The Meetings of the Moms
The day my mother met my birthmother.
By Carol Kaufmann
By an unusual, or perhaps providential, twist of fate, my mother and birthmother were going to be in the same city. On Mother’s Day. I’d arranged to spend the weekend with my family—the one I’d known all my life—at my brother’s college graduation. To get there, I would fly into my birthmother’s city. I couldn’t be that close and not see her. But how could I see both moms without hurting someone’s feelings?
When I began the search for my birthmother, I kept my family informed. I relayed the facts of our reunion, but I never mentioned that the world they helped me build was starting to crumble. I went from having a blank beginning to having an incredibly colorful one. Whenever I tiptoed up to the topic, Mom would change the subject. Clearly, she didn’t want to know the details.
So when I thought about my dilemma, butterflies began fluttering. How would I finesse the hand-off?
“We’ll take you to Betty’s house,” Mom said. “I’m curious to meet her.”
Dear God. Is this my mother?
Theoretically, the two should meet. But I didn’t want to be there. Now, I would be right in the middle, not knowing whom to stand close to, whom to link arms with, what to say.
I tried to prep Mom for the meeting. “Betty should hear stories about my childhood, so she knows I was in good hands...Betty might be excitable…she’s emotional, like me...if you get tongue-tied or shy, I’ll think of something to say…I may cry.”
On the way to Betty’s, Mom sat with her hands folded, looking completely relaxed. The nerve of her.
When we arrived, my introduction skills vanished. My senses froze. I stepped back to observe the moment. Without hesitation or words, Mom came forward and embraced Betty, who was speechless.
I stood there in a bubble, where there were no tears or smiles, no crying or laughing. I was safe feeling nothing.
A woman who was given a child had the opportunity to meet the woman who made it possible. And a woman who had worried for 25 years about giving her child away could now see who had taken care of her baby.
Nervous giggles filled the gaps between questions. “How did you celebrate Mother’s Day, Betty?” “Tell me your mother’s first name again?”
Mom sat poised on the edge of the couch, a smile on her face. Betty fidgeted, straightening perfectly aligned pictures. I saw her bite her lower lip. I knew what that meant—my own lower lip was beginning to hurt.
A light appeared in Betty’s eyes. “I almost forgot, thank you for the wonderful photo album you made for me.”
“I was trying to figure out what you’d like to know about a daughter you’re meeting as an adult,” Mom replied. “I would want to see pictures of what she looked like at different ages. So I went through her albums and chose the best representatives from each year.”
“It was the best present I could ask for—except for meeting Carol.”
When it was time to go, we approached the front door tentatively, like children on their first day of school. I held my breath, and waited for my two mothers to say good-bye. Mom took the lead. “You know, I always thought Carol’s birthday must be a tough day for you. But I never thought about Mother’s Day. I bet that was hard, too.”
Betty’s moist eyes answered.
“Thank you for my daughter,” Mom hugged Betty good-bye. “She made me a mother.”
Carol Kaufmann lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She has written for several magazines. Currently, she’s working on a book, which will include this story.
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