I was adopted. I didn’t find this out until we were in the funeral car on the way to my mother’s funeral. I was 21 years old and my world had just been shattered. One of my sisters-in-law turned to me in the car and asked, “So, Joni Marie, when did you find out you were adopted?” Blindsided by that question, but still with the sass of a youngster, I replied, “Well right now, I guess.”
I was simply too naive. Either that or my mother was a superb liar. I think it was a bit of both.
My relatives told me then that they had begged Thelma to tell me that I was adopted. But she wouldn’t. Because she was afraid of losing me. She didn’t want me running off to “find” my “real” mother. She should have trusted herself more. Trusted that she raised me well. She was and always will be my mother. My mother, plain and simple. And yes, my “real” mother.
The one who raised me, who tried to instill a set of values in me, who was disappointed and didn’t mind showing it when I did something wrong.
The one who used the last dime she had to buy a set of classic books for me to read when I was eight year old, wanting me to have “class” and “culture,” things she didn’t get as a child.
The one who came to her best friend asking to buy some S&H Green Stamps (if you are old enough, you’ll remember these!) because she was a couple of books short of being able to buy that toy I just couldn’t live without at the moment.
The one who raised me by the belt, but from whom just a withering glance would suffice to keep me on track.
The one who hid toys in her closet so her 5-year old daughter could go on just one more year thinking there really was a Santa Claus and not just an elderly woman on a widow’s pension funding those great Christmases.
The one who taught me how to make biscuits.
The one who slapped the spoon out of my hand when she caught me pouring the Lydia Pinkham (Google it) medicine down the drain because I couldn’t tell my mother that stuff was just too vile to drink; I’d rather die of menstrual cramps. :)
The one who believed me when I needed to be believed and backed me on that issue which culminated in her firing our housekeeper. (That’s a blog post for another day.)
The one who told me tall tales about how she met Carl Mueller, thinking that it was better to say she met him at the NCO club rather than that she was his housekeeper. (I found this out from my brother a long time after my mother had been gone; and instead of feeling a sense of shame or shock, I simply said to myself, “You go, girl!.”)
I miss her terribly sometimes, miss the advice she could have given me during various times in my life. Wonder what she would say if she were to see me today. Hoping she would like the person I am, the person she had a hand in creating.
I love you, Mother. And I will never forget you. I can’t. You are me and I am you.