Saturday, April 19, 2014

The mother I never met and the mother I had

Trace's birthmother Helen
Ah, it was quite something to see some similarities between me and my birthmom Helen. I never met her but when she passed in 2007, I found an article about her in a Florida newspaper. I put the article away after reading it once but it mysteriously appeared in a file for the book I’m co-editing with Patricia Busbee.
The new anthology CALLED HOME is about Native adoptees who felt “called home” and felt the urgent need to find their first families after adoption.

Not all of us were adopted by happy people. I wrote in my memoir I felt wanted. Well, my aparents were infertile and had lost two infants of their own to miscarriage so yes, I was wanted. But looking back with an adult eye, I was meant to fill in for the children they lost. I was meant to replace them. I was meant to pretend insanity was normal. 

What that meant was no easy task.

I recall my mother saying my hair smelled funny and it was too oily. She would roll my hair in curlers and the minute she took them out, my hair went straight. It wouldn’t hold a curl. She said when I tanned my skin looked black, opposite of her golden brown. She pointed out our differences constantly, as if to remind me I wasn’t hers. I cannot even type here the swear words I was called, screamed at me often, with no explanation. (This was not a happily married woman or adoptive parent. I knew that.)

As a child all that hurt. Not being hers was not something I appreciated, nor could I change that and it made me more self-conscious obviously.  As she was constantly judging me, I desperately wanted to be more like her.  I might feel more accepted if I did as she asked.  I did wish I looked like her.  I let her dye my hair blond. I went on every diet she did. (I also wished people didn’t know that they had adopted me!)

Our biological differences grew more and more glaring as time passed. My amom never hesitated to tell me when I gained a few pounds and said I could look better, pointing to clothes in a catalog.

What made her most happy was when my name was in the newspaper or when I was cast in a play or got some credit for being a musician or was in a new television commercial.

Eventually I accepted I wasn’t her child and there was nothing I could do to change that.

Trace DeMeyer is the author of One Small Sacrifice and Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects and she has contributed to the new books: Adoptionland, Adoption Reunion in the Age of Social Media and Lost Daughters anthology. Her blog: