Friday, February 26, 2010
My memory is horrible, and I should have gotten all this down sooner. I'm sure my mother's account would be more complete, but alas, you are stuck with MINE! When I found out that Annie picked February 15th as the date to meet her biological parents, I started planning for a trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My mother was in the delivery room with me when Annie came into the world, it was only natural to ask her to go with me to meet Annie.
I started out Sunday the 14th by saying good-bye to hubby & kids and drove 2 1/2 hours to Mom's. From there we took her car (also a Ford Escort like mine, but only 7 yrs old, not 16!!) and headed off on our adventure.
At this point I should provide a little background. I smoke. Like a freight train. 2 packs a day, easy. My mom does not smoke and there was never any chance she'd allow her vehicle to be smoked in. We had non-smoking hotel rooms. It was FREEZING on our whole trip & I do not like to be cold. I decided eons ago that I'd rather be cranky than cold :) From 2:30 Sun afternoon until 5:30 Mon night I had smoked a total of FIVE cigarettes.
About 2 hours into our trip my dad sends his first text. "WhereYaAt?" I text back that we're however far away from Memphis. His reply "Memphis!!? Wrong way!" I double check Mom's mapquest instructions and let him know that yes, we are headed to Memphis. "Right" he texts back. and then "You don't go thru Mem to go to LA" I text back the highway we're on and the one we'll take down into Baton Rouge. "I don't think so Tim" is his response & then of course he CALLS me to 'splain that we're going the wrong way. The whole time we'd been texting, Mom & I were talking about how she'd looked up and printed out the directions. Dad did not even mention a route or ask her if she needed directions before we left. And guess what? When we got to Memphis and headed south, we ended up in Louisiana!
Mom paid for hotels, I bought gas & food. Mainly she wouldn't have wanted to stay anyplace I can afford! LOL! Sunday night we had dinner at Cracker Barrel and I was reminded again just how nice it is to hang out with my mom now that I'm an adult. Especially without the kids around :) After dinner it started snowing and we stopped for the night near Memphis at a very nice hotel! As I was getting my laptop set up I noticed a little hall at the end of my bed.....turned out to be a KITCHEN! I may be easily impressed, but that was a nice room and the best bed I ever slept in!
Monday morning we decide we're about 6 hours away from Baton Rouge. After breakfast at McD's - Mom and I have that in common, our fave breakfast spot - we headed south into Mississipi. Mom is in the pic above by the sign, at the neatest welcome center either of us has ever seen. It was like a museum/rest stop. There was a fireplace and rocking chairs and historical pictures and items from the underground railroad. We could've spent an hour there, it was neat. When we crossed into Louisiana we got that pic, too. Their welcome center had brass alligators for door handles, but other than that was not interesting at all LOL!
Once we crossed into Louisiana and got off the highway, Mom's directions took us on a long desolate drive thru swamps and forests. We eventually found the "main" road we needed, but not until we got sidetracked and wandered around in circles for a bit. If Mom spoke Creole or that gas station attendant spoke English we'd have been in Baton Rouge much, much sooner. But we found it and found the restaurant where we were meeting Annie with about 2 hours to spare. We found a Wal-Mart and spent about an hour wandering around talking about the grandkids (my two, POE and C, and li'l bro's baby Addison) and walking off my nerves.
At 5:30 we pulled into the parking lot at Las Palmas, where I'd be meeting my daughter at 6:00. I pulled on my gloves, zipped up my jacket and chain-smoked about 5 cigarettes until I couldn't take the cold any longer. I sat twisted in my seat, neck craned, watching for my Annie. An SUV pulled in with a dark-haired beauty in the passenger seat. As she got out, I ran to her, barely able to keep from tackling her. As I held her in my arms for only the 2nd time in her 18 years, I couldn't help but cry. Annie hugged me back and soothed me. What a poised and confident young lady this was. But still, in my heart, that tiny baby with the wild thick hair that I held so briefly so very long ago. I believe I held onto her hand until we had been seated at our table. Where, of course, I sat next to her, basically penning her in, getting as much time next to her as I could possibly get.
There were eight of us at dinner. Me, Mom, Annie, her boyfriend Cody, Annie's dad Frank & his girlfriend Christine, Annie's birth father Kevin & his fiancee Dawn. I hadn't seen Frank or Kevin since before Annie was born. When Frank & Christine got there and Frank enveloped me in a bear hug, I instantly felt the same way about him that I had when we first met and he & Ellie were about to adopt Annie. I saw how much he loved Annie and how much the proud papa he truly is during dinner. If I ever had any shred of doubt about whether or not I chose the right family for her, they disappeared in that hug. Christine is a photographer and took a lot of the hundreds of photos that Annie & Christine brought to the dinner. All the photos show a happy little princess who is the apple of her parents' eyes.
When Kevin & Dawn got there my first thought was "Hot damn, that's one sexy woman!" My second thought was that I felt no animosity or sadness at seeing Kevin again. It was just seeing an old friend from high school, catching up on the last 2 decades.....with a "by the way, here's the kid you didn't know about for 16 yrs" thrown in for good measure.
The whole dinner was great and comfortable. Mom and Cody were at the end of the table and got to spend a lot of time chatting while the rest of us were circled around Annie looking at pictures LOL! I agree with Mom that Cody is a fabulous young man who, if he ends up married to Annie, will never get much of a chance to talk LOL! Very quiet, but once he got to talking a little bit we got to learn a lot about him. The rest of the group made plans to go to New Orleans the next morning for Mardi Gras. I can't deal with crowds and noise, the OCD kicks into high gear and I'd have had a panic attack for sure. Mom had no interest in going either, so she and I headed north and homeward about 10:00.
When we stopped for the night a few hours later I was way too keyed up to sleep. My laptop and the hotel's wi-fi were not agreeable and it was way too damn cold to go outside and smoke, so I lay there tossing and turning and missing the mattress from the 1st hotel. Tuesday morning we found a McD's for breakfast. It was decorated with trains and had a train on a track around the ceiling of the store. As we headed north the temperature kept dropping and snow flurries became more frequent. By the time we got off the interstate by my last Kentucky homestead the roads were covered in snow. I called Dad to let him know we were 20 minutes away....and to ask him to start my car. I didn't plan to GO anywhere on snow-covered roads, I assured him. I just wanted to be warm AND smoke at the same time!! It was bedtime when we got to Mom's and after a few warm cigarettes and a "honey, I'm home safe" call to my hubby I did the previous blog post and went to sleep. Wednesday morning I made an appointment with my doctor to refill my crazy meds. Made it home just in time to miss dinner Wednesday night.
Hubby had it easy the 3 days I was gone. Kids had Monday off for President's day and it snowed all day. School had been cancelled for Tuesday by Monday afternoon. POE spent the night at a friend's house Mon night. Wednesday school was on a 2 hour delay. Hubby didn't have to wake up a snarling POE! Why can't I ever be that lucky? So anyway, there's the trip. It was great and I'd do another road trip with Mom anytime.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
When I graduated from Gloucester High school in June of 1991 I was 17 and pregnant. I wasn't interested in marrying the father and I wanted my baby to have a stable life, which didn't include being raised by teenagers. I spent the summer and fall talking to adoption agencies and meeting couples who were interested in adoptions. No one seemed to feel right to me and I got down and discouraged. When my due date was right around the corner and I had no clue about what to do and where to turn, Frank & Ellie came into my life. Frank & Ellie lived in Louisiana, and Ellie was friends with the lady for whom I was a live-in nanny. Ellie had been trying to have a baby and things weren't going well. Call it fate, divine intervention, whatever..... When Ellie called my employer to talk and vent, my employer said jokingly "I have a pregnant babysitter" and the ball rolled from there. Within days of talking to them I knew Frank & Ellie were meant to love and raise my baby.
I had decided I didn't want to see the baby, thinking giving her up for adoption would be easier if I didn't see her at all. When she was born (after 12 hours of blissful morphine-aided labor) the doctors immediately whisked her out of the delivery room and into Ellie's arms. I didn't see either of them (at my request) and was discharged from the hospital within 24 hours.
Because Frank & Ellie and I had met and arranged the adoption without an agency involved, the hospital wouldn't allow Ellie to take the baby out of the hospital, I had to do it. Carry this little person who lived inside me for 10 months out into the world. And hand her to someone else. And so 2 days later I found myself walking into a little room off the nursery and being left alone with this baby. A beautiful baby girl, caramel colored skin, thatch of jet black hair, the cutest little rosebud-puckered lips. I picked her up and held her to my face, trying to imprint her scent in my brain. I whispered to her all the things I wanted her to know......that I loved her, that she was always wanted, that I hoped she'd be happy and healthy. Then I laid her down and stripped her naked so I could count her fingers and toes, and kiss her belly, and touch her face. Then I carefully re-dressed her and carried her out. I didn't take my eyes off of her for the elevator ride, wanting to memorize every detail, every moment. Then I stepped outside and there was Ellie, waiting. The hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life was to hand my baby over to Ellie. My baby had both her mothers touching her for a brief moment, mere seconds. And then Ellie put her daughter in the carseat and left with her. I walked away with empty arms and a broken heart.
That was our first meeting, Annie and me. Annamaria Elizabeth, big name for a little girl. Not one single day passed in my life that I didn't think about her, wonder how she was, what she looked like, what she enjoyed. In January of this year Annie turned 18. And this week I got the chance to hold Annie in my arms again......and I didn't strip her naked and count her toes!! (She assured my she still has all 10 of them!!)
My mom and I took a road trip to Louisiana to meet Annie. We got to the restaraunt before she did. When I saw her across the parking lot I felt like the piece of my heart that had broken off 18 yrs ago when i let go of her was suddenly back in it's place. I admit I cried as soon as I had my arms around her, I couldn't even talk. And self-assured young lady that she is, Annie patted my back and soothed me :)
We spent about 3 and a half hours together getting to know each other. I got to see 18 yrs worth of pictures of a happy, confident, strong-willed little girl. And i got to enjoy just being near my baby. When I am less emotional I'll share the road-trip and dinner tales :) For today all that matters is that I got to hold my Annie again after a lifetime of waiting.