For My Mother

Mother and Daughter
Mother and Daughter

It is late morning

We sit together

At the white marbled table

In your chic NYC 17th floor apartment

*

We discuss our manuscript

*

The subject changes

To the occasion of our dinner

The night before

The dinner at Trattoria Dell’arte

Where you met

for the very first time

“My Family”

*

We laugh

We smile

We are glad for the experience

*

“It’s time for me to leave,” I say

Go home

Home to Florida

*

You take my hand

Your countenance changes

Your eyes reshape

A seriousness

A tear

Which you hold back

*

“I have thought of you as mine,” you say

“After meeting them,” you pause

“I realize you’re not”

*

Silence

*

Irony

*

In your pain

I feel

loved

wanted

needed

treasured

*

And then I realize

This is the bond

Between

us

This is the bond

Between

Every mother and child

*

A bond formed

by

Sacrificing

So

That child may feel

*

Loved

Wanted

Needed

Treasured

*

In this moment

I see it

I feel it

I live it

*

In this moment

I know

*

I am yours

I’ve always been yours

I will always be yours

All my love,

Kathy

The Dress that Broke the Internet and What it Teaches Us About Reunions

juliekathweddingThe dress that broke the internet got me thinking. The age-old question, “is your red the same as my red?” applies to so much more than color perception. In some ways, it’s the true foundation of all our relationships: negotiating a dance between one’s own perception of the world and another’s. If I perceive nighttime as the time when I wake up, have breakfast, and live my life, and I have a husband for whom the same is true only of daytime, chances are we won’t get to grow old together. That’s an outlandish example, of course, but it stands in for countless subtler perceptive differences that we often don’t even notice compromising on. More importantly, it’s what illustrates the true breadth of blind faith we all must have in order to function in the world. When we hear the words I love you, for example, we have no guarantee that the word love represents the same feeling in the person professing it as it does in us. We just have to trust that it does.

This is heightened and even more extraordinary when thinking, as Kathy and I are wont to do, about adoption reunions. The meeting between, in our case, an adoptee and a birth mother, is a meeting between relatives who are strangers to one another. While we recognized each other as family the moment we set eyes on one another, that had little bearing on the kind of relationship we would have. Kathy still had no idea what kind of person I was. Just because she recognized her own children’s features in mine did not mean that she could expect her values to be in harmony with mine. Or that I was an affectionate person. Or empathetic, or kind. Because these assessments can only be made with time. For example, she may have asked me, are you an affectionate person? To which I would have responded, thinking about what affectionate meant to me, yes, and by doing so created in her an expectation of me. We lived thousands of miles apart. What are the chances that the way I expressed affection would be in keeping with the way she expected me to express it?

This is just one small factor that complicates reunions. As we research reunions for our next book (stay tuned for more information about that!) we are more and more convinced of the wisdom in slowly getting to know each other rather than jumping in headfirst, spurred on by the euphoria of the ‘honeymoon period’.

Because sometimes all it takes to break up a fledgling relationship between reunitees is, “No, you’re wrong. It’s obviously black and blue. And I can’t be around a person who insists it’s white and gold!”

-Julie

To My Valentines

Whatever your personal feelings regarding this day, it does have meaning. As a culture, we come together and, despite the part FullSizeRender (9)about buying stuff, we all find ourselves with something to say about love. It is, after all, whether we admit it or not, human beings’ favorite thing in the world. It is the source of our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. In its many shapes and forms, it’s what drives us, what fulfills us, what, however temporarily or not, assures us that our existence is not in vain, that our living has meaning. If we have it we struggle to keep it, if we don’t, we struggle to have it. Not only is love the vessel that connects us to others, it is what ensures that our lives do not go unnoticed. Unwitnessed.

When I gave birth to Kathy and had to say goodbye, it was my love for her that gave me the strength for it. When I spent the subsequent years pining for her, it was Frank’s love that gave me the strength to go on. When I was racked with guilt and pain, it was my love for my other children, Danielle and Frank, Jr., and their love for me, that gave me the strength to be a good mother to them.

I’ve been married to the love of my life for fifty years now. Love has evolved as we have evolved. What has remained constant, however, is the strength it has infused in us to face life, and bear all it gives and takes away. Today, because of love, because of the hope that love wouldn’t allow us to give up, we are great-grandparents to a little boy born to the daughter of our long-lost daughter. It feels a bit like a miracle. Like a dream. Like magic.

FullSizeRender (8)

 

 

Today, Valentine’s Day, I want to thank my daughter, my co-author and partner in crime, for finding us. For making our family whole. For giving us so much to celebrate.

And Danielle and Frank, Jr., for being my greatest source of pride and joy.

And my children’s children (and their children), who are gifts I cherish every moment of my life.

And my friends, and our supporters, and the readers of Secret Storms, whose own stories inspire Kathy and me every day.

And, of course, my Valentine. Frank, the love of my life.

♡,

Julie

Two Peas in a Pod

I am feeling a little sad.

My new granddaughter, whose mother was the daughter I was forced to give away 49 years ago and who found me just five years ago, has just left after a visit of four days.

I can’t believe Amanda flew all the way here to Los Angeles from Florida, just to see her grandfather, Frank and me; and on her own dime, too.

She’s just a kid, really. Twenty-four.

And the thing is… she is so much like me. It’s rather scary how alike we are. Not just the way we look, but also the way our minds work. Like me and like her mother, she is a writer, as well. She told me yesterday as we were cleaning up together after breakfast, “I just don’t have a filter like most people do. I say whatever comes to mind and don’t even realize ‘til later that I gave away too much information about myself. Sometimes people are afraid of me.”

Amanda and the NYT

I stopped scrubbing the sink and looked up at her. “Me too,” I said happily. “I used to be like that too,” I told her. “I would talk about things like our family cheetah scratching me accidentally and having to be taken to the hospital for 20 stitches and people would look afraid of me and turn away and I never understood why. Now I just write about that stuff because I have learned that what is unrelatable to the face is remarkable on the page.”

“We are like two peas in a pod,” she said and laughed. “It’s so nice to finally have someone I can really relate to.”

“It’s nice for me too,” I told her. “Thank God your Mom went and found me. I would have missed out if I had never gotten to know you. I only wish I had gotten to watch you grow up.”

Yeah, though I am feeling a little sad, I am mighty grateful, too. On the way to the airport Amanda told me she was going to stop off at her Aunt Danielle’s–my second daughter, the daughter I did get to keep–and say goodbye to her cousins, the granddaughters whom I did get to watch grow up.

She’s a good spirit, Amanda is. She is my blood.

 -Julie