My house is quiet this morning as I sit at the table, contemplating the early sky through the window. Gentle tendrils of steam escape from my mug of coffee, the ceramic feeling reassuringly warm in my hands. Normally I’d be sitting outside on my deck, but this morning is still cool and the deck, unwelcoming. Nonetheless, this is one of my favorite times of the day, an opportunity when I have time to myself to think without force, and it is often when some of my most introspective writing happens.
It’s Mother’s Day. This is not a holiday I love, since it focuses the household’s total attention on — well, me. In fact, I’ve usually grit my teeth through the obligation of the day, as I’ve long been convinced it is actually a day for everyone else to feel better about how they treat their mom. If it were, in fact, a day made by mothers to celebrate mothers, it would be a day when mothers would congregate and drink together, or perhaps go to a day spa, or at the very least, everyone left you alone to do what you want, when you want.
I’m at a point now where I have friends who are observing this day for the first time since their mother’s passing. I have friends who have come to terms with the bittersweetness of their memories, and I have friends who are lovingly caring for their mother even as this day unfolds. After losing the only grandmother I’ve ever known, I can certainly relate to the pain of losing someone dear but, personally, I always feel somewhat detached from this holiday. I don’t speak about being adopted often, but the clues are there if you look for them. In fact, until recently, I’ve seldom even thought about it at all. But occasionally, there are days — like today — when the thoughts seep in around the corners of my consciousness, unbidden.
Does she ever think about me? Does she even remember me?
I don’t have any answers. Most adopted kids have these kinds of questions and many spend significant time, money, and effort to seek out the answers which will allow them some sort of closure. I’m one of the luckier ones, all things considered; I have a father who could tell me all about her if he so chose. Her name. What she looked like. Why they decided to lie to me, for many years, that she had died in childbirth. But to this day he is forever silent on the subject, adamant in his refusal to share any information whatsoever.
You wonder why I’m so skewed.
For a long time, I worried the scarring of my childhood would make me incapable of creating loving relationships with my own kids. As it is, I’ve never been the doting mother; I’m not even sure how to define the kind of mom I’ve been. I do know that, somewhere along the line, I’ve tried to instill love and respect and compassion. I’ve tried to teach, but I’ve let them make mistakes, even when I knew the lessons would be difficult. I’ve tried to give them the space to lead their own lives, make their own choices, and live with the knowledge that I would always love them, even if I didn’t like some of the things they did. We established early on that they could always come to me and ask me anything and I wouldn’t lie to them. This has occasionally come back to bite me, like the conversation in the car where they wanted me to explain what a blow job was (thank you, middle school). I kid you not. But that’s another story for another time. With beer.
I think, in the end, motherhood comes down to this: doing your best to do what’s best for those you love. Keeping the lines of communication open, no matter what the cost, and for always being available to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. I don’t think it matters if we’re adopted, or if we had poor parenting examples when we were growing up. I think it’s inherently deep down inside of us all, although some of us may have to dig down really deep to uncover it (sometimes with the help of therapy). So many of my friends are incredibly loving, caring, amazing moms, and I wish them the best days of construction paper cards, macaroni necklaces, flowers, breakfasts in bed, phone calls from college, and love. You really do reap what you sow, and it can be beautiful, even if you’re convinced that you have no business pretending to have that elusive maternal instinct.
Like Dorothy discovers in The Wizard of Oz, it was just really there inside you, all along.