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’.
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.
Of 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.