Tag Archives: unwed mother

Writing Apart

When we write together, Cathy is there across the table from me and responsive. We get to joke and puzzle for answers to the odd and interesting questions that arise between us. She calls me by my name and it feels normal that we are together. We enjoy each other while we work and write. She accepts my affection with smiles.

When we write apart, Cathy is invisible and remote. I can’t see her or hear her. Long awaited emails she sends me don’t usually include my name and never, ever sign off with any words of affection.

The ghost I was in my invisible role as first mother before we met again comes back to haunt me with the truth of what is felt but can’t be seen.

I fight the ghost back by making phone calls, sending affectionate emails, wondering about my grandsons and asking about how my daughter is faring in her life. My visibility wins over the ghost but does not penetrate the object of my heart.

Cathy does not hear me when I am away. My words roll off her like water trickling down the side of a rock. Even when I lived ten blocks from her house, I was a world apart.

Perhaps to her it feels close, even in all this distance, as I travel leagues between us.

My job is to love her unconditionally. Her job is to be a child in the world on her path of discovery and fulfillment for the potential of her life.

So I pray…and write…and hope… that it won’t be long before we get to write across the table again.

Then I can call her name and she will lift her eyes to mine in answer.

There is no ghost when we are together.

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

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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.

Family Tree

Portland Rose on Mason Street
(“bring me a rose” kate power & steve einhorn, recorded by billy oskay, big red studio, corbett, oregon. song by ernie sheldon.)

I woke up this morning to a pair of evening grosbeaks out our window. They have spent the day crossing the backyard between the feeder and the tall grove of bamboo by the shed. Grosbeaks mark an annual highlight in bird migration here in the northwest; marmalade thrushes with black and white markings and beaks like parrots that talk in a foreign tongue, ambassadors of summer ahead.

As the pace ramps up a notch, all but working on the draft is on hold. The arrival of this pair of birds is a gift; fleeting, natural, beautiful and right on time to the tick of an ancient biological clock.

Our family buzzes with activity – two college graduations – Ben and Abby, Quinn and Reed’s birthdays, Abby moved to new digs and Lucy’s first week back at her old school, Eli prepares for China and Cathy digs into a writing class while we scramble for time to work on the book together. My children and grandchildren have each just finished a cycle and begun the next. The seasons turn.

This comes to me as a sign of hope, life and small miracles – like the birds. Like a rose in wintertime.

I am a root in the family tree. Years have added girth and dimension under the bark that wraps its sturdy skin around layers of history and genetics mixed in our own alchemy of sap that rises and falls through thick and thin. It’s more than blood. It’s life. Each branch grows in its own direction and draws from the roots skyward.

I am one root among many beneath branches that crown the ancestral tree and reflex with instinctive gratitude in return for family in bloom above ground.

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

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.

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.

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

mother’s day 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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