As I put on my camel-tan sweater vest and embroidered cowboy boots, I said to my husband, “I am beginning to look at lot like Elizabeth, aren’t I?
He smiled, shaking his head affirmatively.
Elizabeth is my late birth mother and this letter is dedicated to her memory.
When I first reunited with her at Ketchum, Idaho’s airport, my conservative, all- white stretch pants and sweater were quite the contrast to her fringed-leather jacket and cowboy boots.
Whoa! What I was getting myself into?
Little did I know that my perceptions would change in a most unexpected way in the years to come.
First, some back story about reuniting with my birth mother, Marjorie Elizabeth Perry.
The Back Story about My Birth Mother
Two days after returning from our reunion, she abruptly announced she wanted no more contact. Needless to say, it was excruciating.
What a contrast to weeks prior when she received my photo and said, “When I look at your sweet face, I just know that you’re mine.” It was like a mother who’d just given birth.
And, why was she abusing me verbally in her dismissal, saying she wished she would have aborted me, when earlier she had sacrificially gifted me with a priceless gold and diamond Paloma Picasso pin from Tiffany’s?
She did an about face because she is from the generation that stuffed everything painful. As the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, life was tough and she was taught to keep an upper lip, even as a child.
So, she was raped and didn’t say a word.
She became pregnant and no one knew…until she received a call from me one August evening in 1999….47 years later. At first, she declined conversation, but later changed her mind. I felt a completeness never known before.
Within two weeks, Bob and I were on a plane to reunite with her in Idaho. Years of counseling made me ready, right? How funny is that? I’m not sure birth mothers or adoptees can be prepared. Some say it’s like a million simultaneous emotions, or like returning to the moment of birth.
Elizabeth defended herself by keeping me at arm’s length through arranged meals with her friends. She repeatedly said, “You are so happy, but this is terribly difficult for me.”
Perhaps seeing me face to face triggered memories of her rapist? Or, perhaps it was remembering the two miscarriages and death of her second child at only six months?
But, the similarities of our lives kept delighting me:
- I loved ketchup, so did she. Especially on steak.
- Her favorite color was lavender. Mine, too.
- She loved interior design and was a published designer. I love it, too.
- She loved fashion. Me, too.
Over the years since then, I have learned much about myself. I was so green and terrified that I am sure I didn’t respond in the way I would have liked.
But, we adoptees need to take responsibility, forgiving. letting go of bitterness and blame, so that we can move on. Really, I think she did much better with all of it than me. And, that’s okay.
As the years passed, after two years of failed attempts at reconciliation, I penned these romanticized words about what she meant to me:
(Elizabeth is in the woman third from the right in the light blue dress.)
Romanticized Thoughts About My Birth Mother After Reunion
- I am bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh.
- You were a voice for me when I had no voice.
- Your choice to carry me saved me from death.
- You gave me the gift of birth and I want to thank you.
- You did the very best you could for me under very difficult circumstances.
- I admire your courage for continuing your pregnancy amidst stigma and shame.
- There is a special place in my heart reserved for you that can’t be filled by anyone else.
- I often wonder why you couldn’t be my mom. A letter would help me understand.
- Every tangible evidence of your love that can be passed onto me in the growing-up years will help me feel connected to you.
- I have a lot of anger at you, which is indicative of how much I miss you.
- My deepest fantasy is to be held in your arms.
- I think about you every day.
- I love hearing people say I look like you or my voice sounds like yours.
- I think about you on my birthdays and wonder if you are thinking about me.
- My love for you is bone deep.
Honest Thoughts about My Birth Mother After Reunion
If I were honest at that time, I may have written the piece like this:
- I grew in your womb and you couldn’t wait to get rid of me.
- The only voice you gave for me was saying you didn’t want to see me after birth.
- You didn’t choose to carry me…you told me later you wished you’d aborted me.
- You gave me the gift of birth and I want to thank you.
- You didn’t take care of yourself while carrying me. Someone told me that you only drank coffee and ate very little.
- It’s hard to admire a mother who wanted, or even tried, to abort me.
- I wonder why you couldn’t be my mother. Was it to save your wrecked marriage?
- There is a place in my heart for you but it is empty and sad.
- Why didn’t you contact me in the growing up years? You blamed me for not finding you sooner.
- I am mad as hell at you.
- My deepest fantasy is to be loved by you.
- I think about you and I feel sad.
- When people say I look or sound like you, I don’t like it.
- I think about you on my birthdays, wondering if you even remember mine…which you didn’t.
- Unfortunately, my loyalty to you is bone deep even though you have verbally abused and rejected me. It’s crazy.
I did all that was humanly possible to forgive her, yet there was a deep, deep sadness about our failed relationship. Everyone needs a mom, right? Something more was needed, but looking back, I wasn’t even aware of the need. And, yes, I loved my adoptive mom.
Unexpected Dream about My Birth Mother
Then, something quite unimaginable happened.
When Bob and I were on vacation in Michigan a few months ago, I dreamed about her. This was rare because I’m not aware of any dreams of her in the past.
In the dream, I was with her in her fancy condo and she was serving tea. Everything about it was lovely. Every detail, right down to the tea cup. In the dream, her hair was long, flowing down her back. I immediately admired her and watched with amazement. Soon, she walked into another room and I saw her golden hair again. I thought, “She is beautiful and I want to be like her….her hair….the way she talks….the way she dresses…the way she is… I love her.”
It was then that I woke up and realized her condo was in heaven.
I remembered one of her early comments that indicated an interest in God. She said, “When we meet, we’ll have to go to church and thank God for giving you such good parents.”
Also, she shared how lost she was after giving birth. While walking in a park one day, she met three nuns, who apparently saw her distress and gave meaningful comfort.
Afterward, she expressed a heart that sought after God by attending Mass. Thinking back it seemed she was obviously relating to God as she understood Him.
Truths That I Would Tell My Birth Mother Today
If I could tell Elizabeth what she means to me today, I would say:
- We are genetically linked in an undeniably way.
- Even though you may have wanted to abort me because of your distress, God protected both of us by letting me live.
- Our roots go back to the Tribe of Dan and we have a Jewish Ancestry coming from your mother’s side….Myrtle Greenlees.
- You are beautiful.
- Your interior designing talent was passed on to me. Thank you.
- I wish we could have a second try at reuniting and we will…in heaven.
- I am so sorry you were raped but am so glad that God worked it into the miracle of me.
- I am very happy that I got to meet my late brother, Jon, who is so dear to me.
- I would like to sit by you at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Will you save a place for me?
How wonderful it is to be an adopted person. What a rich life God has given me.
There will be another reunion. It won’t be in Ketchum, Idaho, but at the gates of heaven. It won’t be between two broken hearts trying to connect in a fallen world, but two hearts healed by God.
And, Elizabeth… how different I’ll look to you than when you saw me get off that plane.
I’ll be wearing my Tiffany pin, cowboy boots, and camel-tan sweater.
And, I’ll know you right away….by your fringed-leather jacket and cowboy boots.
I can’t wait.