italian Prosecco ordered and ready for pick up. Everything we needed was lined up by the door in bags and coolers to caravan to Ross Mountain the next morning. There we would lay the tablecloths, garlands of flowers, and platters to receive the bride and groom in the meadow below the sacred grove, and raise our glasses in the first toast to their union.

Steve and I had celebrated our winter wedding party in the same spot a few years before; a potluck of love dishes, we danced to the music of 3-Leg Torso on violin, accordion and cello among the exuberant cluster of family and friends on Valentine’s Day in 1998. Our hosts had generously invited Cathy’s wedding into their magical grove on the mountaintop. This time the celebration would be for my firstborn to exchange vows with her chosen beloved in the circle of trees surrounded by family and loved ones.

That afternoon before the big day, I ran out to the neighborhood dry cleaners to fetch our clothes freshly pressed for the occasion. Driving the short mile home, my hands tightened on the steering wheel and my chest began to fill up like a balloon. Tears started to fall out of nowhere. I pulled over to the side of the road to wipe my eyes and try make sense of what was happening. When I closed my eyes to find a clue in my distress, the answer came quickly. I wanted my mother. I wanted her to recognize my reunited child, her first granddaughter, as we prepared for her marriage. I wanted my daughter encircled by all of her family. My mother was nowhere near. She hadn’t called and it was almost too late.

I had written my mother two months before to let her know about Cathy’s upcoming wedding. The letter had turned into an apology for the distance that had grown between us. The one-sided conversation unfolded the love and regret in my heart as the words dropped to the page from my pen. I apologized for the dashed hopes I had left in the wake of my sprint to adulthood. I wanted to be the daughter my mother had wanted to have. The contents of the letter was deep but gentle in my attempt to reconcile.

Traditionally my mother wasn’t one to write or call back. Unless she picked up the phone when I called, efforts to connect with her over the years went largely unanswered. We had grown up with a strong sense that our mother’s feelings were a private affair. She was shy, quiet woman and, beyond the endless tasks of raising eight children, she was drawn to solitude.

My heart cried with the heart of a child. I wanted my mother there as my firstborn prepared to approach the altar. I wasn’t sure if she was even aware of how special this day was or what it meant to me. My heart had been wide open on the sleeve of that letter but I hadn’t heard back. I had tried not to let it matter but underneath I hurt like a baby.

I pulled up in front of my house and wiped my face, flustered, embarrassed and hurt by the attack of emotions that had overcome me. I grabbed the hanger of clothes from the back of the car and walked up to the front door. The playful chatter in the kitchen stopped short when I entered the room. The hanger of clothes was taken from my hand and they drew closer so I could tell them what was wrong.

“I want my mom. I want her to wish her first granddaughter well on her wedding day. I want her to bless my Cathy.”

I started to cry as they looked at each other with worried faces. Janette handed Mary the yellow enamel bowl and asked her to gather rose petals from the bush in bloom she had planted as a surprise at the foot of our backyard fence years before, then she ran upstairs to run a hot bath with soothing oil for me.

The tears were relentless. Hundreds of peach-colored petals swooshed the surface of the bathwater as I reached with my foot to turn the faucet on and off and mask the sound of my crying. Mary came back upstairs a few minutes later and walked in with a caring look.

“There’s a phone call for you” she said as she handed me the phone and turned to go back downstairs.

“Hello” I whispered.

“Hi Kathy”

It was my mother. She had never gotten used to my name change from Kathy to Kate when I turned thirty, and she always called me by the name she had given me. There was comfort in the sound of her voice calling me by my childhood name.

“Kathy, it’s Mom. I just wanted to call to wish you a beautiful day with Cathy tomorrow. I’m really sorry I can’t be there. I hope it’s everything you hoped for.” I heard her pause and then she continued, “I want you to know that Dad and I are saying special prayers for you and Cathy and for everybody in the family as you gather for her wedding this weekend. I love you.”

I was shocked. How could this be? One of my sisters must have called her? Nevertheless, here she was. I settled back into the water and held the phone close to my ear.

“It’s good to hear your voice, Mom. Thanks for calling me.”

She continued, “I’m sorry I haven’t written you back. I got your letter. I want you to know, Kathy, that I love you. You were my first daughter and there will always be a special place in my heart for you. I’m so proud of you, Kath. I want you to know that all is forgiven. I forgive you, Kathy, and I love you. I really do. I want you to know that. I love you, honey.”

I started crying. I could hear some urgency in her voice that I could hear what she meant behind her words. The weight began to lift from my chest and I started to breathe.

“I love you, too, Mom. I wish you could be here but I’m so glad to hear your voice. Thanks for calling me, Mom. I love you.”

We hung up. I let out a long sigh, took a breath and slipped under the rose petals in the warm water. When I came back up the air had cleared and the grief storm had passed. What family could come would be there. The rest would hold us in their hearts. With my mother’s blessing, I got ready to take my place in the circle in the sacred grove as one of the mothers, the first mother, in the family we had become.
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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.

What’s Normal Now

Otters by steve einhorn©2008Cathy and I have been through countless ups and downs, close times and gaps in the flux and flow of our active twenty-five year relationship in reunion. When we first met she was eighteen years old and I was thirty-seven. What was normal then was to meet as two people apart from each other. I was a younger mother than the one who had raised her, and she was eight years older than the daughter I was in the process of raising. We were awkward at first – what had been normal now felt out of place. We had unexpected pieces in each other’s puzzles – some that fit and some with uneven edges. We were more different than the same. With time and experience, we came to embrace the differences as beautiful characteristics that made us uniquely ourselves and our fear of being different leveled out. We have learned enough about each other to accept who we are and now it feels normal to be comfortable with each other – in both the confident and insecure moments. This is a big change from the beginning, and signifies that the healing we have hoped for is happening. It doesn’t ‘make it all better’ but it helps a lot.

At first we were shy and skittish. Now the mix of our similarities and differences have combined into a unique blend that is our love for each other. Our comprehension is growing and our love is deepening. Our hearts grow stronger, less afraid. What used to be abstract love hidden in dreams and tucked inside our muscle and bone, is now awake, alive and courses through our lives in real time, face to face. Our families accept us and circle us with support as we have accepted each other. We are a beautiful family. My grandchildren are growing up knowing that this is love.
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To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.

Aging Mothers

51 Lennie Power new baby Kathleen

My mother turns 90 today. Her smile brightens her worn and faded self as she shuffles and nods hello as she passes resident neighbors in the hallway at Lexington Manor. My memory is quick to recall her young face, cropped with dark auburn waves, sharp bright eyes and strong beach tanned arms that held me tucked on her hip while she stirred the supper on the stove. Her warm intelligence was clearly present and without saying a word she exuded confidence and wellbeing in her petite body. She had mothered nine children and I was her first daughter, fourth in line when she was twenty-eight. She awed me. My brothers and sisters beheld her as a dazzling rare bird among urchins. She was the light of our days and made everything work from sunrise to nightfall. We loved her without end.

As the lines begin to creep in around her eyes and mouth her beauty was tied to the track of time and our mother aged and grew more somber with the passing years. Things that had delighted her turned to relics in her memory of the life we knew with her when we were all so young and the world around us so bright with color and the adventure that came with every day. Routine supplanted surprise and we scattered to both sides of the continent; in contact by phone, mail and the trails from our hearts back home to hers in our thoughts.

            When I think of my mother, I am a youngster. When my daughter thinks of me, I am an elder. Although she is middle-aged now, and assumes the responsibilities of order in her household with grace, she appears in my heart’s arms as the baby I held so briefly, swaddled and close, to croon into her ear and kiss her little face hello, as my mother so often did with me.  We circle round and round as babes-in-arms in our forties, sixties, and now ninety – waiting to be held and kissed hello by our mother – the one who knew us, bore us, held us, cherished us and let us go.

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

Portland Memories

CathyKate_June 2014_Portland

When Cathy came to Portland in 1993, I couldn’t wait to show her around. I had been in love with the place since I moved there at twenty-five in 1977 – she would have been six years old. My heart warmed to the task of sharing my adopted northwestern home and the wonderful people in it with my daughter from New Jersey. She was twenty-two when she arrived twenty years ago now.

Home base was in southeast Portland and the neighborhoods that radiated off of Hawthorne Boulevard. My apartment was in a Victorian house near Belmont. It was an easy neighborhood to walk to nearby shops with breaks in the city parks. We both worked in the neighborhood off and on over time. Laurelhurst Park had a nice walk around the duck pond with benches that invited walkers to rest a while.

The list of places that became stops for us on our adventures in Portland began with eateries and bars – The East Avenue Tavern on Burnside, the Barleycorn – the first McMenamin’s, the historic Vat & Tonsure, Huber’s, and a favorite for us – Cassidy’s downtown. Artichoke Music was in the conversation from the beginning as my stop for picks and strings. Treks to the Portland Saturday Market opened up the vast wealth of creative craft talent and local food and markets; hikes up to the Audubon and the trail to the Pittock Mansion that brought us into view of Portland and the valley west of Mt. Hood and the mouth of the Columbia Gorge. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place. Watching Cathy take to the land, the city, the people and lifestyle of Portland was a joy to behold – even when she wasn’t so sure about me, she was very sure about Portland.

The beauty of the area doubled the pleasure of my daughter’s exploration. Portland became the anchor for our mutual adventure – for me who had let go of my ties to New Jersey and had grown a deeply rooted life in the surroundings and community; and she who had come to explore her first mother in The New Land and had chosen to adopt it for her own. It’s the place where our life was normal, healthy and happy. Portland became the bedrock of our relationship – the centerpiece of our struggle and understanding, our point of reference, and the place we both came to identify with and cherish as home.

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

WaldmuellerMy grandson Quinn just turned 8. His brother turned 6 last month. I love them both and they are easy with me – there is complete acceptance. It’s a lovely thing. They have no idea how significant that gift is for me. They just know we love each other and that’s all that matters. They also love my husband and call him their “Uncle Grandpa Steve”. He is a special person to them and someone they cherish. We are their artistic grandparents. They are quite at home with my hugs and laughter. They know I love their mom.

I don’t know if the complexity of who I am to their mother has hit yet. They are still young enough to take me at face value. I don’t know if they ask about why I am called her birthmother instead of her “real” mother. I’m sure they know what the word adoption means and that their mother’s life has been the journey of an adoptee.

They look at me freely, sweetly with clear open eyes. They trust me. They know who I am and they love me. Trust between us has not been broken. Their eyes don’t yet have the guilty weight of questions that contradict our trust. They know the truth but the love between us is a strong and an unquestioned bond. The love between grandparent and child is reinforced by their mother’s tie to both from the middle but it’s also a love of its own unlike the others, unconditional and freely felt.

Maybe they are young enough that the past is still a story. The person they know as me is familiar and I have always been someone in their lives. I held each of them on the day they were born, and have been peeking from the seams of their daily family life ever since. They don’t mind me.

The wound between my daughter and me is still being tended. Layers of skin have recovered the gap over time but the gnarly scar that bridges us together pronounces what happened and what cannot be undone. We have grown together from the moment of our reunion and the cells of the skin we share continue to grow.

The gift is that my grandchildren knew me from the start. I was never gone to them. Underneath the fear that my act of relinquishment could stir in them is the truth that I am here now. I am not gone. I came back. They know me. The story of loss is a puzzling story of the past. It’s relevant, scary and interesting but it’s not what they experience now. In the present, I am in the family picture. For them, I’ve been here all along.

They will know underneath all that scares them that love can overcome loss and that even the saddest beginning in one generation can find its way to begin to heal in the heart of the next where there is love. I am thankful for my grandchildren. Their mother’s tender care allows their innocence to return hope to all of us. They are in the middle of our bond and from there, love will teach them.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Family Vacation

Kate Two Fish_CapeCodFamily vacations are one of the anchors of recall that floods me with sweet and salty memories of noisy excitement, laughter and resting in a sandy wet bathing suit drying on a towel to the soundtrack of waves rolling in and out on the beaches of Cape Cod and New Jersey. I can still taste the lobster and clams dipped in bowls of warm melted butter, Este’s fudge, saltwater taffy, and marvelous fish caught by our own lines off the side of my father’s boat. Burnt Irish skin slathered in noxema at night and cousins chasing the days in and out, carefree and wild – free to explore the expansive world of sand, marshes and beach stretched all around us. First cigarettes and going to the arcade for “something to do” and passing the time just looking for fun together.

I fervently wish to reproduce that for my children and grandchildren and am stymied by the blocks of circumstance, distance and timing that make it so challenging to achieve. Sheer determination isn’t enough. I hope to figure it out while the grandkids are still young enough to initiate memories like these. Cathy’s recent trip to New York brought the family vacation quest back to mind. Her family was only a block away at the Museum of Natural History from my beloved in-laws’ apartment on West 79th Street.

My in-laws passed away recently. Their absence as my New York “Ma and Pa” is starkly felt, knowing how much joy they would have had to receive Cathy’s family after their trek to the museum. The normal scenario would have been loud and joyous hugs just off the elevator inside the open door to Apt. 6-A. Grins would take over and Quinn and Reed would be admired for their marvelous height at almost 8 and 6, their handsome looks, innate brightness and they’d be called “sweetheart” and “darling boys” with gusto. They would be awed by the welcome and feel it down to their toes. Proud smiles would fill Cathy and her husband’s chests and they would all sit down together at the table laid on a blue cotton tablecloth spread with plates of food from Zabar’s under my husband, Steve’s large gold and amber collage that hung on the wall.

Anne would have asked every kind of question to the boys, and poured exclamations of pride and admiration into the long well of happy ears as my daughter and her husband would preen from the perch of this stop on the map that was a place of home and extended family that stemmed from our mutual connection as mother and daughter.

This scenario that would have been natural, honest and predictable – a common area Cathy and I got to share in our family. My chosen family by marriage, these parents, grandparents and great-grandparents thrived on being involved and present every step along the daily way and we held them close to the heart of people we shared. They knew we had a complicated history but they didn’t care. We were mostly loved just as much, just the same.

The only exception was the in-laws’ annual family gathering for immediate family and their spouses and children to converge for a week at the whim – and as a gift – by the grandparents. The stepchildren and relinquished-reunited children and their children were excluded from this invitation. It was an odd and treacherous line of demarcation that disturbed the family peace for our little cobbled together family every year from our west coast perch. Interventions on my part did nothing to open the door nor to prevent the feelings of hurt, rejection and exclusion for my two daughters. The three of us were well-practiced at being outsiders from an early age, and we each found coping mechanisms that allowed us to come to terms with it and to accept the circumstances gracefully. None of us allowed it to interfere with the genuine loving exchange at other family gatherings when we would all come together over visits and family occasions that had room for all of us. It was just the way it was.

It was not unlike the dilemma I’m faced with as a birthmother, and as a divorced mother – there are just times when it doesn’t fit to put everybody under the same roof. The intention remains with the elders to decide who is invited to their party. We all get it and life goes on. There is still love in the family and it is protected as sacred in spite of the gaps.

In my case, now that I am an elder, I would like my invitation to become a family gathering in some natural setting once a year for my true family (which includes my first daughter, my youngest daughter, their families, and my stepsons) to provide an enjoyable space and a sense of untethered welcome. My children and grandchildren can be together and relax – to enjoy each other on a family vacation so that decades from now, long after I am gone, they will remember the sweet and salty love of being together as a family members – sisters, brothers and cousins – that no social condition or outside person can ever untie from their essential memories of true familial love.
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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Is Ignorance Bliss?

SophieAndersonTakethefairfaceofWoman_72This week, my daughter brought her family to the Museum of Natural History – a block away from my in-laws’ apartment in New York City – and on Long Beach Island at the Jersey shore where I spent many summers growing up, and in recent years with my husband’s family. Reflections of those places sparkle like sunlight on water and warm me with bits of light that merge in and out my memories of being there.

I was surprised to hear she was in New York City. She had texted that she was going east to visit her old friend, Olga. I didn’t realize that her kids and husband had gone too. Then when I saw the new pictures she posted today on Facebook sitting in a restaurant looking all summery, I began to recognize the other people in the picture as her in-laws and relatives surrounding her at the table. They are all there together. Everyone is smiling and looks relaxed – they are a happy family on vacation, just the way it should be.

Ignorance is bliss. Knowing more feels complicated. No blame for that. My role carries a weird element. It must have been too hard for her to tell me it was a family affair. I’m glad her family is celebrating together.

Inside the paradox of being an outsider as birthmother in Cathy’s world, we share a lot – more than most people in our situation. Even if the circumstances were more normal, this would have been her family by marriage. It must have been awkward for her to try to tell me about a natural family vacation when it is so far afield of what we do easily. She has matured into a middle-aged adult with children of her own and motherhood has galvanized her sense of family in deep and natural ways. It’s clear in the pictures that everybody is loved and cared for all around. That is all that matters. Life is good.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Jersey Girls – Friends Forever

1964 Power FamilyBeing a Jersey girl in the early 60’s meant that you were savvy, pretty and street smart. My oldest brother hung around with car monkeys who, bent under the hoods of a pair of Mini-Coopers in my parents’ garage, puzzled to turn two beat up cars into one running one. With cigarettes hanging off the side of their mouths, they cannibalized the engines to life fueled on beer and testosterone. Town greasers flocked to the local soda fountain across the street from the Corner Cupboard where I waitressed after school. I would watch them as I stole a smoke during my break, and they would come and go like peacocks up and down the wooden steps, hoods with slicked back hair as they strut their stuff in tight jeans and leather jackets. The hippie movement was afoot and murmured its peace-and-love talk under the radar of the social storm about combust with activism for civil rights in the south and dissenters marching against the Vietnam war on the television news nationwide. Even though I’d left school in a plaid uniform while the public schools girls wore whatever they liked under teased hair and strong makeup, there was a universal default we shared as young women in the metropolitan New York City area. We were Jersey girls.

Looking back now, I’m glad that I came of age there. Coming out of a shy adolescence in New Jersey, I found ways to explore courage, independence and vast variations on the human theme as a budding songwriter. At fifteen, I would act on a dare to myself, skip school and take the shortcut through the woods behind our house to the train station. When the train came in I would hop on a coach to the Port Authority, and take the subway to the West Village where I would walk to Washington Square. After checking out whatever musicians might be busking at the time, I’d beeline from there to the Chock Full O Nuts a few blocks away to buy a cup of coffee and a glazed donut. Then I would perch soundly on a round chrome and vinyl stool to write poetry in my journal and look up to watch the tide of passersby through the safety glass of the window. Once done, I would retrace my steps back to the train and home, composition book underarm filled with insights from of my fresh adventure tightly rhymed within its pages. In my large family, the thrum of my unrevealed journey to the city and back resonated exotically inside, oblivious in the noisy din of family life at home. These dips in the world from the safety of the bedroom community exhilarated my teenaged sensibility and became my prompts to bigger steps as I grew closer to my emancipation from the nest.

Fifty years later, the familiarity of the streets of New York reminds me of those early days. I fly in from the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve resided for the last thirty-seven years, and walk in the Upper West Side from my in-law’s apartment on West 79th to take the subway with my husband to Brooklyn and visit relatives ensconced there. Manhattan is filled with the same charge that excited me all those years ago as a Jersey girl in Gotham. The feeling, the smells, the crush of people in the subway, the rush hour on the streets and sidewalks – it’s all still there in its daily improv with the elements and a cast of millions. The dynamics of just being there in the thick of it are breathtaking.

After blurting out the news of my pregnancy to my mother at eighteen years old, I walked into my bedroom teary-eyed and red-faced looking to escape. My younger sister Mary and her friend, Ruthie, a romantic poet of fifteen, were prone on the floor in the depths of swapping journal entries, dreams and Ouija board speculations. I told my sister I had something important to tell her. From the distressed look on my face, Ruthie picked up her diary and said she’d be downstairs in the kitchen. I told my sister what was going on. Mary would be one of the only siblings to know the truth. We told each other everything and this was no exception.

Fifty years later, this comes back to me as I ponder all of us Jersey girls. Ruth has remained friends with my sister and visited with us during family gatherings over the past few years. She is a seasoned editor and writing coach in Massachusetts and has been a strong advocate of Kathleen~Cathleen since its inception and has cheered us to finish over these ten years. This year she joined us and became our new editor for the project. We three aim to bring the manuscript to completion by the end of this summer.

I am struck by synchronicity once again as the story continues, not only from its history but in the living story today. We all live in other places now but we are telling the tale from the root and branches we stem from – as Jersey girls.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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Part 2 – Another Side of Mother’s Day

Kathleen~Cathleen

Kathleen~Cathleen

They say that if you smile you’re brain thinks your happy. I love to quote that when I’m working with a group of nervous adults trying play ukulele and sing together for the first time. It sounds like a joke, and it is a playful comment, but there is something underneath those words that resonates for me. I smile often naturally and consider myself a happy person but I do think it also works the other way around. Laughter Yoga blazes neural trails to stimulate laughter on the premise that where there is laughter, there is joy. Alternately, where there is joy, smiles come easily.

When I was getting ready to write my last post in honor of Mother’s Day and the third anniversary of the parallel blogs of Kathleen (aka mothertone), Cathleen (reunioneyes) with my daughter, my original thought was going to write about the lighter side of being Cathy’s original mother.

That angle was deferred when Cathy asked if we could go into “the gritty side” of Mother’s Day instead. Her writing was taking her into that arena and she wanted to follow its thread from her side. I didn’t tell her that I had been thinking about the opposite approach, “the lighter side of” – to gently poke some fun at the irony of being human in reunion.

I like to follow her direction whenever she takes the lead. It’s part of our dance. I wait for a sign or a word that gives me the high sign as to where we might wander next. Sometimes I come up with an idea for a turn here or there, but most of the time, as far as I can, I wait and defer to her whim. It makes me happy to discover how she’s thinking and what she wants. If it’s something I can do for her, it makes me glad to do it. It was her idea to write the book, Kathleen~Cathleen, and I agreed to the idea to please her. It gave us something unique to do together. It was our personal project.

Ten years later, I find I’ve turned a floodlight onto the raw compost of my past and exposed subdural contents of my psyche and our relationship that even some of those closest to me haven’t seen or known about, and it’s out there in front of whomever comes across our blogs to read. That is outside behavior for me, and way outside of my normal container that has kept my privacy private, my secrets secret and my insecurities secure.

Nevertheless, it’s an exercise in trust between us. Hopefully, it will have the power to strengthen my daughter’s dubious faith in my commitment to her. Even though she hasn’t read what I’ve written yet, the act of writing it opens it up, and by stepping beyond the boundaries of the unknown, sets me on a mythic journey to become completely vulnerable on her behalf. It is the stuff of fairy tales.

The irony is that she knows my words are written and out there but hasn’t read them. My confessions will have weathered under the eyes of many before she reads it for the first time – and that’s the way she wanted it. This was the device we used to spit it all out untethered. So the truth is hanging on the clotheslines from her backyard in Portland and mine in Seattle. The neighbors can see our faded garments that remain hanging in our imagination. It won’t be long now before we are folding each other’s laundry – the way family members do – and that our worn pieces will be in each other’s hands to see for ourselves what they are made of and be real.

Meanwhile, the lighter side of the pair of us being who we are is what makes this all possible. The fact that we do connect – on the phone, in emails – and when we do, we feel quite at home. Even though every layer of our connection is out of synch with the social norms of our culture, there is a very nice place where we come together now, a place we have built on our own, and when we connect there we are engaged. We smile, we laugh, we quizzically explore the thoughts and impulses that herd our conversations. We are warm. We get each other. We are still careful but at home. Our connection holds promise.

Maybe someday our connection will be as deep as our disconnection has been. All or nothing, all and nothing – we are both. Closing the distance between the two, we continue to hike up and down every trail and cross the vast terrain between us as mother and daughter. Every step brings us closer. When we meet, we are together. When we smile, we are happy.

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To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
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