Tag Archives: memoir

First Rejection

Steve and I met for lunch at the Fishbowl in Olympia – our favorite mid-week rendezvous. After morning coffee, “Steve in Shipping & Receiving” fills his backpack with orders for art and music from our world of folky merchandise, along with a water bottle and plastic bags for treasures he might find on his walk. He sculpts musical instruments from found objects and something special inevitably crosses his path.

The post office is a few miles away and it’s become his practice to traverse town on foot, across the bridge overlooking the otters, seals, salmon runs and water birds around Capitol Lake, up the switchbacks to the capitol building and across the ridge to drop off orders at the post office and pick up our mail.

Sometimes after a morning of writing or booking jobs, I’ll meet him on his way back. We’ve become regulars and the waitress, Cheryl, always seems glad to see us and barely needs to take our order, she knows what we want.

During our recent lunch break rendezvous, while I was in the ladies room to wash my hands, a “padunk!” sounded from my blackberry to announce the arrival of an email on my phone. I dried my hands and pressed the pearl to see what it was and gasped.

It was a response to a letter I had sent at the end of March to a famous musician, writer and editor. I knew her in a roundabout way from my days behind the counter at Artichoke Music and wrote to introduce her to our project, Kathleen~Cathleen, and to ask her advice about finding an agent. It was long shot but I felt brave that day and sent the query letter.

There on my text screen were the words “I got your letter about the Kathleen-Cathleen project. Wow. What a fascinating story and idea. I’ve already told my agent about it. Would you care to have an email introduction and/or send her your material?”

I yipped and held the phone with both hands and read it again, mouthing the words aloud before they disappeared – I must be dreaming. Is it possible? Wow. After three times it was clear I was awake and I walked back to our table, hands shaking with the news.

I texted back, “Yes! Thank you for making my day.”

Ten minutes later a text came in from her agent in New York who introduced herself, expressed interest and invited us to send the book proposal to her office.

I forwarded the update to Cathy. I’d been trying to get a callback from her for days with no luck but less than five minutes later, “padunk!” on the phone and my eyes landed on “Holy sh#t!” from Cathy.

When we finally talked on the phone I chuckled, “So I had to go this far to get you to call me back!?!” We had a good laugh and dove into next steps.

The next couple of days was a flurry of activity to put finished revisions on the proposal and send out the latest paper version, to be followed by the electronic version the next week.

The excitement between Cathy and me was exquisite. This was a high-end agency in New York with the best agents. The potential had all the ingredients of a turnstile moment that could change our lives forever. Our confidantes buzzed with “This is it, I’m sure it will be a great success!” “The work you two have done all these years is about to bear fruit” and “Sometimes you get one chance and this could be it so don’t blow it.”

I held my breath. My head was swimming with affirmation. It was a gift to bring Cathy validation from this famous person who felt compelled to introduce us to her own agent with her full endorsement. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I thought, my daughter will get to experience the value of her work and its meaning as she soaks in this in. It was a lightning bolt of light, love and action and hit a deep mark in my belief that our story, exactly as it happened, was meant to be shared.

We did everything we needed to do, the proposal was on a desk in New York. Then we waited.

By the time the electronic version was sent out, Cathy and I had researched “the agent” and began let our imaginations scan the possibilities. We had recovered our balance from the pleasant shock of support from our new superstar ally and went through the motions of our day-to-day with feelings of expectancy and delight. Anything could happen.

It was a lovely few days.

Scenarios peeled in layers of what-if’s – as though all we needed was to finish, come to term and deliver; as natural as a newborn baby, born alive and perfect with all ten toes and fingers.

Rejection is most potent when you least expect it.

The words, “Thanks for giving me a look and I’m sorry this didn’t work out. But I was glad to hear about this ultimately happy story” slapped my eyes and my heart began to sink in the sting of tears.

There’s always more to the backstory than anyone needs to know. Disappointment cut my confidence to shreds and I struggled for perspective. This was humbling. I didn’t want Cathy to feel discouraged. I didn’t want to feel discouraged either.

“We can’t call ourselves writers if we don’t get rejected at least once, right?”

“Finish the book, nothing else matters until we finish” murmurred in my head as my heart volleyed between insecurity and despair. We were so close.

Then I heard Cathy’s voice and my heart came back around as I remembered the feel of laptops touching to tell the untold story. Love rushed me back.

My heart pounded the words in with “Don’t be afraid, don’t lose hope, don’t falter. Keep going, finish telling the story. All the pieces will fall in place.”

I flashed back to the beginning to Dr. Phil’s request for us to come on his show eight years ago. I knew then and know better now that it was premature and dangerous for Cathy and I to share our story then.

I’m grateful for time after time at the table with my firstborn girl, sneaking peeks at her beautiful face as it goes through its myriad of expressions as she scribbles unreadable upside-down notes with her left hand on scratch paper. Like a baby unaware of its mother’s watching eye, she stretches to focus and grow into her next inch. I wonder if she knows how little I care how painful anything she writes might be for me in the end. The fact of this covenant we’ve made, what we intend and execute together, is a gift more than gold for her mother-by-birth.

Perhaps this is another rendition of our first time together decades ago as she became a baby ready to be born and I became a mother-non-gratis whose lives split from one into two. Years later we converged in the middle of a bridge we built step by step as we followed signs and clues drawn from a blueprint designed from our truth. It’s a strong bridge.

Rejection is nothing compared to this. We write on. It was exciting to be considered. We’re close. Acceptance is right here. I’m not afraid. This will unfold on its own legs in its own time.

Meanwhile, we do this solitary work together as the story streams out, with all its ingredients of sorrow and bliss, into another way to love.

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

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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.

Writing Solo Together

Two weeks after Dr. Phil called in the winter of 2004, (scroll to bottom for that story) Cathy and I met to talk about writing a book about our reunion and turning points in our subsequent relationship. Drafts later, the finish seems closer.

We started autonomous blogs, mothertone (mine) and reunioneyes (hers) that tell the story of our story. Following the same premise as our collaboration; we write on the same topic from our unique views without sharing blogs.

We have been writing mutual chapters to describe our experience. Starting “At 18” with snapshots of who we were at that age. Me, an eighteen year-old pregnant with Cathy in 1971. Cathy, a high school graduate who decided to look at her birth records for more information about who she was the day after she turned 18. That was in 1989.

Now, it’s 2012. The day we met as strangers twenty-three years ago set a stage that has reconciled characters we had only imagined until then with the people we are. An overlay of compassion and respect imbues a simmering pot of ingredients we share. We recognize our differences and explore them with sensitivity and curiosity that reminds me just how lucky we are to have come this far, or not. It is not without gratitude that we write.

We are also grateful to those who hold our story and encourage us.

Still, the truth can be delicate – not how we wish it was or how it might have been if things had been different. We write our sides as they went. I don’t know what she has written but that doesn’t bother me, nor does it matter as much as the fact that we get to do this together. We are collaborators.

I get to partner with my daughter in an uncanny act. To tell our story through the lens and voices of our tale’s characters, Cathleen and Kathleen, she and me. Behind my apparent confidence, I certainly wonder who I’ll see in her eyes and guess that she wonders who she’ll find in mine. It’s scary but not enough to stop.  We trust it. We trust each other. That’s enough.

Our project has been a touchstone between us for eight years now. We slog forth and do the best we can to get the writing done and to meet draft deadlines in between marriages, babies, business shifts and a traveling worklife. No matter how much we each procrastinate and grumble, we are eager to complete what we started.

When we come together, we sit facing each other – laptops to laptop – and write, sometimes for a few hours, and on rare occasions for days with breaks for meals and sleep. Once in a while, one will ask the other a question (usually related to chronology or food.) The rest of the time the only sound is that of the keys on our computers tapping. Sometimes one or the other wipes a watery eye; other times a “Yes!” squeals out approval in the air for a piece that finally unfolds just right. We cheer each other on unwittingly and then zoom back in to our screens….tappity, tappity, tap. Time passes too quickly, always.

So far the only real cost has been in time and discretionary privacy – the fee for serving a demographic that has had little to no voice in modern literature. We hope that this story will help people discover useful truths about what it’s like to be in our roles as we point to the practical and miraculous as it happened to us.

As long as we don’t share our writing with each other, it is you, dear reader, who will know better than either of us, how it goes. Comments would be most welcome.

When we’re done, it won’t surprise me to miss this work with Cathy. Even unread and ignorant of her chapters, I love the bond of our work together; it makes me relish what would otherwise be too hard.

If sharing our complicated (or are they simple?) sides brings a new level of understanding to those who might benefit from hearing one true story of a secret daughter and a secret mother who found more than each other in reunion – it will have been worth it.

To view my daughter”s blog on the same topic, go to http://reunioneyes.blogspot.com

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.

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.