There are some words that are simply never uttered in my household. One of them was a “Daily Post – One-word Prompt” (and if you want to know what the word is, you can click on that link to find out.)
If only my daughters could find the answers to their questions so easily – with just a simple click of the mouse. “Who was my birth mother?” Click. “What was her name?” Click. “What did she look like?” Click. “Why didn’t she want me?” Click.
Both of my daughters have heard “their” stories many times. At very young ages, they asked me to tell them the stories again and again. So, my elder knows that she was born in the “Black Lion” Hospital and was brought to Sister Mariska in the Missionaries of Charity on the same day – after her birth mother disappeared. (Though, at that time, I used the terms “Birth Mama” and “Life Mama”. After a year or two, I realized that my daughter had misheard me and was saying “Earth Mama”. We cleared up the misunderstanding and we both laughed about it. But the term “Earth Mama” was there to stay.)
My younger daughter knows that (according to the police report) she was found “under the cactus tree” in a (huge) northern region of Ethiopia. The policeman who brought her to the nearest orphanage was the one who named her. He called her the Ethiopian word for “little princess”. The name stuck. Later, she also came to Addis Ababa, and to the same Sister Mariska who cared for her till we arrived.
In all of the retellings of these stories, the sentence that never crossed my lips was “You were (Daily Post – One-word Prompt).”
Throughout their early childhoods, my younger daughter had few questions. The older one, on the other hand, was occupied with this topic repeatedly and over many years. She worried about her Earth Mama and wanted to meet her. She cried after hearing that we would try everything we could, but that she should know this might never happen. She articulated her most burning question straight out – “Why didn’t she want me?”
I especially remember one conversation in our kitchen. She was asking many questions again that I still couldn’t answer (and maybe never could). Here is an approximate and cleaned-up version of what I told her – and not for the first time:
“Mitzi – there ARE some things I can tell you about her. She probably looked a lot like you – so she was beautiful. She was probably very young. She probably had nowhere to go and knew she couldn’t take care of you, feed you, on her own. I’m sure that she loved you and that she wanted you to have a better life than the one she could give you. She knew that you were surrounded by doctors and nurses who would take care of you when she left. It was probably the hardest thing she ever did, leaving the hospital, but she did it for you. So that you would have a better life.”
I remember the tears streaming down my daughter’s face as she said:
“You mean . . . my Earth Mama did a good thing, not a bad thing?”
“Yes, honey, she did a very, very hard and good thing.”