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My Janice

My Janice

I could never bring myself to call her mom. It wasn't as though she was there. I told her at one point, "Yeah, I know my mom isn't that nice, and we don't even talk now, but she's my mom. She was there."

I don't regret not calling her mom. But I do regret saying that to her about my adoptress. It wasn't true then and it isn't true now.

So Janice, if you're listening, yeah, you are my mom. You were there for four months. And there or not, your blood runs through my veins. It's your face I see when I look in the mirror. You're my mom, even though you didn't want to be.

I imagined all the moms were my mom. The stepford mom, the movie star mom, the equestrian mom, the soap opera mom, the royal mom. Hell I even had the postal clerk mom (my adoptress worked for the postal service), the grocery store cashier mom, the hairdresser mom. My mother was a waitress. So am I, ironically.

None of these moms ever had a face. It was one of those superimposed blank faces. Absolutely never the face I saw in the mirror.

I thought about her whenever I wasn't busy working, studying, or wondering about my pop. Who was she? Where was she? Did she miss me? Did she want me? 

Were her eyes green like mine? My adoptress always said they were hazel, but that's just because she wanted me to be more interesting. My eyes weren't green, they were hazel. My hair wasn't brown with red highlights, it was auburn. 

Where did I get the chestnut brown hair? Where did the green eyes come from? Were my hands like hers? My feet? My nose? Why did my small toes have webbing between the middle three?

Was she pretty? My friends (all kept children but one) seemed to think their mothers were beautiful. My adoptress had pretty green eyes, and I liked her hair when it was really very long, but I never thought of her as beautiful, or even pretty. In fact, I found her quite monstrous in many ways. But since she was the mother I knew, I cleaved to her the way any child cleaves to the illusion of safety.

Was she pretty? Was she nice? Did she love me?

That was the most pressing question: did she love me? Closely followed by, was she sorry she'd given me away?

And I wanted her. Oh, how I wanted her. On the days my adoptress would go nuts and damage me, I would hide in the closet with the brown teddy bear my adoptress' father had given me my first night "home", and I would cry bitterly and wish for my mother to come rescue me. Of course she never did.

And I missed her. And I berated myself for missing her, because how could I possibly miss someone I didn't know?

I found her when I was nineteen, just almost twenty. I got my records. I signed up for the registry. I jumped through all the hoops. And at the end of the summer of my nineteen year, she called me. All I remember of the conversation is answering the phone. "Hello, is this Claudia H....?" And my stomach dropping, part of me knowing when I acknowledged that fact, she would say, "I'm Janice ... And I'm your mother." I don't remember anything else about it.

She didn't balk at meeting me or try to hide me from my siblings. In fact she facilitated my meeting all but two of them once. In that respect I know I'm definitely lucky. She refused to let me meet my grandmother, aunts and uncles, claiming they weren't people I'd want to be around. Now that I know more about them, I'm sorry I missed out on my grandmother, but I think I'll leave my twisted up aunts and uncles alone.

I tried so hard to put my pain aside, to be a daughter, that I was never really honest with her that I remember. (Keeping in mind I was using several different drugs at the time and I have disassociative disorder.) But we were even, because while I held back my feelings from her, she flat out lied to me regularly. It ended our reunion right after September 11, 2001.

She died in 2003.

I found out in March of 2017 when I went looking to get back in touch with her and found an obituary and headstone instead.

It broke my fucking heart. (There you go, bitches that hate me, revel in my pain.) I cried for days. I just cried now. Because I knew her, I loved her, she was my mother, I hate her, she was no mother to me, and goddamnit I wanted her way more than she ever wanted me. 

I have a thousand questions for her. Some I'm sure are already asked and answered, but I can't remember. Others newly formulated since I met my pop. None of them will ever be answered. So now I'm right back where I was as a kid, a thousand questions with no answers. Only now she has a name, a face, and a real life.

Now I know who I miss. I know who I blame. I know who I hate.

I love you, My Janice.


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