Happy Mother’s Day to my 3 moms
On this Mother’s Day I have not one, but three women to thank for my life.
I didn’t know I was adopted until my early teens, when my father gave me a yellowed, typewritten letter. It was dated 4 June 1971. “Heather Darling,” it began.
It explained the circumstances of my birth, that I’d been adopted even before I was born, that I’d flown to my new home in Britain when I was only three weeks old.
The letter also provided the only information I have about my birth parents:
Your natural mother was a 36-year-old woman with brilliant red hair and quite attractive. She was of Scottish-Irish descent … 5’4” tall and a legal secretary. She was an extremely intelligent young woman, according to the adoption authorities, who had devoted a great deal of her life caring for her parents somewhere in the Eastern United States.
Your natural father was … a certified public accountant … tall (6’0”) blonde, handsome. He was of Welsh and German extraction.
Friends often ask me if I ever think of trying to track down my birth mother. And I do sometimes, if only to say two words: Thank you.
I can’t imagine the strength it must have taken for her to give me up. But I’m deeply grateful for her unselfish decision. I wish there were a way to tell her what a rich, full, wonderful life she gave me …
The letter is signed simply “Mommy and Daddy, your parents.”
“Mommy” was Dorothy, my father’s first wife. She was as intelligent and intrepid as she was kind. (She was a private pilot and an ombudsman in her adopted British home!) She had a natural grace, I’m told, and she made friends wherever she went.
I have fleeting memories of her face and her voice. But my last memories of Dorothy are from Mexico, where she died of asthma when I was five. I can still see her lying in bed, beckoning me, even as my dad was telling me to let her rest.
I’ll never know exactly how Dorothy shaped me during those early years, but I do know that I felt loved. Deeply loved.
One year after Dorothy’s death, my dad remarried. The wonderful woman I know as Mamá adopted me, and with her two daughters, we all joined to form a blended family.
I had a difficult time adjusting at first: I now had three sisters, instead of just one. But my new Mamá—Carolina—reached out to me gently and patiently. She sought to understand me. She talked with me as she drove me to my ballet classes. She helped me practice my long division. She curled my hair and adorned it with flowers for my flamenco lessons. And over the years she showed me consistently that she loved me, in a thousand different ways.
But it wasn’t until 1996 that I truly appreciated her.
The story of the Great Deluge—and the swamped car, and bailing out the flooded basement in our underwear—is best left for another day. What matters is that, through a series of extraordinary circumstances, on that day my mom and I became friends.
So in a few minutes I’ll call Carolina—my Mamá—to wish her un felíz día de las madres. I’ll offer my heartfelt (but totally inadequate) thanks for everything she’s done for me over the years.
And today I’ll also think of my other two moms, who each did their utmost to give me a wonderful life.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Filed under: Friends and family, On this day in history, Psychology, Writing | 10 Comments
Tags: adoption, asthma, Mother's Day, postaday2011