Tag Archive for 'birth mothers'

Dreaming as the Summers Die

An essay by Terri Elders

“Still she haunts me”-Lewis Carroll

I figured something special might be happening that July morning in l948 when Mama appeared in the bedroom doorway, brandishing her boar-bristled hairbrush in one hand, my not-too-faded red plaid dress in the other.

“Skip the shorts and shirt today,” she said, handing me the dress. “Company’s coming for lunch.”

“Who?” I asked, puzzled. I couldn’t think of anybody important enough to wear my Sunday dress for, but I slipped into it, and stood quietly while Mama tugged the brush through my snarls.

I had just turned eleven. No longer in pigtails, I hadn’t yet mastered pin curls. So I wore my hair shoulder length and loose around my face, with bangs that forever needed trimming. Maybe I’d learn to set it with bobby pins before I started junior high that fall.

I waited for Mama to answer. “It’s Nana,” she finally said. “Nana, and maybe Jean.” I looked up sharply. Jean was my “real” mother, and I hadn’t seen her for years. I glanced across the bedroom at my older sister. Patti and I, just a year apart in age, had been adopted by our “real” father’s sister and her husband in l942, when we were five and six. Patti yawned, and then threw me a wink. Nearly a teen, she was more interested in boys than family gossip.

“Can I go over to Jimmy’s?” I asked, as Mama patted my bangs into place.

“Okay. I’ll send Patti over to get you when they get here. Just don’t get too dirty.”

Jimmy lived three doors down and was my best friend. The two of us would climb a towering maple tree to his roof where we would sit for hours, endlessly arguing. I favored the Brooklyn Dodgers and Doris Day. Jimmy loved the Giants and Peggy Lee. I liked Jack Benny, he Fred Allen. Though we rarely agreed, we relished our debates.

A few days earlier we had perched on the roof to watch the July 4 fireworks from the Los Angeles Coliseum. Some evenings we sat up there for hours with Jimmy’s telescope, searching for UFOs. We even argued about the merits of the planets. I favored Jupiter, he Mars.

I’d be glad to see Nana, Jean’s mother, who always wore sweet gardenia perfume and talked about how she conferred with spirits at her spiritualist church. But I barely remembered Jean. I knew my Daddy Al, of course, Mama’s brother, because he visited from time to time. Jean, though, was just a shadowy background figure, referred to in disapproving whispers. She drank, I’d heard. Or she had mental problems, whatever those might be.

She and Daddy Al had ma Continue reading ‘Dreaming as the Summers Die’

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