Mothers Day Revisited


**This column is included in Raising The Hardy Boys: They Said There Would be Bon-Bons which could make a pretty cool Mother’s Day gift, just sayin’. **

Still rewriting the story of me

First Published: May 5, 2012

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Whether you grow up in Disneyland or Dysfunction Junction, friction is a natural part of family life. Who doesn't have moments when they look around the dinner table and wonder how they could possibly be related to these people?

Imagine my surprise when I found out, 21 years ago, that this occasional passing fantasy was actually fact in my case.
Let me set the stage for you. It was my freshman year in high school. The assignment was to write an autobiography, with the incentive of extra credit for creativity.

I decided to use a picture of my mom, pregnant with me, for the cover. But I couldn't find any such picture.
I tried to substitute one from the period my mom was pregnant with my brother. None of those existed either.

I found it difficult to believe my father, who even takes pictures of his food, didn't have a working camera available during a pair of nine-month spans. So, overachiever that I was, I had no choice but to take my project to the next level.

When my parents were out one evening, I went into reporter mode, snooping through my mom's red address book. One by one, I called close family friends to announce I was doing a project for school.

Naturally, they were all happy to help. That is, until I asked: "Could you tell me your favorite memory of my mom pregnant?"
Whether by hesitation, an awkward pause or the sharp inhalation of surprise, my suspicions were confirmed.

A couple of them wanted to know if my mom knew about this project. She sure didn't, but this was pre-cell phone, so no one could text my parents a heads up.

Why didn't I simply ask my parents? I did in 1991, and purely by coincidence, it was on Mother's Day.

After a painfully awkward brunch on Bainbridge Island, and a silent drive home, my parents finally told me the truth about my birth.
I felt as if my foundation had cracked.

In retrospect I wonder what that news changed exactly. I mean, besides where I spent my first week of life, everything else was the same.
But it wasn't. Not really.

I wish I could tell you I handled the situation with grace and understanding. But, alas, I was 14. So there was plenty of drama.
Unconsciously, I started to ignore the idea that my parents loved me and instead dwell on the fact that someone I'd never met didn't - at least not enough to keep me.

Now I understand the best way my birth mother could show her love was by acknowledging she couldn't do for me what my parents could. But back then, I started telling myself the secret truth about me was that I was simply unlovable.
This became a core belief of mine, one I sought out and affirmed in my relationships.

It wasn't until very recently that I learned the story I was telling myself wasn't true. How could I have been so wrong about something I was so certain about?

The thing about our birth stories is that they're just that: stories. The meaning we give the story is what matters.

I could focus on the fact that nobody was with me during the first week of my life, or I could instead remember that my parents canceled a ski trip*** to come and get me as soon as they heard they could.

At every birthday since, I've heard that story. And it delights me every single time.

I don't know very much about my biological mom, besides the fact with was an Irish X-ray technician with four children. But I can tell you my real mom has cutting boards stained green with parsley, can make goulash in her sleep, has fingers calloused from a lifetime of hard work yet still capable of soothing a feverish forehead, keeps her nails clean and cuticles trimmed, has a favorite apron in green, and smells like Gucci and geraniums.

She is probably reading this with tears in her eyes. She should know that while I'm sorry for that one awful Mother's Day, I have loved her as my real and only mom on every one of them before and since.

the way, I did get extra credit for my bonus chapter: "My Adoption." I like to think of that as my first investigative reporting piece, inspiring a career in journalism.

**My next book signing gig is Saturday, May 9 at the Coffee Cottage in Newberg from 3 to 6 p.m. Come say “hi” and maybe pick up a copy of my book as a mother’s day gift? Oh, and tell your friends! By the way, there WILL be bon-bons!

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. To contact her, visit Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.

***Didn’t take them too long to get back on the slopes though!


My {secret} birth story



With Mother’s Day around the corner it seemed like as good a time as any to share my birth story. (Psst … Mother’s Day is next Sunday – don’t miss this chance to celebrate someone who matters to you, or your children … to my Dude friends … Mother’s Day means a lot to your moms and wives … for. real.)

This particular story about my beginning is one I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. (Here’s the link again.)Reading that will give the background for the posts to follow.

My column is only 600 words long. Since I’ve been writing that story since I was 14 years old, there was a lot of my story I had to leave out. The rest I’m writing here in a series of posts to cover that part of my journey …  as a rough draft of sorts and I am thankful for all your comments, input and questions. Truly and totally grateful.

Q: So do your parents know about this project?
A: Not yet. They will as soon as they land overseas. And get email access. Surprise! And p.s. I asked them last time I saw them if it would be okay with them for me to start writing about this stuff. The condensed version of their answer: It’s your story. xo 

FAQ #1: Do you know your real mom?

FAQ #2: So do you know what you are?

FAQ #3: But they lied to you?!

FAQ#4: Do you ever want to find your real* mom? Note: If the questions are asked in this order then this question might say “biological” mom since we’ve already clarified who my “real” mom is!

Did I miss any? Let me know by commenting here or shooting me an email. You can click on the letter image on the upper left corner of your screen. Cute, right? I hope you like it because after downloading this adorable freebie from the awesome Cathe Holden it took me 75 minutes to figure out how to make it work. But now it does, so you know, email me!

Baby pic

If you like reading this stuff would you consider subscribing to my blog? I won't do anything crazy with your address. Promise. 

for mami

You were meant to be my mother.

i wish i'd known then

that i would feel this way today.

maybe it would've been easier between us.

but maybe if it had, i wouldn't feel

so grateful for our relationship now.

i wish i could say we always got along.

i wish i could look back without regrets.

for all the times you drove to pick me up

when i couldn't sleep at the slumber party i was at.

for all the times you packed a healthy lunch

for the hours you spent arguing with me in

various dressing rooms teaching me taste and style

for the patience and consistency it took to teach me

the manners which give me confidence today to enter any situation

with grace and ease.

for the times you let me fail so i could learn

and for the times you stayed up late

to help me meet my goals.

for understanding when my heart was broken

and for promising it would heal.

for every time you turned down my bed

to welcome me home.

for the countless paperwork you did

to enroll me in camps, lessons and classes

and for driving me to the library

for teaching me to return my books on time.

for letting me go to grow into my own person

for loving me with all my hair colors

and also for paying to strip my hair

when i came to and saw goth was not a good look for me

for teaching me to be kind - to write thank you notes

and to ask for what i want - for teaching me

to give my time to help people - to smile at

strangers and to see beyond the surface of people

i know i will continue to realize more things

i learned from you for the rest of my life but

for now i want to thank you

for all that and more.

you were meant to be my mother

because there could be no other

who knows and loves me the way you do.

Not quite speechless

I've been wanting to find my birth mom for more than half my life. So now that I have, I'm not sure what to say. I'm nearly speechless, but not quite, because after all, it's me. But really, I'm not sure where to start. And not just because it didn't go quite as I'd hoped; because it didn't go as badly as I'd feared ... it just wasn't what I expected, I guess.

As I was emailing with the person working to help me find my birth mom, she'd left me a voice mail downstairs. She'd made contact with my birth mother. Who doesn't know if she wants to meet me. I said I was prepared for the worst case scenario when I started this search. It is what I was supposed to say. Those are the words of a grown up. But right now I don't feel so grown up. I feel sad and confused, mixed with some understanding and still a lot of questions. Lots and lots of questions. I'm curious about things I'm not supposed to wonder about, things other people balk at, but I can't help it. It's how my brain and heart (which seem more connected than is right or healthy) work. As luck-or whatever-would have it, I just so happen to have a therapy appointment scheduled tomorrow. The same appointment I meant to cancel all day because I'm still sick. But, I think I'll keep it.

So there it is on a random Monday night. After a dinner of enchiladas made with sauce that finally cleared my sinus cavity for the first time in six days, followed by a cup of Immunity Tea and in the middle of working on my Christmas cards for this year because yes (damn it!) there is still time to get them out - I get the call. She's been located. More, much more, later. Now, I'm just processing. And wishing I'd posted some of this other stuff sooner because now ... it's weird, now it's like I'm writing it in response to tonight's news but I actually wrote a lot of this stuff years ago. But now, I can't read it without being surprised that the answer is no. No she doesn't really wonder. And I can't believe that I am related to someone who isn't emotionally attached to something as huge as oh, I don't know, a baby she gave up for adoption 30 years ago. Maybe there was a mix up in the paperwork? 

I suppose if there was only one thing I could tell her, besides thank you for doing what was best for me and that she picked an awesome family for me, it would be that I don't need anything from her. I'm not looking to replace anyone, or to force a relationship or for money or anything. I want to know her; I want her to want to know me. Maybe a meeting or two and some letters. A relationship if we click, but other than that ... I'm good.

just wondering

there is one thing missing

in my pictures of the day i was brought home.

i know i was a wee one. with lots of

dark, brown hair - and big, curious brown eyes

i know my parents were in ski clothes

when they came for me - the call of

my arrival came as they prepared to head

to Crystal Mountain on that unusually

sunny February morning.

the excitement in their eyes is clearly

reflected in the pictures in the album.

I rode home from the hospital with my parents

in a 1965 Buick Skylark

but i wonder about the woman who

carried me in her body to give me

a chance at life with a family ready

for me.

what did her eyes reflect that day?

who drove her home from the hospital?

who held her hand during labor?

did she want to change her mind- even for a moment?

did she hear my cry?

does she hear it still?

i'm just wondering.

- june 2003

Just like me

Word Count: 24,616

So I'm on the edge of a mental breakdown and trying to figure out why and suddenly it occurs to me that it is just like me to decide to find my birth mom and write a novel in a month. And also sound the alarm on my approaching deadline to accomplish my annual goal to organize everything.

Also I am getting so frustrated at work and so much of it I can't post about here, but one thing I can say is that I am sick of our office being the junk drawer of the school. Don't know what to do with this pile of crap? Oh, send it to the office, they'll figure it out - or trip over it for two months. Oh, don't know how to deal with this kid? No problem, send him down to the office. Again.

After staring at the paperwork to send back to the investigation lady for a couple weeks, obsessing about how to answer the questions, I finally sealed the envelope tonight. I can't believe it sat on my desk for so long. Then again, I've been busy. And a little scared. This is potentially a big ass can of worms.

What would you want to know?

I decided to find my biological mother. Longer post on this later but right now I'm filling out the paperwork and trying to answer this question: Information about the person requesting the search (use back of form if needed to tell me a little about yourself).  So is this for just the person searching or will my bio. mom read it too? I don't know what to say. How do you sum yourself up in a few paragraphs? What would she want to know about me? Once I told a friend of mine who is also adopted some of the questions I'd like to ask my bio mom and she said, with a shocked expression, "Nathalie! You can't ask her that!" So clearly I'm not on track with what normal people would ask ... so my answers are kind of, well, they're me. I realized I felt like she might base her decision on whether or not to meet me on these few paragraphs, but like Jo pointed out, she's not going to say no because of my copious comma splices. But still.

I'm 30 years old. I'm a writer, married, pretty health, generally happy, self conscious, a graduate from Western Washington University's Journalism program, I've moved around between Washington and Oregon before settling into a small town an hour out of Portland. I dream about my books getting on Oprah. I'm a daughter, a wife, friend, sister, secretary at a grade school - just until Oprah calls. I grew up in a home with two parents, a brother and a poodle. My parents are from Slovakia and I learned to speak Slovak before English. Also, I can't whistle. And I'm a little nervous and excited about this process. This is the third time I've been this close to searching and the first time I've filled out the paperwork and written the check.

So that's what I have so far. Let's say you put a baby up for adoption. What would you want to know?

Dear Diary: March 2004

My Flashback to Fifth Grade post was buried in this journal entry written on a plane ride home from visiting my parents. What's interesting to me is that so much is said between the lines. As I flip through old journals, it's the unsaid that amazes me. Even though it was only a couple years ago, re-reading this entry I was surprised to see I thought having a baby within the year was a reasonable goal. And that writing a book in the same time frame was a possibility. Also, until I wrote the scene in Kickin' it with Ralph where Ani questions her dad about whether or not he has buyer's remorse regarding her adoption, I didn't really realize how much that bothers me. That maybe I'm not who my parents would've picked if they'd had it to do over again. And people can minimize that worry all they want but like I wrote in this entry - the whole being grateful enough thing is my own issue. But I got it from all these years of people telling me how lucky I am that someone wanted me. The thing of it is, I KNOW I'm lucky. It would just be nice to love my parents and trust they love me without worrying that I don't show enough how thankful I am. It would be nice to not have to feel so damn grateful for something most people take for granted. And it would especially be nice to be able to avoid people who tell me how to feel.

March 25, 2004

Flying into Texas - slightly tanned, relaxed and happy to have visited Mami & Tati. I have to sum up our relationship as emotionally complex. And express my gratitude to Matt who keeps it in perspective and intuitively knows what to say and what not to say. I cried saying goodbye to them at the gate because, although we drive each other crazy, I am always scared that it'll be the last time I see them and I won't have expressed enough how much I love and appreciate them. This is not based on logic, I know but it gets me really upset. I'm learning to allow it to wash through me and recognize the fear and also to acknowledge that they do know I love them. And the grateful enough thing is my own issue. It is interesting to think about the changes that will occur between now and when we see them again - they go to Bratislava in April and come back to Florida in October. And by then we'll have our house, hopefully in McMinnville, and maybe by then a book sold and a baby on the way.

It occurred to me talking to mom the other day that my kids are going to speak English and then a Goulash language with bits of Hungarian, Latin, German and, of course, Slovak mixed in. Bistos. Sicher. Bastante.

I am amazed that not once this entire trip did my dad didn't say a word about my weight or what I ate.