Mothers of Mine

This is how I remember it all… (But memories are mischievous things. The winds of time have a way of upsetting them, twisting and warping them, distorting and contorting them. And in some cases, changing them entirely. So, what I remember, may not, I
regret, be true.)

We are playing on the great, green lawn in front of Grandmother Rose’s home. I am four and have no fear. We are running in circles, around and around. We are having so much fun. Out of breath, I want to stop for a moment. But before I have a chance, her claw, her dewclaw— an additional claw used to trip and catch fleeing prey, typically gazelles on the wide plains of Africa—inadvertently flies out and catches my arm. I hear the long rip as I fall, in slow motion, to the ground.
Japanese John—as he was called then—who is hanging the wash nearby, stops what he is doing. Scuffling over in his slippered feet—they had been badly burned during the First World War—he kneels beside me. Rani, our baby cheetah, owner of the dewclaw, begins to lick my wound, an instinctive response surely, as saliva promotes blood clotting and defends against infection. “Mmm,” old, wrinkled John whispers. “Mmm.” He nods. “You good. You okay.” John’s few words—John knows very little English even though he has been working for
my grandmother for decades—serve to keep me at peace. I don’t feel pain. I don’t feel frightened. It isn’t until Grandmother Rose comes rocketing out of the house, her long, red hair wild and streaming out from its usually-neat knot on top of her head, her blue eyes on fire, that any of these ideas begin to occur to me.

I, of course, still have the scar today, many years later. Therefore, I know this memory to be true. It begins above the inner fleshy part of the elbow of my left arm, and goes up a good five inches. It’s wide, white, and jagged.

As you can see, I had a lot of mothers growing up. I had, of course, our cheetah, who mothered me quite well, and possibly saved my life immediately after almost taking it. I had Japanese John, whose gentle composure contrived to keep me more reasonable than I might have been had I grown up without him. I had my Grandmother Rose, the first woman to receive a speeding ticket in the United States, on a ride through Fairmont Park—an inspiration that speaks for itself. I also had the nuns, called Mothers, at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, where I boarded for many years. They wrapped me securely in their black-habited arms when I needed to be contained, and sang hymns to me with sweet, angelic voices. My mother, Jule Junker Mannix, who actually gave birth to me, was possibly the most influential mother in my life because, due to work, she traveled around the world a lot. I, too, have a travel bug within me that takes me far and wide as often as I can get away with it.

I know what I remember may not be true. But, truth be told, my life is a magnificent, crazy and wild ride. So anything I remember that makes me feel a burst of ecstasy has to be seized and cherished. For I am, after all, the product of some very brilliant, if unorthodox, mothers.

 -Julie

Again and Again

We’re working on a second book — about which we can’t reveal too much yet — except to say we’ve been conducting many, many interviews for it. We interview adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents alike, and are constantly stunned and deeply touched by the stories people choose to share with us.

One of the themes that has emerged is that many young adoptees who felt rejected by their birth families harbored a great fear of being rejected by the adoptive family, as well, no matter how loved they may have been.

One adoptee in particular, James, told us about one of his birthdays when he was a young boy growing up in a house of four other adopted children. His account so moved us, we asked for his permission to share it with you all.

I can still remember the night before I turned ten. I was restless and my legs wouldn’t stay still. My mind was running in circles, too, and I couldn’t sleep so I turned on the light next to my bed, reached for my sketchbook and pencil, and began to draw. I still have the drawing I did that night. It’s somewhere in a box of things my mother saved. Anyway, it was a picture of me, my two sisters and two brothers. I was standing in the middle, wearing a birthday crown. Around my neck was a string from which hung a sign. FOR SALE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS ME, it read.

FullSizeRender

When I was finished, I turned off my lamp. I remember that for some reason I felt better and was able to go to sleep after that. The next morning when I woke up, I noticed  wet streaks across the drawing. And I couldn’t remember crying. That’s when I saw the note next to the picture. In my mother’s careful handwriting, this is what it said:

IF YOU ARE FOR SALE, I’LL BUY YOU. AND EACH TIME YOU ARE FOR SALE, I’LL BUY YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN.