So here we are again! Been having a rest from my trip down memory lane. It can be quite draining reliving something that has such a huge impact on your life and emotional well being, so I took some time out….
February saw my BM’s Birthday come round. I sent a plant and a card. It felt surreal to do this as suddenly I felt a duty to do so. I dislike duty but it was certainly there in my mind that it was somehow expected. I was determined to shake this feeling off but for now it rested in my heart like a small niggle….Anyway we continued to chat regularly over the first few months of the year until the subject of a meeting came up. We agreed I would travel up for a day and stay over night.My amazing hubby refused to let me take this step of the journey alone so it was planned we would drive up together April 5th . He would work in the hotel and we would go out to eat together in the evening.
My BM was super excited and we both saw this as a huge step in the right direction. I booked a hotel in her postcode and she said she lived only round the corner so it was simple for her to come pick me up from there and take me to lunch at 1pm. Yikes!
And so the weeks rolled on to the date in the diary. I had my hair freshly braided for the occasion and planned gifts to take up for her. To say I was nervous wouldn’t really cover it. I felt as if I was going for an interview but I already had the job . Like everything hinged on this meeting yet nothing would change either way. Weird one. Now I wish I had kept the texts I received literally ALL the way up to Manchester…all 5 and half bloody hours of motorway , with roadworks, hold ups and general heavy traffic travelling North. These texts were from all my amazing and supportive mates who suddenly realised the date had come round to. I love my friends so much! From ‘Not long now’ to OMG I just saw my calendar and remembered you are seeing BM today, Good luck ‘. Many sent me I love you messages which had me blubbing quietly most of the journey. To be fair I was a bit of a wreck by the time we hit the M6.
Again the most common text simply said ‘How are you feeling? ‘I have already said this is a question no one can answer easily even if they tried hard. It was a mixture of the following:
Fear– what if she dislikes me on sight… or I her? My nerves are jangling, like when you feel your teeth are chattering but they actually aren’t? I need to take many deep breathes to get me through today..or deep slugs of wine? Ha!
Excitement– Meeting new people was always exciting to me. She isn’t ‘new‘ as such as we have been chatting and getting to know each other over the last 6 months. So much information crammed into such a short time it feels like we are no longer strangers
Sadness – Yes I felt a sadness for my BM. I knew this must be bringing back so many painful memories I couldn’t possibly understand. Absolutely she gave ME up but she did so for all the right reasons. There are those who don’t understand adoption , maybe think a step parent is the same thing if the legal process is undertaken…not true.
Or the worst ones, those who almost blame Adoption itself for forcing them to make the choice to give up a child. Actually those people piss me off, a lot. They blog on behalf of themselves, the BM, suggesting Adoption made them do it? Adoption is the Evil amongst us! Hey?, what a crock of shite? NO, Society, the individuals’ personal circumstances , pressure from their families, fear in themselves or even the birth fathers MADE it a choice…Adoption simply is a legal system that allowed that choice so cannot be blamed specifically. That is the guilt of a BM living with regret. Simple.
And Breathe….mini rant over…for now!
Curiosity- Imagine seeing your face in someone else’s for the very first time. Yes I had seen pics and stared till my eyes clouded over but this was the real deal. OMG, this was going to be super surreal. Nothing comes close to the idea that I looked like someone else in the world having been almost an Island with one inhabitant for over 40 years. Yes, we would need wine!
Other emotions blended with these I have suggested but again to sum up the How Do you feel? question, it cannot be answered neatly so my response was simply
I don’t know, I am just being!
We arrive at the junction into Manchester and pull of the motorway. I think there must have been a burst mains nearby as the smell of sewerage hit us immediately. I decide this was a bad omen. Here I am heading to the meeting of my life and all I can smell is raw shite? Nice one, thanks Karma, I owe you one!
Hubby and I laughed about this which cleared the growing tension in the car. She had told me her car make and colour so as we pulled into the car park to the Hotel, I looked around but couldn’t see it. As I stepped out of the car and turned I caught one of my braids in the gap between the open door and with a slam and a ripping sound it came clean off the side of my head! It hurt too! Good start….I left it lying on the ground by the car , like a cat had caught a rat but left just its tail.
I walked into the hotel , as it was a conference Hotel it was fairly formal with a suited receptionist waiting to greet guests. I stood in a small queue and Hubby approached silently behind me. As I check us in he leans over and clears his throat..
‘Excuse me madam ‘ he says for my benefit… ‘ I believe this belongs to you? and hands over the stray Rats tail rescued from the car park. Mortified I grab in and scowl as I sign the visitors book . He however is utterly cracked up. We enter a tiny Basic Double complete with formica sideboard and shower over bath combo! Not the most elegant hotel but hey it was for sleeping in so did the job. Free WiFi so he was all set up with Laptop and Mobile.
Of course I know exactly what his intention was and I did see the funny side of the Rats Tail and it served to calm my nerves pretty well . I managed a half decent repair job on my hair and was pulled into a long , tight and reassuring hug. ‘Don’t start me off!’ I kept saying but he refused to let me go. It was 2 minutes to 1pm and we both realised this was actually MASSIVE. In just a couple of minutes I was to come face to face with my BM. The woman he sweetly said he wanted to meet too, to thank her for making me!Bless him. Love that man!
So we walk back to the reception to wait. Sat in high back chairs opposite the main sliding doors we looked like we were holding court. My palms were sweating and the repaired braid was causing my temple to throb in tune with my rapidly beating heart. I could actually see my heart beat in my chest.
Then I saw her little silver car pass the main doors to the car park. Dry mouth. Feeling a bit nauseous. She wanders in , eyes already glazed and shook Hubby by the hand and thanked HIM! For bringing me up to see her , for looking after me and for being such a support . Fair play, she wasn’t wrong. So I kissed Hubby and said I would be back about 7…and we left in her car. It felt really normal, oddly so . We chatted in the car like old mates. She had the day planned so I relaxed and let it flow. Made a change for someone else to do the planning so maybe we are alike there too. She drove us to Nandos for lunch. Her choice, which I approved of. I said I would get lunch and she insisted on paying for the wine. Lady got class! I said “Oh a small white wine please”. The barman poured two small wines. She goes ‘ Oh my God, make it one large, that’s nothing in the glass!’ Ha! I relaxed some more.
We sat at a table and she insisted on sitting on the next chair to mine, not opposite. She had bought an envelope full of pictures. Before our meeting, I processed a thick Photo Book online. It had pics of me as a baby up through my teens and to date. Pics of my family, my home, my pets, my first marriage even and everything I had in pictures to build a view of my life. I gave her copies of published articles I have written over the years too. The life she had missed. The life she gave me…or at the very least, allowed me to have?
We skimmed through the pictures, outlined the who, when and what tags and all the while I felt her eyes boring into me. She stared like a child stares at something they dont recognize as the norm. She apologized for staring but said I was the uncanny image of my Birth Father and she couldn’t get over it. She said our faces were so alike in almost every way. She told me a little more about him as he had come up in conversation. I sensed she hadn’t had a need or opportunity to mention him in many years. Apparently he had made attempts via a mutual friend to contact MB but he was having non of it. Fair enough. She said he was a player but very handsome and was the love of her life. It seems that if she had been prepared to share him he may have stuck around for us? She wasn’t, rightly, so he slung his hook. Having heard that her second pregnancy by him was to lead to Adoption he made no attempts to persuade her otherwise so I am guessing he had many offspring he may never know about. I did tell you one such offspring contacted me via Genes Reunited. I left it alone and continue to do so. How many unknown siblings might I unearth. Not thanks……There is such a thing as too much news!
We enjoyed a chatty and amiable lunch. The next stop was a walk around the lake in her local park. Nice …if it was July. It was bloody freezing and we made it to the first bench then huddled together for warmth. I joked that if we stayed too long we would freeze solid and need chipping off the wood! It was here she showed me the letter she had received from my half birth sister EC. I read it to myself, conscious she was upset so didn’t need it reading aloud. Yes, it was a Dear John. Seemed she had issues that were not related to finding VS although there was little in the letter to clarify what the issues actually were? She was saying Timing was off and she had to deal with her stuff but wished her well blah blah!?
My first reaction was pity for BM and a mild irritation towards EC. Mainly as it was her choice to trace our mutual BM and now it left a new emptiness that was already there but now was magnified. Bit cruel but likely unintentional. However on reflection knowing EC bloodline and history I concluded she was like me. All too much to take in and absorb in one huge bite. Maybe meeting at the graveside threw her such a scary curve ball that she needed to retreat and rethink stuff. Who knows. Anyway I tried to comfort BM by saying I didn’t read anything in there that said She herself was forbidden from contacting her , say Birthday, Christmas etc just to keep the dialogue open? I was not able to speak for EC but spoke as I imagined I would feel myself with such huge and fairly unsavoury information about the man whose blood coursed through her veins. I dodged a bullet there as we don’t share the same Birth Father BUT it still makes me shudder nonetheless. Not a nice man who took his own life to escape what might have caught up with him one day. Anyway , with a numb bum and stiff fingers we got back in her little car and headed off.
Next stop was her Friday Bad Soup Lady Friend. I kid you not. This lovely lady was known for Bad Soup on a Friday. In local speak Bad meant good….yes, took me a while to get this too…so off we go and ring on the door of a terrace house with darkened windows. I said She’s not in! Suddenly a window upstairs flies open and out pops this black ladies head! She said ‘Oh how wonderful, she’s here!! (that’ll be ME then!?) ..’I’ll come let you in’ . The window slams and we hear her thundering down the stairs.
Open arms reach for me and pull me indoors…’For a closer Look‘..Alrighty then! We are lead into her back room with a Christmas tree still up. Not decorated but stood there in the corner. She’s waiting for her son to get over to put back in the loft. Its April?? My BM jokes that she may as well leave it there for next Christmas! A strong cup of tea and the offer of a cream cracker is refused (yes! I know). The conversation is pleasant and I answer expected questions about myself and my life and we sit chatting like old buddies. My BM then asks her friend what she was doing when we arrived as the house was in darkness. She replied ‘ Well, I was bout to sit on the throne when you knocked!’ I left it till we left to ask ‘How come she didn’t need to ‘Go’ for the next hour or so that we sat there with her?’ My BM said ‘ Maybe she swallowed it back up??’ We both cracked up.
Onward to our next stop…
The Afro Hair Emporium! Yes!!!! Nothing like this even existed South of Bristol so my eyes lit up with expectation…Two key things you have to note here: Firstly my BM has bestowed upon me the thickest head of hair known to the afro world! Enough for at least three adult humans to have a decent pelt. That said it is something I could never share with my Mum in the same way. You see my Mum did do me a huge favour all my life , in not knowing of the toxic chemicals available for Black Hair. She read an open letter in the Times once from a Black BM to the Adopters of her adopted child. It said ‘Please leave her hair alone, do not use chemicals on it ‘ And so that touched a nerve with my Mum and she did just that. Years of a scraped back single puff ball or two fluffy bunches (Yes, I was teased with the name Mickey Mouse for much of my early years) has resulted in seriously thick hair. Never to be sullied or damaged by the hydrochloric acid of afro hair relaxer. Until I found it myself, of course in my teens and butchered the hell out of my head for many years!
Now when I regularly sit between two clients in my favourite salon, having my hair braided or relaxed or just styled, I am stared at with pure unashamed Hair envy by the near balding ladies who did have those chemicals discovered many moons ago. Downside? takes over 6 hours to braid my hair and almost as long to un-braid. Upside? I will be unlikely to go naturally bald….every cloud!
So as we cross the road we pass a competitor store with a cross looking Indian lady staring out the door. My BM retorts ‘ I don’t go in that one, she stares at you and is too rude’ I laugh. Not so much for the comment itself but because I could hear myself saying the exact same thing! Our shared , similar humour is quite enlightening
Inside this Black Hair Goodies Mecca is every brand, ever style, every imaginable product for my type of hair all under one roof. I am in Hair Product Heaven! She is desperate to buy me a sheen spray for my braids, planned it for weeks so I bite my tongue when I see the price and let her buy it for me. I pick up hair bobbles and slides for my daughter of course. Animal print striped hair slides are very fashionable you know! She is amazed how I don’t feel compelled to fill a trolley of all this stuff. I feel almost sorry that technology is such that I can buy all this stuff at the click of mouse. I just mutter that I don’t need anything for myself right now so am resisting. Truth be told, I have bucket loads of the stuff already!
Next stop. Her house. Yep, the house I stalked online on Google Street Map for weeks on end. The Neighbour is also going to get a surprise visit! Now as you know I feel deep affection for this neighbour too, after all she was my key to the door of the next door house! (Metaphorically!)
So we pull up in her drive…..its exactly as I expected, the bin is in the same place anyway. She opens her front door to me …….and it suddenly hits me that she has waited for this moment for all these years .
Her heart I know has always been open to me….
My BM is a religious woman. I am not. When I was adopted her paperwork included what she wanted my eventual parents to have in way of a faith. She requested they were Christian as she was at the time. She still is but on a higher level than my parents. I was raised C of E but do not practice it and never really did more than humour others by being Confirmed etc. At the young age these things happen you just go with the flow and if by any chance they get me a better seat when my number’s up – then good news!
Its not a bad thing but I am true to myself and don’t claim to be something that I am not as an adult. Don’t see the benefit . However nothing would stop me showing adequate respect to the Faith and belief of my BM, especially at this point. So what greets me in the house are many glass paperweights, those pretty Caithness style ones of flowers encased in glass orbs. She was clearly a collector of these and also printed up Prayers decorated the walls. Amongst her family photos were Best Mum plaques. Before I walked through to the front room my eyes were drawn to the brass plaque on a wooden frame. It was the prayer Footsteps and for some unknown reason it touched me right in my chest as if I had to read it then and there. So I did. She just watched me silently and said ‘Its lovely isn’t it? ‘ I said ‘Yes I’ve not read that in years. We moved inside and I kicked my shoes off while she made me tea. Keen to show me as much as possible in a short time I learn about my biological relatives like a whistle stop tour. Her brothers and sisters , their families. Her elder brother who came to the UK before her is close to her now. He lives in the USA. He sent his love…Hmmmm, how surreal ! Seeing pictures of her parents threw me an emotional curve ball. I adored all my grandparents and sense their presence regularly, especially while I write my feelings out for you. Its an odd one to see biology staring back at you there in the flesh and also in photographic form. You don’t quite know what to say. ‘Oh lovely, yes she/he looks nice’ Whhhhaaaaattt??? I nodded and smiled and all the while wondered what they would make of all this !
We drank our tea and chatted some more and I admired her garden. Small as it was, it was a cute little court yard. Made cute by the plants in pots and little squirrels and things dotted about. She lived comfortably and when she showed me her bedroom I felt a real kick in my gut.
My BM’s bedroom.
She slept here. She prayed for me here! She told me she had cried many many times for me in this very room. I felt suddenly really tired and looked at my watch. Not because I’d had enough. Not because I wanted to go. I was shocked how late it was and having been up half the night then travelling from an early start my brain was in meltdown. As was my emotional state. I was almost holding my breath as it was like being in a dream. I felt like I was looking down on that bed where we both sat laughing and chatting whilst going through a shoe box of images from her past.
She produced a huge Gift bag from inside her wardrobe. Another huge bag of gifts was handed to me. ‘Just because!’ She said she had been waiting a long time to make me feel special with her gifts so now was that time. Wowzers!…welling up I hugged my BM and she clung on for longer than I expected. Snivelling I wondered how long we had been upstairs as I could see it was dark outside.
I realised it was nearly 7 already. The day had flown by in a haze. I rang Hubby to say we would be about another hour as still needed to surprise E, the neighbour next door. He was fine with this and decided to scope out a place to eat from when I got back to the Hotel.
VS then finds her phone and rings next door. Her opening line ‘ Are you In? still makes me laugh today as of course she was in or how else could she have picked up her phone! Ha! She tells her she has a surprise for her and is coming round in 5 to show her. ‘Ooh how intriguing ‘ she laughed in response to the tease.
I put on my boots and coat (reluctantly as it happened. It felt like the last phase of the day and I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave it there….)
Five minutes later we were greeted by E on her doorstep. Remember me saying this lady had a huge treacle rich voice and laugh to match. In my minds eye she was a big busted roundish woman with a warm smile. Yep, the warmth and the voice were there. Before me stood a tiny woman shorter than my BM by some inches. My BM is 5ft 2 so you can imagine my surprise to be grabbed by this slight lady in a hair net, knotted on top. She is lovely and welcoming so we sit in the front room to chat.
As I perched on one of the two two-seater sofas opposite these two new characters in my life’s book. I feel like I am being interviewed. Oh, and guess who decides to rub up against me with a loud purr.? The snooty looking cat from the Google Street View image. Cute he is too, and very vain, made himself the centre of attention for quite some time, until I tired of taking his photo anyway.
Now you have to bear in mind I never met these ladies in the flesh until today…
‘Ooooh my, she’s the image of you V! Prettier though!’ …Hahahaha…belly laughing
and the most memorable exchange ‘Oh I wish I had a daughter! ‘ was met with ‘Well I’m not Sharing her, she’s mine !’…more than an little irony to that one!
Sitting there watching these ladies verbally spar with each other I was suddenly so glad I found my BM the way I did, however unorthodox it may seem to the professionals. I had gained a lovely new character in my current Chapter and she helped shape my picture of my BM . In the same way the lady with the Bad Soup had. I got a view of her life which was fascinating and comforting. I felt she had good friends like I did and valued them in the same way I do. It felt good.She had support.
I listened to their easy banter and looked around the room. They were talking about funerals. Yes they were. E was asking V if she was going to the one in their church next Wednesday. She replied ‘ Hmmmm, not sure yet, that chap has no family so we should really’ Then she added, but best get something to eat beforehand , the food at that one last week was rubbish. Excuse me??? I spat my tea out!
She went on to explain how on occasion she was known to be scoffing chips in the car as the hearse went by as she knew that ‘certain members of her church were skinny flints and laid on such rubbish food at the wake! Once, she concluded, just one bowl of watery soup!! Outrageous when they made the effort to turn up! It seemed they were both regular funeral attendees , as was the way in her church. They treated it as a day out. OK, then. Who are we to judge eh!?:-)
I had to agree, tongue in cheek that the food should be worth going for …but I found this double act absolutely hilarious. It was like watching a comedy in that little front room with the cat posing next to my feet!
So we took a load of photos of us all, with and without the Cat , bid goodbye to E and she hugged me again, a bit tighter this time.
Back next door I gathered up my gifts and got ready to leave. Just before we left the house she took the Footsteps prayer plaque off the wall . It left a darker area than the rest of the wall where it had sat for however many years. I was touched and moved that she really wanted me to have it. Amongst others she also had a framed copy of Don’t Quit which I have posted before and will again someday. I love the Footsteps Plaque and it sits near my bed at home.
We wend our way back to the hotel. My head is absolutely banging, bit dehydrated I think but basically I am in free-fall. Its been a big day!As I say goodbye at the car, gifts in hand we both well up but are smiling.
I leave her and join my very patient hubby in the hotel. Unsurprisingly he is starving so we head for the nearest Wetherspoons for a mixed grill.
My BM tells me later that watching me disappear behind the sliding doors of the hotel was when she lost it. She said it reminded her of leaving me behind sliding doors all those years ago. Said it felt as painful as back then. I understand that and felt for her when she told me this. At that point I was just knackered and needed a cuddle and some food..and a glass of wine!
The following day however was a different matter . All these months leading to this meeting and suddenly I had done it. Sadly at this point I hit meltdown with a hard thump. My emotions poured out like never before. Like the year of tension finally came to an end. I could let go without holding back . So poor Hubby took home a much less upbeat wife. I was down to a point where I found it hard to speak at all, let alone answer that same old question ‘How do you feel? .Like shit actually but hey that doesn’t really cover it.
My sense of self was complete BUT I still had to share the tale with my Mum…..
Thanks for Reading
For whatever reasons your life trajectory was severely altered through no fault of your own. How wonderful to make this connection and make such a wonderful discovery. I’m very happy for you.
Thanks Judith, yes a surreal connection it is too…there are more eye openers to come 🙂 Thanks so much for reading x