This year Thanksgiving came pretty close to being perfect. The meal itself could have been better. The apple crumb pie I made was a failure, my peach cobbler was a little too soggy in the middle, the collard greens were missing, but despite all of this, the day was still just about perfect. My mother and her life partner, Kevin, made the almost six hour drive down to New York City to join us. For as long as I can remember, my mom has wanted to see the Thanksgiving Day Parade. So for years I have invited her, along with the rest of my family, to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving. Being the only child of my mother’s who does not reside in Rochester, I was happily surprised this year when my mom actually said yes. Yes, she would be coming to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving.
I admit that I had a tinge of feeling bad for the rest of my siblings who were all forced to come up with new plans because every year my mom is the host of Thanksgiving dinner at her place. If my brothers and sisters were not going to be at their in-laws, then surely they’d be at mom’s. Understandably, none of my other siblings were up for the schlep to Brooklyn so, in a rare occurrence for a child in a family with six kids, I had my mom all to myself. My mom amazes me at the energy she harnesses sometimes. Since I can remember she has always been busy. Anyone with children knows that it is hard enough being a parent to one or two children, let alone six. Add to that working full-time – times two. My Mom is an elementary school principal and she is a case worker for an adoption agency. She doesn’t have two careers because she needs to, but because she wants to. Furthermore, she is a grandmother to twelve (and possibly counting) grandchildren. And she has been at the birth of every single grandchild! This includes the fact that she flew in and out of New York City, along with my sister Christina, on the day I gave birth to my twins.
My Mom and I have come a long way. We have not always seen eye to eye. We still have our disagreements. There have been times when I thought our differences were too great to have any genuine connection. These were times when I was struggling with my own identity, my own happiness. Times when I focused too much on our differences. Throughout any struggle we may have had though, I can say that I always knew that I loved my mother. Slowly but surely, we worked our way back to a genuine mother-daughter bond. For whatever differences we may have, my mother is, authentically-to-her-core, a mother. This is not something I think can be said for everyone.
When I was fighting the battle to have my babies, my mother was a constant source of support. She drove down to be with me when I lost my first ectopic pregnancy. And she did it again, when I lost my second one. She would drive down to cook for me and for my husband. She was there to hold me as I wept, to tell me that she loved me and let me know that she believed it was all going to be ok; how much she truly believed someday I would be a parent. My mother selflessly understood how being an adopted person made my struggle to become a parent all the more significant. She straightened others out when they would ask her why I didn’t “just adopt.” She too wanted for me to have my first real blood connection.
After five years, when I finally did get pregnant with babies that were not stuck in my fallopian tubes, my mother rejoiced. She held her breath and was guardedly optimistic for us. Along with my sisters, she secretly bought baby clothes and other baby items and held them at her house, never saying a word to me because she knew that I did not want any baby items until and unless we were pretty darn sure these babies were going to be born alive.
At week 17 of my pregnancy, we learned the devastating news that our babies had a 50-50 chance of survival due to my too short of a cervix. I was immediately sent home and put on complete bed restriction. With the doctor telling us that the only reason we were being sent home, as opposed to being admitted to the hospital, was because if the babies had been born then, there would be nothing that could be done for them. We had to make it to, at least, 24 weeks to have even a remote chance that the babies would survive.
For the next almost 20 weeks, my mother, while working full-time, came to visit me often. When she could not visit, she sent flowers and cards and small hope-filled gifts. She had practically the entire town of Fairport in prayer for me and my babies. I had strangers sending me gifts and cards – all because of my mother. The kindness I experienced during the wait for my babies was beyond humbling. It came from places I never expected. Toward the end of May, I allowed my mom and sister to buy and set-up the babies nursery. Miraculously, with love, support and will, my babies were born on June 5, 2007, healthy and full-term (for twins.)
My mother’s support during my struggle to get and stay pregnant, let alone during my pregnancy, was a beautiful example for me of what it means to really, truly be a mother. To feel the despair and pain of your child and to do whatever you can to alleviate it. I could not have done it without her.
So last week during Thanksgiving, I thoroughly appreciated the time I had with my mother. Together we cooked for the ten friends of mine and my husband’s that would join us later for dinner. (Thankfully my mother is not squeamish about handling raw poultry the way that I am!) The menu would be slightly different than what my mom was accustomed to. There would be sweet potatoes, cabbage, corn bread and macaroni and cheese. Unusual items for Thanksgiving in an Irish-Italian-American household. The demographic would also be different than my mom’s usual Thanksgiving dinners. Instead of me being the only person of color at the table, this time my mom and Kevin were the only people who were not people of color. And they rolled with all of it because that’s what moms do. Our friends liked my mom and my mom liked our friends. (Her famous cheescake was a hit.)
Some people would probably categorize me, especially some adoptive parents, as an “angry adoptee.” (Ugh how I hate that term. See – she’s angry!) They would assume I don’t think of my mom as my “real” mom. But here’s the thing. I do. I know she is my “real” mom and she knows I have two “real” moms. When I was going to Korea in 2004 to finally meet my Korean mom, I asked my mom to go with me. She wanted to make sure that I really wanted her to go and so she asked me. I told my mom that whenever I had imagined meeting my Korean mom, I always imagined her/my mom with me. After hearing this, she immediately said, “Ok, then I’ll go.” Another example of being an authentic mom.
This Thanksgiving was the first in our new home. It was also the first time my mother and I had Thanksgiving together in New York City. An Irish-American woman comes together with a Korean little girl. Somehow, extraordinarily, they form an authentic mother-daughter bond. I am grateful for all of it. I am grateful for my mom.