My adoptive mother: Before She Knew I Existed


My brother, whom some of you “met” when I hurried down to Arlington Texas when he was in the hospital, has been sending me bunches old family photos. Within those family photos are those of my adoptive mom. Several times over mornings I have been pouring over them, staring at them, becoming emotional at the photos of my young adoptive mother’s image of Before Me.

Particularly the ones dated “1957” — she was graduating high school then. She was in her prom dress. The year before that, she was in an FHA club. She was a young high school girl, about to graduate, about to attend her prom in a dress I lay sure bet that she made herself. I wonder if perhaps she may have been working on her prom dress at night after school the day I slipped from my biological mother’s body, red and squalling. My adoptive mother Ruth did not know of me. She did not know of my father yet; she did not know of the other child who had already slipped from my bio-mom’s body, or of the one who would come after me: two boys and a girl.

I stare at the photos of her young pretty face and I get emotional. And, a thought comes that I wish wouldn’t: She was too young; we ruined her young hopeful life with our coming along. Yes, she wanted us, asked for us. But . . . still . . . look at her.

There are photos taken on the farm she lived after she’d have graduated high school – I know she left the farm, to work, to see what was out there. What was out there was my dad. Who had been married; left his wife and family in West Virginia. A man who had children.

The photo of Ruth sitting on the couch is in 1960. I would be 3 years old. Not yet come to live with her, but she would have met me by this time, a sad-eyed pigtailed chubby little thing. This is the year she’d be marrying my dad, if I have my dates right. I was already 3 years old before they married. Already this little human being. And look how young she is in that photo of her sitting there – already more mature than the high school photos, but still . . .

There is one of her as a small child. I stare at that one a lot. For one, she eerily reminds me of what my Sweetie character would look like as a small child. And, it is that thing where you see your mother as a child – long before you came along whether you were adopted or not.

I keep staring. Wondering. Wishing. Thinking. I wonder, too, how I would think of I were NOT adopted by Ruth. If Ruth had been my biological mother and I looked at these photos—what would be my feelings? Would there be the feelings of: did we mess up her life, us coming along as a sort of package deal with our dad? Or do children who are not adopted sometimes feel that way? That their being born to their mothers ruined her young hopeful life in some way? Ruined that young hopeful girl? (And I imagine Ruth, my adoptive mother, reading this and saying, “I am glad for what I did. . .” and I think, “but always mom? Always? – and then I think, maybe all mothers/daughters/children have these thoughts – adopted or not. But, I am so grateful she did take us in. Where would we have ended up, I surely do not know.). This is not a sad or angst-filled post, but more a curious wondering one. For there is plenty of room for gratitude. Plenty of thankfulness that my two brothers and I weren’t scattered about like seeds and instead were able to stay together, and then have two more brothers come to us, too boot. Five children.

You tell me—you who are not adopted. What do you feel when you look at photos of your mother? What connections are made that I cannot claim, being adopted by my stepmother? Or, what connections and thoughts/feelings do I have that you have as well, even not being adoptive?

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