I don’t know you, and that has been my choice. Of course, you don’t know me, either, and I assume that is your choice as well. It’s a fine arrangement, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve never sought to change it. You offered me for adoption in 1968, two years before Roe vs. Wade made abortion a viable option for you: did those two years make a difference, I wonder? The adoption process was smooth and relatively painless; it also was relatively inexpensive, especially compared to today. I like to say that I was a bargain.
I do have some information about you, collected by the state, which my mother shared with me when I turned 18. You were twenty years old, in your first year of college, and my birth father was 21, in his second year. You were on the short side—5’4”, and he was, too—5’8”. You played the piano and he wrote poetry; everyone in the family was athletic, going back to both your parents: skiing, sailing, golf. On his side, several men in the family were in the military. You both were Irish, which is why my Swedish mother sends me a St. Patrick’s Day card every year—it’s a little joke between us.
As the years go on and I get older, I think about you a little more frequently than I used to, wondering if you are still alive: each year, it becomes increasingly more likely that we really will never meet—that I really will never see you face to face. [I do wonder if I look like you, and still when I travel to a new city, I study the faces, wondering if I will see myself in one of the women passing by.] But also as the years pass, I find myself increasingly grateful for the genes you bequeathed to me. I was nurtured well, to be sure, but all the nurturing in the world can’t overcome hard biological realities, and so I want to thank you that I have not, as of yet, developed breast cancer, schizophrenia, high cholesterol, or depression. I have lots of energy [I’m a runner], I’m a good sleeper, I have a decent singing voice, and I have a happy heart—my mother has a happy heart, too, but I can’t help but think you had at least a little to do with that. I also go way overboard with Christmas decorations—can I blame that on you? Overall, I like myself—at least most of the time—and I think I would have liked you, too.
But mostly, to be honest, I am thankful that you had the courage to make what could not have been an easy decision; and through your generosity, I have lived my life enveloped in the arms of a loving family. Oh, we aren’t a Norman Rockwell family, to be sure: my parents separated when I was in junior high; and my dad went on to marry a woman who has been a wonderful partner to him for over twenty years, and a wonderful stepmother to me, too. My mother went on to have a rich, full independent life, which she has treasured. I have a brother, too, also adopted; we’re very different, but it works—and I’m proud of him. I’m married but he isn’t, and neither one of us has children, so we’re a small family. I wouldn’t exchange it for any other family in the world.
I always have felt that it was a special privilege and a blessing to be adopted, and I wouldn’t change that, either. What my adoption symbolizes to me is that families created by love are just as strong—if not stronger—than families created by blood: love that both opens wide to receive, and opens gently to let go. As far as I’m concerned, the very fact of adoption reminds all of us how expansive and creative love can be, and what motley, surprising families love can create—more amazing than most of us could ever dream of, or even imagine.
Well, you get the idea. I hope you went on to finish college. I hope you married, and that you have a loving family of your own, with children and grandchildren—if that’s what you desired. Mostly, I just want you to know that I am happy and I fervently hope that you are happy, too. You always will have a place in my heart, even if you never know it, and I hope I always have a place in yours, too. Merry Christmas.
2 thoughts on “A Letter of Thanks to My Birth Mother at Christmastime”
This is really beautiful. Thank you for sharing it!
Thank you. Your words are a gift in so many ways.