I thought about her almost every day of my life. I wondered what she looked like, what she sounded like. Whether she loved to write like me. Was she tall? Short?
Who? Oh, I'm talking about my mother.
You see, when my mother had me I went home with her, but I didn't stay. I was given up for adoption or as some in the adoption community say, "I was lost in adoption."
The reasons vary based on who is telling the story. But this I do know. My mom was very young when she had all of her children. She also had a substance abuse problem. My sister died of crib death and my two brothers were also lost to adoption.
But when I was younger I didn't know any of this. All that I was told was that I was adopted. I was in the foster care system for a few years and then I was given new parents around age four and that other life ceased to exit. Most of my memories of my first mom and dad were deleted. Save one. I remember a cold winter day. A man was carrying me and a woman was with him. My mom. We were in a blue car. That's where the recollection ends.
So all my life I daydreamed. I thought about both my mom and dad but mostly of mom. I created a inner world where she existed. I spoke to her. I sought her out in the eyes of strangers. True story. Right before moving to New York for the first time I worked as a cashier and hardware associate at Builder's Square. I was working toward saving money for my move to The Big Apple. One day a lady came through my line. She looked like me! Or so I thought. My longing for my first mom was so deep that I whispered to the lady. "Can I ask you a question?" I said as I picked up her items and started to scan them. She was so kind. She leaned in and said, "Sure baby. Ask me anything." Still ringing her items and now shy, I said softly, "Did you give up a child for adoption? By any chance, could you be my mother? See, I was adopted and you look a lot like me." The lady's face broke into a smile, but it was outlined in sadness for me. "No, honey. I didn't. I'm not your mom. But, I wish I were. You seem like a sweet girl. I pray that one day you'll find her and that she'll love you like you deserve." The longing had no shame. It permeated my being. I needed to know my mother.
My mom who raised me was volatile. Abusive. Then loving. Then abusive. She drank. Or rather had an alcohol problem. She was an alcoholic. So as an escape from her abuse I idealized a fantasy mother. This woman who floated on clouds and wore pretty pink dresses. I was kidnapped I told myself. She was rich and someone stole me from her. She was somewhere desperately looking for me. She would arrive one day and rescue me from mean old lady Lillian. She'd arrive in a tiara and silver high heels and she would carry me away. She never came. So, I went searching for her.
After I graduated from college I began looking. The building with the adoption records had burned down I was told. The records were missing. I waited. A year passed. Then another year passed. I gave up hope. Then. A phone call. We found. Your brother. He chose not to meet me. I hurt. More time passed. I hired a court intermediary. I went to visit my other mom in Detroit for Mother's Day. It was May 2000. I called home and checked my messages and the investigator had called. They finally found my mom and she was in Detroit too. It had taken two years and some change, but it had happened.
It was a rainy May day and accompanied by my dad, he took me to see my first mom. I was so nervous. When we arrived at the building, we were announced and then given my mother's floor number and directed to an elevator. Before we could press the up button, this woman had bounded out of the stairwell and literally tackled me. She had ran down almost 20 flights of stairs. I couldn't see her face, I just felt her engulf me in her warmth. She smelled of cigarettes and beer and faint perfume.
When she let me go, I looked into the eyes of my mom for the first time since I was a baby. This woman had lived. She had seen some things. Not all good either. She wore the hardness of the world on her. But there was a warmth. A child-like excitement. An innocence. There was love, guilt and regret. No tears like you see on the TV reunions. I stood quietly, shocked, but happy. I was home.
Over the next 13 years me and my mom would try our best to forge a union, to connect. In that time, I saw her only on a few occasions. That first reunion only lasted two days because it was impromptu and I had to return home as I was in the middle of job hunting. I then took two weeks to visit Detroit so I could spend more time with her and my family, then several holidays afterwards.
The visits were not all I wanted them to be. We were apart more than we were together and I now know that it wasn't because she didn't want to see me, it was just so damn hard. Looking into the face of the child who is now an adult that you didn't get to raise must have been so painful for her. There were times I was able to tap into that pain and be understanding, but it still hurt. I was still that little girl, that baby that wanted her mom. I was selfish at times. I wanted that fantasy I had constructed instead of accepting the reality that she could give me.
On August 26, 2013 my mom, Francine O. Williams died. We hadn't been in contact much, but I did speak to her on Mother's Day and earlier in the year on her birthday. The love was still there, but a lot of the energy we had to connect and repair our relationship had fizzled. I was tired of being disappointed and she was tired of being the one that was always letting me down. I had a plan though. Me and my sister were going to surprise her during the holidays. To see if we could build back up some of the ground that had been lost. But it was not to be. She's gone.
In the wake of her death I have cried, screamed, sobbed, shouted, wept silently and rocked myself to sleep. This is the deepest pain I've ever felt in my life. You see, I'm an achiever. I had a goal. To not only find my mom, but to make up for lost time. Reconnect the dots. Perfect the imperfections. Heal the wounds. Make my mom better. Make myself better. Heal me. Heal her. But I couldn't do it. Sure I healed myself along the way by going to counseling, I sent her books on adoption and first moms but she told me they were too hard for her to read. I backed off at times and then I'd go at her again, wanting her to be this mom that she just couldn't be. Once I realized and accepted that she couldn't it was too late to go back and spend that time better. Now all I have is our limited memories. And her laughter. Oh that laughter. She could light up the darkness with that cackle. She laughed from the soles of her feet on up. It entered you and tickled your funny bone. It rings in my ears so loudly at times when I see something funny. She's still with me that way.
I also saved a bunch of emails that she sent me at the beginning of our reunion. Thank God. They are better than voicemails because I can hear her voice as I read them. They take me back to those first precious moments of our adult time together. There was hope and anticipation and apologies and love.
I know as I breathe she is still alive in me. I have her laugh, her shape, her sense of humor, love for good food and good loving and her mean streak. I lost her in adoption and now in death, but I'll have her forever as my mom. My first mom. Forever and always. I love you Francine Odella Williams. I will see you again. I will. I know it. I feel it. I will it to be. I miss you.
An Email From My Mother to Me - Early Reunion Stages: