Tag Archives: ukulele

Mercy

MotherChild by steve einhorn©2008

Mercy High, Mercy Low (Cathy’s Song):

It’s been a wordy year for mothertone. Looking over past posts, I see where words fail me. No matter how exquisite the words I find to describe, they still nip at the heels of what I’m trying to say. Much of what’s in my heart gets lost in the translation to prose.

All the way back – as far as earliest memories of childhood go, I remember times when my heart was ready to bust with feelings bigger than me and rather than talking to my mother, father, sisters or brothers, I would sing.

I discovered an ancestral gift early on. Singers in my family went back generations. My father says I sang before I could talk. Whatever becomes of me, my songs leave a map of my journey.

As a youngster, I would quiet myself and sing when I needed to let my feelings come out from under my skin. I’d sit at the piano and my fingers would look around and in my young voice, melodies would unwind tangled emotions tied up inside my small world and I would sing them until a sense of peace filled me. Sometimes I was left with a little ditty, sometimes it left me with a song.  It was instinctive and became my practice to seek a kind of peace this way.

It never started with words; a hum opened up with an idea for a melody that would poke around for the story while my fussy mind took a break. I never knew what would come but I trusted it like fishing and learned to wait patiently for my catch. Songs manifested by heart tell what can’t be said any other way.

I look at all the words in my mothertone blog for Kathleen~Cathleen and realize that songwriting is easier for me. So, in honor of the occasion of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share one that found its way out of the thicket as our story unfolded. I wrote it for Cathy and it speaks my heart better than anything else I can say here.

This is a happy mother’s day. I am grateful for all of my children – and to my firstborn child for having the courage to be mine.

(Click “Mercy High, Mercy Low” under the photo on top of this post to hear. Drawing by Steve Einhorn)

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

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Precious Things – Part 2

Email response to Cathy (link to Cathy’s blog)

Hi Cathy,

You’re welcome to do whatever you’d like with the pens. They are a gift and intended to make you happy – however that works best. Being “just yours” was just a fantasy in the context of all you do for everybody else. I love the image of the three of you drawing together. All that you wrote about it here was lovely.

I don’t relate to it as a blog topic because I, too, was raised that everything is shared – with so many siblings that may be what turned me into wanting something that’s mine alone – so I don’t see a parallel that will be any different – the reason had more to do with honoring your desire to have them.

So I’m not sure how to tango and would love a different topic to consider.

I love your thoughts around it all and feel your response is so loving – we’re both glad for the joy it brings you and your comments are full of the loving person and mother you are.

Your email was amazing to read. Thank you for your beautiful explanation. You’re such a good writer, Cathy! I love you. ~kate

Next email (Kate to Cathy)…

Well, now I’m streaming in thoughts from your idea.

I guess another take is that “Precious Things” might relate to other things too – like the cape – that I don’t wish to discuss publicly because they are precious and the dilemma doesn’t feel like one that belongs to the public when it’s unresolved between us.

Still, there’s a lot of interesting fodder in what you say.

Send me your thoughts. If we can find a place to point to the dialogue, I’ll be game but it’s sensitive territory so I’d rather express it with you first and then decide.

The pens were simple – we’re broke, you’re precious and it was a sacrifice to buy them and a labor of love with an invisible touch of O’Henry. Maybe the difference would be seen as your parents had money and currently we don’t – I don’t want to get into a class difference or seem petty or stingy or pathetic.

So what is it about? Possession vs. Relinquishment? The have’s and the have-not’s? the sensitive and the insensitive? The caring and uncaring? What’s mine? What is valued as a gift? Does reception of a gift reflect the value of the giver as well as the receiver? Hmm.

Let me know if you want to pursue this. I’ll continue to chew on it. You may have struck an interesting chord.

I love you, Cathy. You’re response was beautiful (and you are a rascal!) ~kate

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

Precious Things – Part 1

The following is (one of two parts) an email exchange between Cathy and Kate this week that relates to the reception and disemination of Cathy’s birthday gift; the meaning of meaning of the gift – distortion clarified and the revelation of threads from differing origins … (please click to ReunionEyes blog  for Cathy’s response…) This set of two blogs, part 1 & 2, will be parallel blogs – call & response emails to issues that arose around birthday love. Happy birthday, Cathy! 41 years ago today, I was in labor to deliver – born April 16th.

Hi Cathy,

Everything was so busy this morning. When we gave you your birthday gift of art pens, we had wanted to present them with the caveat that they are only for you – not the kids. This isn’t because we’re stingy but because you are special and they are high end art pens (expensive) and we took an hour picking them out for you. We didn’t want to interfere when you so gently and magnaminously let Quinn and Reed rip into them but they have their special art pens and now this was for you.

Being two humble artists who are sweating for every dollar we make to pay our way – we wanted to give you (who deliberately is not buying maple syrup or parmesan reggiano) something you really wanted for your birthday and something you wouldn’t go out and just get for yourself because it’s too spendy.

We’d be happy to bring the boys more art supplies but if you could hold your art present from us for your exclusive enjoyment, that would mean a lot to us. It was intended to be a meaningful gift (and the kids can get their expensive pens when it’s their time 🙂

I hope this doesn’t dampen the joy your gift was intended to give you. We love you very much and are big fans of your artistic side.

Happy birthday!

I love you.

Always,

Kate

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

Cathy’s Birthday

Today is the first day of Spring. The bunch of crocus off the back kitchen stoop sign “hallelujah!” from thawing ground as yellow stars tip long skinny branches of an old forsythia in back of the shed. Arbiters of warmer weather tickle a wily charge out of nowhere to jumpstart my low mood with possibilities in spite of one raw rainyass afternoon. The flowers wear their colors proudly, bellwethers of sunshine to come after months of wet weather in the rainforest.

Memories seep under the surface like an incoming tide overrunning the shore with fishes from deeper places once thought to be extinct. When the tide and light is right their shapes shift between light and darkness, air above, water below, rampant reflections blinding definition as movements tease my eyes into focus, lost again when I look away.

I sit back up in my seat and roll my shoulders to shake the past back to “before” and resume. Circumstances range the lines of my face caught sideways in the mirror across from my desk. Laugh lines counter the child I once was, now hidden far behind the face of an old lady.

If I had known then what I know now, my life might have been different. For better or for worse, who’s to say? I do know that someday my grandchildren will need to understand the role I played in the family story. As they grow from toddlers to teens, questions of where they came from will rise and curiosity will need answers. I am determined to love them freely now before I scramble to unhook the chains of regret hung across my heart. My story will shape karma in their lives. As I keep praying for happy endings, they will be working through what remains unfinished and it will be them, not me, who determine how the story turns out. My job is to be true and to give them love that is sound and good.

When Cathy’s adoptive parents came to visit years ago, I asked her mother if she had any pictures of Cathy’s childhood that she could share with me. It was an innocent request and Dottie’s response was “Of course. I’ll bring them next time.”

On their next visit that following Christmas, she handed me a wax envelope filled with a dozen pictures of Cathy in her childhood. I gasped with the prospect of seeing what I had never been allowed to see before. Except for two pictures Sr. Alice sent me of Cathy when Cathy was 4 and 6 years old, I had never seen pictures of my daughter as a child. Dottie and I sat down on my living room couch and she recounted each photo in a gentle, matter of fact voice.

“This is Cathy’s christening picture” (Cathy’s a baby is in a perfect white taffeta baptismal gown with satin ribbon, holding her mother’s finger with her chubby hand.)

“Here is one on her first birthday” (the identical feminine of my grandson, Quinn with a paper cone birthday hat tied under her chin and sitting in her chrome throne high chair – Cathy points her finger at the birthday cake with the candle lit to wish on top.)

“These are from her tap dancing class at dance school when she was eight.” (four small portraits in dance costume… Cathy looks so much like I did at that age – her hair is auburn, thick and wavy – her smile is warm, bright and wholesome under a headband adorned with a red and white feathers to match her showgirl outfit trimmed with pearls and bow-tied tap shoes. Her smile is radiant as she poses in long over-the-elbows fingerless red gloves.)

“This is Cathy’s 8th birthday. (Cathy looks a little pale as she blows into a party favor, a top heavy blue corsage hangs on her flowered blouse at a table set for guests with birthday hats, plates and paper cups lined up around her birthday cake.)

“This is her First Holy Communion from that same year” (a tiara-veiled beauty in white holding a sweet bouquet of daisies as she stands in front of the gold-embroidered “Alleluia” background draped behind her.)

“And another communion picture…(It’s 1979. Cathy smiles standing in front of the cake with her mother’s hands resting on her shoulders she looks into the camera with confidence, ready to cut the white sheet cake with two little statues of a child being blessed by Jesus and “God Bless Cathy” scrolled in yellow script.)

“School picture, age 9.” (round cheeks have thinned from little girl to young girl.)

The next picture is a school picture – she looks around eleven with braces, feminine lavender blouse with a high collar. I wonder if she’s started biting her nails – her nails so short on poised hands posed for the portrait.

Then she’s thirteen and looks like she may be getting ready to go to a school dance as she sits on a patio chair in a pink skirt and pink sweater patterned with white hearts under a double strand of pearls. A peanut butter sandwich and a plastic mug of milk rest on a red and white-checkered tablecloth. Everything looks so normal.

Next she’s in her cheerleader uniform with “Captain Cathy” embroidered on her jacket and her hands in her pockets standing in front of an autumnal living room fire. Her face is in the shape of a heart and her smile is serene – so lovely.

Then high school pictures followed stylish blonde-colored hair, more prominent makeup, proms with boyfriends and high school and, finally, high school graduation.

To see her framed in snapshots over various stages of her development of the life she had lived without me had an unexpected effect.

I thanked Dottie for the pictures and carefully put them back in the wax envelope. I brought them upstairs to my bedroom and tucked them deep in the back of my writing drawer and made a mental note not to forget where I put them before I closed the drawer, turned and went back downstairs to finish making Christmas dinner for all of us.

It had been a generous gift for Dottie to share those pictures with me. I didn’t want to appear ungrateful as they opened up a volcanic pile of emotion that I kept forgetting lived behind my sunny disposition. Vapors of feeling steamed at my seams and I felt the volcano getting hot. My heart was racing and I practiced a smile to break the tension in my face. I took a breath and forced myself to forget about it for now and shifted my focus on the turkey in the oven, refilling drinks and passing hors d’oeuvres around the room.

I took out the pictures today to look at them for the first time since that Christmas almost ten years ago. The wax envelope has yellowed to a dry crinkle. In a couple of weeks Cathy will turn another birthday. She’s coming up on the train to write with me this weekend. Maybe we’ll celebrate early.

Maybe I will get to bake her a cake this time. We’ve had a few birthday cakes together now. She’s due for one. I’ll sing her happy birthday on my ukulele. My heart is grateful for all the cakes her mother baked and for the gift in turn that I may do the same. That we both love her and call her “my child” is an enigma of a mother’s heart, first and last.

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

Ukalaliens & Scientists

Cathy called with excitement in her voice (or was it caffeine?)  Her department graduation for Computer Sciences at Portland State University was coming up.  She saw that we would be traveling through Portland that weekend and wondered if we would consider coming a day or two early with our ukuleles. She was writing a little ditty with the Bulgarian receptionist and he was a singer-songwriter.  It would be fun to teach the faculty a couple of chords on the ukulele and have them strum along while Cathy and her staff play in the background with a little twirling choreography to spice it up.  The serious nature of the graduating class, engineers and scientists, made it an enticing prospect for the Ukalaliens theme.  The graduating students would be flabbergasted with the sight of their teachers on ukuleles.

“Of course!” we replied.  “We’ll be happy to help. Ukalaliens in the Computer Sciences Department – cool!”

Besides, it was so unusual for a request like this from Cathy – it was an overt act of support for what we do that she even asked.  Happiness fluttered inside at the prospect of providing her with something important – even in the form of two dozen Kala travel tenor ukes.

Her voice sounded so tickled to have us onboard that my heart felt satisfied that this was something that only Steve and I could provide.  It was unusual for Cathy, usually so serious and practical, to come up with a scheme like this.  It sounded fun.

So, we planned our runout to Eugene to include an overnight in Portland for Cathy’s department graduation before the weekend of concerts and workshops down south.

Graduation morning in the Department of Computer Sciences and Engineering arrives. We arrived early to tune the ukes up and rig the faculty with ukes and show them the chords they’ll play when the ukes come out from hiding and get handed out to faculty scientist and engineers sitting in front of the graduation class.

One by one, professorial types approached our bins of ukuleles in freshly pressed suits, some a bit reluctant but ready to learn their two chords. These scientists and engineers are heavyweights in the cutting edge of new technology.

The twinkle in the eye of research scientist, Ivan Sutherland, lights up as he comes out from the Asychronous Research Center office to explore the fundamentals of the uke we hand him. We are in the presence of greatness. Ivan is responsible for computer graphics as we now know it – it was his “sketchpad” that started it all.  He is still in thick of it and delighted to be there.  I have been introduced as “family” but neither Cathy nor I volunteer anything more specific. We keep our focus on the ukes and grin.

A smile crosses the impish face of a tall scientist next to Ivan and we are introduced to Marek Perkowski, head scientist in Intelligent Robotics.  Marek is creating a robotic theatre company with his creations, a nod to his famous puppeteer ancestor in Poland. We are captivated by the work of both of these scientists and offer to help if we can contribute any musical or artistic aspect to their most interesting efforts. The conversation is fun and the context new to us in the hallowed halls of science and learning.

We are ukalaliens amongst giants here.  Awed by the brains we stand between, we hand the ukes out with a bit more reverence to this distinguished and dignified bunch. This is a first encounter between ukalaliens and scientists.  There is joshing in between their investigative reception of the instrument in their hands and our guidance. So experienced in their respective fields, they are brand new at this – that’s where we come in. The contrast between our offering and theirs is not lost on us.  Steve and I look at each with wonder – our work brings us into the most interesting circles. This one is at Cathy’s invitation – no small thing on so many levels.

We bring the ukes upstairs to the big room being prepared for the graduates and two hundred attendees.  Unzipping the gigbags out of two blue bins on the dolly, we place the skinny Kala travel tenor ukes behind the rim of the round table skirting the presentation area.  No one will be able to see them from there and they will be easy to grab and deliver into faculty hands when the time comes.

Cathy has worked out some cute slow-twirl choreography with the administrative staff to dance behind the playing scientists.  We have been asked to join the uke crew off to the side to lend support as they dive in to the song.  The dark-eyed young Bulgarian receptionist/songwriter is full of energy as he riffs on his Martin guitar, warming up for the processional.  We sit on two chairs next to him and watch the graduates line up and walk in line to take their seats.

There are short speeches by the department heads and dean followed by awards and the traditional granting of diplomas, sashes and handshakes.  When the list is finished, the Bulgarian dashes to the middle as we quickly grab the tabled ukes-in-waiting and hand them out. The eyes of the new grads grow wide as they watch their dignified mentors smile and begin to strum in concert with the song enthusiastically erupting. A few just hold them but most are strumming away. The dancing ukulele-playing support staff behind the faculty follow Cathy’s lead on her left and right and begin their slow twirl with big smiles and we strum along the side.

I watch Cathy with such pride and joy.  She is beaming and beautiful in her full-skirted white summer dress. Her smile lights up the entire room, dissolving academic gravity with pure enjoyment. The chamber of my secret with her fills with the light of her smile.  I savor watching her strumming and twirling with the smile as she turns. This is a delicious moment for me. She has managed this entire event and dances through it as though it’s all just a lark off the cuff. It’s more than that. It took guts for her to talk them into this. Her staff knows how smart she is – her boss is grateful she is there. Her ability coupled with warmth that is clearly a bonus to the department. They love that she is there. Ivan made a point of saying so. I feel some awe that she has brought us into this place and moment in her workplace and joy that we could do it.  She turns again and her cronies to the right and left turn with her. It’s a lovely sight.  I’m chuckling as we strum. The song is a hit – it touches the funny bone of the student body and the room erupts in applause and laughter. She wrote the music and he penned the words. Her first co-write. The uplifting finale elevates the event and everyone relaxes in victory and surprise.

The room fills up with the buzz of post-graduation chatter and congratulatory laughter as the new graduates mix with family and staff and prepare for the barbeque awaiting them outside.

Steve and I begin our closing routine and retrieve the ukes to begin zipping them back into their bags, line them up to stack in the bins and clip the bungie chords end-to-end on the dolly to roll back to the car.  I reach over for another uke to zip and overhear a man’s voice say the words “biological mother” in answer to a questioning tone on the edge of the crowd.  My cover is lost in those words as I reckon that my identity is a bit of a curiosity in this setting.  Cathy and I have been “out” for years but in new settings it’s always a tricky balance. “Biological mother.” It sounds so odd.  I’m not sure how to feel and my insides deflate. The words jar me and I feel exposed. His tone was so matter-of-fact – like naming an rarely seen animal in the zoo. I’m not sure what to do as I digest the scene. There’s no way to tell Steve or say anything here. I keep my focus and zip the rest of the bag, grab another uke and pack it up

Cathy and I text back and forth as Steve and I fill up our plates at the barbeque. She is busy with celebrating with the staff and working through the back end of her afternoon. Her text and voice mail is full of thanks.  My heart is thankful and confused. There is a place for me here.  The fact that it’s an odd chair at the table doesn’t make it any less a chair.  I choose to take my place and am glad for it. It is a hard seat but its mine.  I may not ever get used to what people call me or think of me in this context.  It was meant to be a secret. I am an exposed secret in ordinary settings. I am showing up in spite of feeling that I don’t belong there.  Cathy invited me and I said yes. That’s all there is to it.  I may be a fish swimming upstream and that is just the nature of my existence here.  Maybe I’ll get used to it, maybe not. I’m a fish so I swim.

Steve and I pack the ukes in the car. He holds my hand and we begin our walk to catch a matinee of “Midnight in Paris.”  Today was a special one. Tomorrow Eugene.

~~~~~
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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.