I wrote this as a writing prompt from my GenFab blogger group. The assignment was to write about how you met your Significant Other. So I wrote about that, but with a different spin on Significant Other. Scroll down to read other bloggers’ stories of meeting their SOs.
Growing up, I spent hours daydreaming about her. I’d sit cross-legged on my shag carpet, back pressed against my bed, ignored homework in my lap, as I fantasized about what she looked like.
Would she be blonde or brunette? Brown eyes or blue? What would her laugh sound like? I shut my eyes tight, imagining the moment we would meet, when we would run into each other’s arms. She would hold me close and tell me her life was complete now that she’d met me. We would pull back slightly, gaze into each other’s eyes, and feel — know — that we were one.
Our first meeting at Penn station, when I was 20, was not unlike this: there was the running into each other’s arms, the tight embrace, the bold gazes into the other’s eyes, the glances at lips and hands. There was the emotional intensity I had dreamed of, the ferocious culmination of the longing I’d felt as far back as I could remember.
I stared at her high cheekbones, the smattering of freckles across her nose, the upward tilt of her left eye, just like mine. I gasped as I recognized myself in her face and it was that, that likeness that sent a warm rush of exhiliration, then calm, through my chest. For the first time in my life, I looked like someone. For the first time, I felt connected.
For the first time, I got to be held by the woman who had given birth to me, and then relinquished me six days later.
We clutched at each other in the cab on the way back to her apartment, not wanting to let go, after so many years. We huddled together on her couch in the living room, poring over family photo albums. She pointed to a black-and-white shot of her parents on their honeymoon, an impossibly glamorous couple walking arm-in-arm down the Atlantic City boardwalk.
She glanced at me, then pointed to her mother’s face.
“Your eyebrows have that natural arch, just like hers.”
It was a cold, windy, rainy New York spring weekend. We sat for hours on that couch, sipping hot tea, nibbling cookies. I tucked my feet under my long peasant skirt and listened to her tell me where I came from, and how I came to be.
She had been the perfect eldest child of a perfect couple. Her parents, my grandparents, were gorgeous, great entertainers, and sought-after, the kind of couple that lit up a room and drew people towards them. Suzanne, my birthmother, was gifted at everything, and her mother, who had been raised by a single mother, had big dreams for her: she would be a debutante, go to college, then into business, and marry well.
The first two went off without a hitch. But then during college, on a semester abroad to study Italian art, something changed in her. She bristled under the weight of traditional expectations and once transported to a realm of art, she longed to tell her parents she couldn’t do what was expected of her.
She didn’t know how to tell them until she had to, that spring of her senior year in college, when she discovered she was pregnant by an older man, an Italian musician, who had only briefly been in her life.
In 1962, unwed pregnant young women were cloistered, and after graduating college hiding her six-months-pregnant belly, Suzanne went to a home for unwed mothers.
“When you were born, they asked me if I wanted to hold you, but I said no. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to let you go.”
She looked at me through the nursery window, she said. Then three days later headed off to art school.
After a few years of on-and-off searching in my late teens that included piecing together bits of information my adoptive family remembered and finally locating Suzanne’s address via an enquiry to an art gallery that showed her art, we found her address. I sent her a letter with a purple heart sticker. She called me before she’d even finished reading it and we met the next weekend — twenty years after she’d said goodbye to me through the nursery glass.
Our relationship has come together and fallen apart a few times over the past thirty years. She’d had years of raising her other daughters, and I’d had years of being raised by my adoptive mother, so we arrived in each other’s lives with bags packed full of expectations about how mothers and daughters should relate. But many of those realizations were unmet.
Many adoptees, especially those born during the closed adoption era, grew up feeling adrift, cut loose from an ethnic and cultural legacy that often could only be guessed at, and unable to claim the culture of their adoptive family truly as their own.
That was my experience, and I was convinced, all those years I spent fantasizing about my first mother, that meeting her would complete me. When I discovered not long after I met her, that not only did she not complete me, but that meeting her actually intensified my confusion about where I belonged and what I believed, I felt let down, and angry.
Over time, as I married, had children, divorced and remarried, Suzanne shared those experiences with me. My adoptive mother died before I had children, and I feel a profound loss that they don’t have her in their lives.
But my kids do have a grandmother in Suzanne. It’s been surreal, but lovely, watching my daughter in particular have a relationship with the mother who didn’t raise me.
personality disorder, who is also the poster boy for Parental Alienation.
I am not asking for more custody. I am asking to retain my legal rights as Luca’s mother. And I am asking to keep Francesca’s time share (62.5% with me) the way it is because I do not believe her dad is genuinely interested in spending more time with her. If he were he would take her the extra four nights a month I’ve offered him. He would pick her up from school on his Tuesday timeshare day, instead of having me play au pair by collecting her at 3 p.m., babysitting her for 2.5 hours, then chauffering her to his house at 5:30 p.m. When she was younger and on a few occasions clung to his calves, begging for a father-daughter outing (since she routinely watched him take her brother on father-son outings), he would not have replied, “I’m pretty busy this week, I’ll see you on your regularly scheduled day.”
People with personality disorders (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction) should not be awarded more custody. People who undermine their kids’ relationship with the other parent should not be awarded more custody. Destroying a child’s bond with a parent is a form of child abuse. Lest you think I’m being melodramatic, check out Amy J.L. Baker’s Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties That Bind. The book is filled with interviews of adults who describe the psychological damage they suffered while growing up in a cult-like environment in which they were brainwashed into believing that one parent was bad, incompetent, uncaring, and a host of other evils. If you are an Alienated Parent and you want to send yourself completely around the bend, read this book at bedtime.
You may be wondering, right about now: Was Pauline in a coma? Didn’t she realize she’s got only one shot at justice? Did she not vet God?
I did, actually. God came highly recommended by several people, one being my attorney and another being an esteemed family law attorney with whom my lawyer frequently consults. (I will be taking up the matter of God’s Fathers’ Rights rep with my lawyer later this week). However, God was not my first choice; he was simply the least unfavorable choice.
Where I live, selecting a custody evaluator is an arduous process that goes like this: both parties propose three evaluators and give reasons why those evaluators would be appropriate for the case. If the parties cannot agree on one of the six proposed evaluators, then the judge will select one from the list.
Of the three evaluators on Prince’s list, one was reputed to be heavily daddy-slanted; one was a complete unknown, and; one was God, who is a major player on the 730 playing field. The truth is, almost every evaluator I inquired about had some bad rap on him/her and the ones that didn’t, nobody could vouch for.
Neither of my top two choices made the cut. One had a nine-month waiting list and the other, a Parental Alienation expert, knew my current husband, Atticus. Prince was adamant about not selecting anyone who had worked with Atticus, who is a fairly well-known mental health professional in our city. So that shrunk the pool of potential good evaluators considerably.
Of the three good evaluators who did make my list, two were women, and I knew it would be unlikely for Prince to agree to either of them since he is a spectacular misogynist. So I put a man on the list, a custody honcho whom I hoped Prince would select. Little did I know that Prince’s weaselly attorney who I call Alfalfa because he is 5’3″, squeaky-voiced, appears not yet to have had his first shave, and has a lick of greasy black hair sticking up on the back of his scalp–this character, Alfalfa, is suing said evaluator because he didn’t like the recommendations he made for one of his clients.
If I’d had an extra bucket of cash, I would have refused all of Prince’s choices, sashayed into court, and argued for one of the women on my list. But my bucket is almost empty, so I said yes to God, whom I have not yet actually met, but who, in fact, has already cashed my $3750 retainer. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I am blazing through assets, inheritances, and gifts from family to pay for the privilege of remaining my son’s mother, and, I firmly believe, to do right by Francesca by keeping her time share status quo.
Besides, as anyone who has spent any time in Family Court will tell you, the whole enterprise is a crap shoot. You can mount a great case believing you have the world’s best custody evaluator in your pocket and still get trounced.
But I’m not ready to turn Luca over 100% to a man who wants to destroy his relationship with his mother. I’m not ready to turn my son over to a man who is more concerned with sending him to the “right school” than setting appropriate limits and getting him the proper mental health treatment. I’m not ready to give Francesca more time with the too-rich-to-work father who can’t be bothered to pick her up from school on his timeshare day. And there’s this: Francesca recently told her teacher that she wants to spend more time with me because there’s so much fighting between her dad and Luca. But that’s a story for another blog.
Last summer I had a few sessions with a therapist who specializes in high-conflict divorce. Her advice was to avoid court altogether, which would mean signing over my kids to Prince. Preparing me for what might be my end game, she asked: “What’s the worst nightmare you can live with?”
The worst nightmare I can live with is that Prince gets everything he wants and the kids suffer for it. The worst nightmare I can live with is that Prince makes me a non-person in my children’s lives–that he symbolically banishes me to the back of the bus.
The worst nightmare I couldn’t live with would be knowing that I accepted that back seat voluntarily, without advocating for myself or my children, because that’s where I thought I belonged.
My anger and confusion about my complex relationship with my birthmother has dissipated into acceptance: no one completes you. The work of feeling whole is up to you, and may never be fully realized.
Suzanne and I don’t have the history I had hoped for — because what I’d hoped for was a fantasy. When I stopped wanting her to be the mother of my dreams, with the impossible task of filling in the empty place that came with being adopted, I was able, finally, to meet the mother that I had.