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Bonne fête des pères

Father’s Day tomorrow. Earlier in the week I was invited by a radio station in Columbus Ohio to talk about Father’s Day gifts and offer a few suggestions. Unfortunately they did not want me, but the other Maggie Gallant (the so-called publicist one of NYC). Tempted as I was to steal her gig and make some highly inappropriate gift suggestions on air, I decided to leave the prestige of Ohio commercial radio to her.

Plus what I do know about fathers? I haven’t been too successful with mine. One died in 1997 and the other is still unknown but presumed alive and living somewhere in France. Though in fairness, that one doesn’t really belong to me but to my alter ego Donna Shackleton, the birth-certificate me before I was adopted,

image
Me and Ingrid, post London downpour and first bottle of wine.

Meeting up with my half sister Ingrid last month in London was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.  But it’s also stirred up a lot of thoughts about her/our mother whom I first met up with 27 years ago (well apart from the very very first time we met but I don’t remember too much about that thank goodness). I know the correct term for this type of thing is reunion but that makes it sound a little fancier (and more successful) than it was.

Sadly there was little that she could/would tell me about my father. The best bit of information came from my night out with 16 year old Ingrid in 1986 when she told me that her/our mother had said I’m the spitting image of my father. That more than explains why in my 11 year old’s fantasy -and school essay- about him he picks me out in a crowd when I’m on a school trip to the Eiffel Tower. (This will be familiar to anyone that saw my solo show ‘Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower).  I was 11 when I first read, in secret , the report from the adoption agency.

Here’s the bit about him. father2The best part of course is that he’s French. Naturellement!. I was cast as the grandmère in an all-French production of Little Red Riding when I was 6. And smoking Gauloises at age 14. And see where it says ‘Intelligent and ambitious‘? Remind you of anyone? I still haven’t quite figured out what this line means ‘…and is normally a business executive’. Normally? When he’s not out impregnating 19 year old English girls at dances you mean?

I never really bought into the interests part. Reading and swimming? That’s the best my mother can remember about him? I’ve read this report hundreds of times and my father just doesn’t seem the swimming type. Would the adoption have fallen through if she’d told the agency what his real interests are? Reminds me of the Monty Python Summarize Proust sketch:

Host: And Harry, what are your interests outside summarizing?
Harry Bagot: Well, strangling animals, golf and masturbating.
Host: Well, thank you Harry Bagot
Voiceover: Well there he goes. Harry Bagot. He must have let himself down a bit on the hobbies, golf’s not very popular around here.

And does it ring less than true to anyone else that he wanted to marry her but she turned him down because she was pregnant? Yeah because that really makes sense as a life decision in 1965.

If he was 33 in 1964 then he must be around 83 now. I’m convinced that he’s still alive because I refuse to believe the alternative and I know we’ve still got at least another 20 years to find each other. And I also know for sure that he still wears St Laurent suits and wears cologne and smokes Gauloises and lives in a fabulous apartment in Paris on the Left Bank. And doesn’t swim. And I still miss him.

Happy Father’s Day mon père.

motherps. Here’s the bit in the report about my mother. Please note the mention of her as ‘superior’. Just in case you wondered where I got it from.

Happy Mothers in America Day

Mother’s day 2014 and I’m reminded of a few of my favorite jokes about adoption:

How do you start a letter to your birthmother?
‘To whom it may concern’.

Or
Knock, Knock,
Go away.

Ok perhaps not as hilarious to the rest of you, but that could be said of most of my short-lived stand-up career. Adoption, motherhood and all that nonsense has been much on my mind recently. Today is American Mother’s Day. The British one was back in March, proving that we clearly love our mothers more than American’s do, or perhaps we just want to get it out of the way earlier. But we also call it Mothering Sunday which is rather more lovely and old-fashioned and suggests that mothers should themselves be mothered. But only for one day and make that day a Sunday when there’s bugger all else going on. We do stick with Father’s Day though and not Fathering Day because this would just lead to a lot of unnecessary shagging and potentially unwanted pregnancies/adoptions.

There is  a certain irony attached to the day for me because it was four years ago today that we had to put our beloved Stormy dog to sleep. As much as I love Riley, Storm was and always will be the perfect dog and her leaving was so sudden and devastating and unfair that the memory of it still comes back too easily. I have never wanted children but Erik often told me that I mothered Stormy or was very motherly with her and he was right. There was a certain maternal instinct that made me want to put a blanket over her at night or tuck a pillow under her head. I’m not sure what the paternal instinct does, though in Storm’s case it may have involved being dressed in sunglasses and a headscarf. Fortunately for Riley, Adventure Time does not currently produce a dog vest.

I’m sure there’s also some psychological gold in the fact that on Mother’s Day morning 2010 I was working at the nursing home, baking cookies for all the old people. There were a couple of residents there whom I became very close to and had a form  of mother-daughter relationship with. Of course I had no idea what they were like as real mothers, though some of this was evident from the way their adult children interacted with them on visits. Yes, these things are noted.

In less than a week I’ll be in England visiting my mother. The uncertainty of how she’ll respond to me and probably more importantly how I’ll respond to her always sets me on edge and this has been more than evident over the past week or so. In some respects her regression into a more child-like state and her inability to converse has made our relationship better because of its emotional simplicity. I don’t really mourn the person she used to be as much as wish we’d had this sort of relationship while it still meant something. Thanks for the belated silver lining Alzheimers.
ingrid001Of course I decided to complicate this trip a little further by getting in touch with my half-sister. That’s the daughter my birth mother had a few years after me. (Oh I came so close to writing something very mean there.  Look how I have matured over the course of 5 paragraphs). Ingrid was 16 when we first met – I was 21 or so. We have dipped in and out of each other’s lives every 5-10 years and we met up once with her daughter in tow. But it’s been 26 years since we first went out together and I bought her beer and a chimichanga on my student overdraft at Break for the Border on Charing Cross Road and quizzed her about our mother.

I hope I don’t do the same thing again (both the quizzing and the chimichanga). It’s hard because Ingrid’s the link to the life I might have had, for better or worse, and recent health issues with her/our mother has me a bit freaked out. But mostly I just want to go shopping with her in age-inappropriate stores, drink and bitch about being over 40.

Was thinking the other day about what might have happened if I hadn’t met my birth mother in my 20s and she was looking for me now (I was almost very very mean about how she has never looked for me. I am maturing faster than a Roth IRA*). As I have previously discussed, there is another Maggie Gallant who pops up on Google searches of my name and seems to enjoy flaunting herself as a publicist in NYC and talking about pet trends. She may come up in more Google searches than me, but I scored on getting our full name for both my website url and gmail account. Call yourself a publicist Gallant 2.0? Anyway, I wonder which version of me my birth mother would hope was the one that she [insert your own words here, I’m done with being mature]. Would she go for looks? Take a look at Google images, clearly I would win on this one — or shallow achievements such as being Executive VP at Rogers & Cowan PR in New York? Big deal, I am listed in IMDB for my work on the 2007 feature film Homo Erectus “It’s Pre-Hysterical”.

Hopefully I haven’t become so Americanized that I start talking to Ingrid about our ‘connection’ or, as my friend Caroline brilliantly mentioned, our need to spend ‘quality time’ together. Fortunately I appear to still be British as I am unable to properly pronounce mom without sounding like a Rowan Atkinson impersonator and am firmly sticking with mum (as in bum).

And on that note, Happy Mothers in America day.

* I do not know what one of these is.

 

 

 

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