Anyone who knows me knows that I am adopted. It’s no secret. In fact, I bear the title of adoptee proudly, like a badge of honor. It’s just part of who I am.
Recently, I had two very exciting things happen, both adoption-related, so I thought I’d take a moment to share them because, well, I figure if I’m excited, my family and friends and followers might be too. 🙂
First, I was accepted as a volunteer for an amazing non-profit organization called Red Thread Sessions. Red Thread Sessions connect adopting families with professional photographers who donate their time and talent to help preserve the new families’ first memories. There are so many wonderful organizations out there where professional photographers can donate their time and talent, but the Red Thread Sessions spoke to immediately, and it was such an honor to be accepted as a volunteer. I’m in the process now of booking my very first session, and I can’t wait!
If you’d like to read more about the Red Thread Sessions, or find a volunteer in your area, click on the photo below.
Second, I was notified that a “letter” I wrote back in the summer of 1998 at the Mari Sandoz Young Writer’s Workshop in Chadron, Nebraska was being published in the special 20th Anniversary Edition of Fine Lines Literary Journal. The piece, titled Dear Mom, was originally published back in 1999, shortly after I started college, and was included in the special 20th Anniversary Edition as one of the “best of the best” from the past 20 years of Fine Lines publications.
Fine Lines is an amazing publication that welcomes submissions from writers of all ages and experience. The quarterly journals are always a great read, and has helped countless students and adults hone their writing skills and present their work to a large audience of avid readers. Please click the photo below to visit the website and learn more.
I have to say, Dear Mom is probably still one of the best things I have ever written. At least, it’s one of the only pieces that has every prompted people to send me fanmail, so that must count for something.
The best part, though, is that in October of 2002, I finally got a chance to send my letter to the person it was intended for. And what happened after is nothing short of amazing. But that, my friends, is another story.
Thanks to my mentors David Martin, Roy Scheele, Karen Shoemaker, Bill Clemente, and Susan Vastine for welcoming me to the Mari Sandoz workshop back in 1998, unleashing my voice and my creativity, and for always encouraging me to keep writing…keep writing…keep writing…
And now, I thought I’d share the letter that changed my life.
Thanks for reading.
We met one day in August: August 19, 1980 to be exact. I don’t remember you. Newborns don’t usually have much of a memory. I sometimes wish I could have seen your face, just once. I wish I could have burned it into my memory.
It seems so strange that you’re my mother, the woman who gave birth to me, yet I know so little about you. I’ve thought about you a lot over the years, and I can only wonder if you ever think of me. I wonder if, sometimes late at night, you wonder what happened to me, where I’ve ended up, how I’ve turned out.
Did you hold me when I was born? I know that most times the birthmothers choose or are told not to hold the babies they are giving up for adoption, in case they would become attached and change their minds. I always liked to think that you held me in your arms, just once, before they took me away.
I can’t help but wondering just how you ended up pregnant with me anyway. I’ve always assumed that I was a mistake. Was it your decision to give me up for adoption? The only reason I ask is because sometimes young girls are tricked or forced into giving up their babies, but if you decided on your own, I understand.
You have to be the bravest person I have never met, to carry and bear a child at the tender age of fifteen. Those nine months must have been hell! I can imagine how people must have stopped and stared, how your peers must have talked behind your back and pointed and snickered. You were so strong to decide to go through with it, no matter what the cost. You gave up your life to give me mine.
I wonder if I kept you up nights, kicking and moving around. I wonder if you ever put your hands on your growing belly, longing to hold me, or if you would talk to me aloud when you were alone. I’ll bet I made you cry yourself to sleep a lot of nights. You endured all the loneliness, all the fear, all the pain, and in the end you still found it in your heart to give me away. How can I begin to tell you just how special that makes me feel?
Ever since that October day when I first learned of my adoption, I haven’t stopped thinking about you. I wonder what your life is like now, if you have a family to love. I wonder if my creativity and my love of nature and adventure were inherited from you. And I wonder if you’re the one I got these crazy eyes from—my exotic, chameleon eyes that are too green to be blue, too blue to be green and to grey to really be either.
I sit sometimes and study myself in the mirror, hoping to memorize my face so that I might recognize you if I ever bump into you on the street. It seems so strange to me that you are out there, somewhere, living a life all your own. You might be my next-door neighbor. You might be off in a foreign country somewhere.
What if I’ve already met her? I sometimes wonder. I love to watch people, and I think that part of the reason is that, deep down I think that if I ever saw you I would recognize you. I know it’s stupid—just some crazy, childish dream—but I keep imagining that I run into you and look into your eyes and, at that moment, I just know, as if there was a bond that could somehow span our twenty-two years of separation.
I always say that I can “read” people. My impressions of people are rarely ever wrong, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am always searching…searching for a familiar smile, for someone else with these witchy eyes. I’m not even really conscious of it anymore—I’ve been doing it for so long. I know that there is really not much of a chance of finding you on the street, but I just can’t stop looking. I’m so afraid that I’m going to blink and miss you.
I do feel close to you, even though we’ve never really met, perhaps because I talk to you so much. When I’m happy or sad, when my heart is breaking with pain or bursting with joy, I find myself telling you about it, as if you were sitting right there beside me. I’ve started other letters to you over the years, wishing that I knew where to send them. Instead, I’ve crumpled them and shoved them into the bottom of my trashcan, afraid that someone might find them and not understand.
People ask me all the time if I plan to find you someday. I really don’t know how to answer them. I would like to know your name and see you, and I really would love to talk to you. I’m just so scared! What if you don’t want to see me? What if you’re disappointed in me? Will you think I’m stupid?
How can I have such a need to be with someone I can’t even remember? It’s like part of me is missing, as if the finishing piece of my life puzzle is locked somewhere within your heart. I walk around with this hole in me and it aches, a constant, dull throbbing that wakes me in the middle of the night when I realize my pillow is wet with tears. It’s an ache that makes my heart skip a beat whenever someone mentions my adoption.
We’ve missed out on so much of each other’s lives! Little things like Christmas morning, birthdays, the Tooth Fairy. You weren’t there for my first steps, my first words, my first love. You never got to tell me about Santa Claus, or explain to me just how things work between girls and boys. We’ve never been on a family vacation. We’ve never even been shopping together!
I wonder sometimes how different my life would be, had you not decided to give me up. I wonder where we would be living, if we would be happy. I wonder if you and I would have a close mother/daughter relationship. I wonder if I would have lots of brothers and sisters. I’ve always dreamed of having a big family. I wonder if you would understand me in a way that no one else has ever been able to.
These past years, I’ve been dreaming of the day you and I would finally meet. The scene plays over and over in my mind. I change little things each time, hoping to make it perfect. Do I call you by your first name, or would it be too presumptuous to call you Mom? Do I try to hug you, or would a handshake be sufficient? Do I try to stay in touch with you, or would you rather put the past behind you and forget about me completely?
I’m probably digging up a lot of things that are best left buried and I am sorry, but please try to understand that I would not be doing this unless I had a good reason. Just once I would like to see you and talk to you and have you actually sitting there, listening and talking aback to me. Just once I would like to hear your story—how you met my father and how I came to be. Just once I would like to know the truth about my heritage and be able to speak of my ancestors with knowledge and pride. I want to know my birthday story—what happened that day, what time I was born, what it was like for you. But most of all, I would like to hear someone say, “Wow! She is just like her mother!” Just once I wish I could hear someone say that and know they were talking about me.
I know this probably comes as a huge shock to you. You’ve probably spent the last twenty-two years trying to put all of this behind you, but please, please understand that I wouldn’t be doing this, writing this letter, unless I had to. If you never want to see me again or don’t want to be part of my life, I promise I will understand. Please, just give me this once chance. Give me one day so that I won’t have to wonder anymore, so I can put all of this behind me and try to get on with my life. Please, just think about it.
I sit here, writing an impossible letter, yet somehow I find myself still clinging to the dream that it will all turn out perfect. I can only pray that you will understand what I’m trying to say and just how much of my heart I’ve poured out onto these pages. What I really hope is that I can somehow find the courage to drop this into a mailbox and start piecing together the parts of my life that have been missing for so long.
I love you, Mom. I just wanted you to know that.