Saturday, May 13, 2006
Happy Mother's Day (Part I)
I'm splitting this into two parts - one about my adoptive mom and the next about my birth mom.
Those of you who have heard the story can skip this part.
Mine was a family adoption. My adoptive dad and my birth mom were first cousins.
My mom (Marge) was pregnant in 1938 with no resources. She tried for two years to provide for me while at the same time caring for her mother who had terminal cancer. She worked as a waitress and turned me over to a Catholic orphanage until her situation improved.
Meantime, my folks had been told they probably wouldn't have children. It seemed like a perfect solution for both and in many respects it was. This is not a day for negatives.
I was adopted when I was two, about the same time my mom (Florence) realized she was pregnant. Yes, it's one of those stories.
The photos are my mom and dad on their 50th (my brother off to one side), my brother and I on trikes, me in a gown my mom made (nothing unusual for her), and my mom with my "second mom", her sister, my beloved Aunt Ruth.
I didn't appreciate everything she did until I was long grown and away from home. For starters, she never wavered on the adoption even though she was going through pregnancy while getting used to a strong willed toddler (in the heat of the summer - my brother is a July baby).
She was never still. She cooked, cleaned, sewed all my clothes, kept up with laundry with a wringer washer and set tubs until the late 40's when the first Bendix came out. In her spare time, she was helping my dad (who worked full time) build our first house (and the second and third). When she wasn't working at home, we were on my uncle's farm doing more cooking, canning, taking care of baby chicks, cleaning chickens (yuck). My Aunt Ruth worked even harder - she was on the farm and you can see from her shoulders what the years did to her.
My mom was a deaconess in her church and almost never missed a Sunday. For better or worse, neither did we. My dad was a factory worker and I'm sure they must have been counting pennies but we never lacked for anything we needed. We read constantly, we listened to classical music (which started me on one of my lifelong loves) and they taught us what they could about the arts. Not bad for a high school graduate and a man who had to leave college to care for his family during the depression.
They made sure I had piano, violin, and French horn lessons even though the only one I succeeded with was the piano (and organ). The gown was for a choir performance. My mom must have stayed up until all hours putting it together. She made dolls and later made Barbie clothes to sell for charity. I can't imagine when she slept.
We watched the skies when everyone was sure the Russians were coming. Once a week in a converted school bus atop of one of the highest hills in the Mohawk Valley. Nobody was coming, of course, but it was the beginning of community involvement for me. They taught me hatred was wrong and that we were all equal.
They were angry with me many times (I could be a pain) but they never wavered in their love and support.
My mom (and dad) taught me the moral values I still possess and they contributed to my liberal outlook as well.
I look back in awe at what she accomplished. She's still with us at 93, now living in Albany, NY close to my brother. She writes her own letters and remembers the girls' birthdays with a couple of $ tucked in an envelope.
If there is one thing to be grateful for (and there are many) in my life it's that she and I knew each other far better as adults, even with the miles separating us, than we did when I was the rebellious teenager who couldn't wait to leave town. Some remember what I wrote last December, for anyone who's interested, here it is.
My birth mom and my adoptive mom are special in very different ways. Happy Mother's Day to both; the one who is gone and the one I will call tomorrow.