Saturday, May 13, 2006
Happy Mother's Day (Part II)
This is my birth mother, Marge.
I thought of her as my exotic cousin from San Francisco until I was 17.
She sent the most wonderful presents but never visited. My folks were afraid first to tell me about the adoption and then to tell me the circumstances. Very different times and what is considered almost routine today was anything but then.
Ingrid Bergman was barred from this country for almost the same crime (plus adultery of course). Unmarried and pregnant? Covered up at all costs. I blamed them until I grew up enough to know they were trying to protect me. We've long since made our peace.
I finally met her when I came out here the first time in 1958. I was 20 and she was the most exciting person I'd ever met. She had an office job, she was married to a black man, she'd lived almost everywhere and done everything.
She and Henry introduced me to so many things; especially San Francisco with its beauty and their friends, flaming liberals all and most in mixed marriages. I was already on that track and I embraced all their causes as my own.
She was a wonderful person in many ways and I'm always surprised at how much I'm like her. Definitely nature, not nurture in some respects. (Although my folks by no means were hatefilled bigots - they weren't radicals manning the picket lines either). Marge worked for a Socialist paper in the forties, may or may not have been a Communist for a while. She was certainly a fellow traveler until she realized their ultimate purpose. She let go of them quickly but kept her ideals. She and Henry were together for years but stubbornly waited for the law to change in CA before they married. She wouldn't sneak around.
Marge was a gourmet cook when she wanted to be, not too interested in housekeeping, and may have been bi-polar. I adored her (when I was speaking to her - I think we were too much alike). Her mood swings could be frightening.
I will always love her. We lost her to cancer several years ago but I'd lost her before that. I said I wouldn't be negative but she was an alcoholic who never admitted she had a problem and who bitterly resented my recovery. She was angry every time I visited, she wanted a drinking buddy, and finally I put some distance between us. I did offer to care for her when she became ill but she wasn't interested and I said a quiet thank you to whatever powers may be.
I miss the woman I first met in 1958 and am grateful to her for giving me life and then a happy, secure childhood. It was an act of unselfishness made even more difficult by remaining silent all those years. It must have hurt terribly to see the pictures and send the letters and gifts (to both me and my brother) without blurting out the truth but she never did.
Happy Mother's Day, Marge. I hope you found the peace in death that was missing in life.