This is a rough day for me–my mother died twenty-one years ago. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her in some way, when I do something she taught me to do, when I hear her words coming out of my mouth to my own sons, or, even after all these years, I come across something I’d like to share with her. We were close, and her absence is a permanent ache.
My brother, my sister, and I are adopted, and yes, we’re old enough that it was a matter of “saving the girl’s shame” by shipping her off to a home for unwed mothers. My birth mother gave me many gifts: a good constitution, a good mind, and a good family. I am grateful, how can I not be? but this young woman (and the young man who supplied the rest of the chromosomes) had no further place in my life. I was given to a loving family when I was but a few days old.
When someone asks me about my parents, I tell them about the couple who held me while I teethed, taught me to read and put books in my hands, who applauded my successes and commiserated my failures. The mother who spent sleepless nights with me, whether it was a bout of pneumonia or a prom, who leaned on me to practice my violin, my math skills, and my tact, is my real mother.
Once in a while, someone questions this. They wonder why I haven’t sought out my “real mother.” Excuse me? I know who my real mother is: she raised me, she loved me, and I would give about anything short of my own children to have her back.
“But your ‘real mother’…” certain fools persist. They don’t understand that I have only a remote curiosity about her, much like I’ll have to read more about ancient Thebes one day. I was a life-wrecking disaster to her, and I can only be grateful she sent me to my real mom. I would like to tell her that it all worked out well.
But my real mom, the one for whom I scribbled crayon declarations of love and drove crazy later, is the one I miss this day. The placental connection is the least part of what made her my mother.