December 30, 2012

Goodbye, Mom! ~ Ella Wagemakers


photo: Carissa Rogers/Flickr

I’ve told it a hundred—no, a thousand!—times. At least, it feels that way.

It’s the story about how my real mother left me at an orphanage in Manila when I was only two days old; how my stepparents somewhat adopted me when I was about four months old; how they subsequently, let’s say, misused me for the next 27 or so years; and, finally, how I ‘got away’ by immigrating to Europe, where I’ve been living ever since. When she died, I got the confirmation that they hadn’t even bothered to register me, meaning that technically, I didn’t exist. And even that I had to find out from others.

Now why am I repeating this pathetic tale for the upteenth time?

Not for tea and sympathy, not for advice and certainly not to vent or rant. I’ve received enough of the first two and done enough of the third. It took three years of PRI therapy to wash my stepfather’s hands off my body and their abuse out of my head. No, I am definitely not writing this because I want to get rid of them. I already got that bit done years ago. I’ve forgiven and let go. They’re gone and they’re not coming back.

Photo: ABC News

Actually, I am writing this because I have been trying to locate my real mother ever since I found out I was adopted, and because I want to put an end to that as well. I am alone and made up of all wings and no roots.

We grow up in a society where family relationships are considered almost sacred. Where I come from, if you were an orphan, you were almost a pariah—dirty, strange, fallen, hopeless, separate. The tendency is to see everyone else as a potential parent or guardian angel who might give you your daily quota of hugs, pats on the back, nods of approval, applause and all those other knick-knacks we might classify as attention. It’s hard not to want it. There was a time when I thought I could never get enough of it. The need to be legitimate and to be legitimately recognized in everything—feelings, thoughts, accomplishments, ambitions, even rights, including the right to be forgiven—seems to be a natural part of human nature.

As I grew older, I realized that I no longer needed to get that from just anyone else. I longed for ‘the real thing’. I dreamed of my mother; she was everything—a goddess, a saint, a super-hero, an angel, an X-woman; but also a victim of circumstance, a fallible person who was, after all, only human, an ordinary maker of mistakes who deserved a second chance. The roles became reversed. Now I was the one who wanted to pat her on the back, to reassure her that I turned out okay, to invite her to see my house and how I lived these past few years and tell her every good and not-so-good thing I’d managed to do all this time we’d been separated.

Sometimes, these phases drive me nuts. But I’ve learned in the meantime that that is all they are—phases.

In short, this phase ended, too. One thing with the phases, however, is that even though they pass, they leave what we might call residue. Of course it’s still nice to get some positive attention. Of course it also gives us a good feeling when we can give that same positive attention to someone else who needs it. The trap is that we’re willing to get into that kind of activity because it makes us feel good. Nothing wrong in that, is there? Well, not quite; and I think that is because we all know that feelings are like phases—they pass.

In short, I wish my mother well. I wish that for her as much as I wish it (still) for myself. I’ve had to learn to wish it, to work on being able to hug and forgive myself; to serve myself my favorite cup of tea with lemon. All that without any guilty feeling whatsoever. And I’ve had to realize that I can’t turn back the clock, to be able to experience her giving all those good things to me. Nor will I ever be able to play the role of the good daughter and reduce the backlog of favors I could have done for her. The reality is that she was never here and will never be here.

Someone once asked me, “If the doorbell rang one day and you saw that it was her, what would you do?” I said, “Well, I’d invite her in for a cup of coffee! What else can I do?” What’s gone is gone and no amount of worry will change it. What’s to come isn’t anything we can discuss yet. What’s going on now is all we can deal with.

So… goodbye, mom. Whether or not you’ve been worrying or wondering, I’m fine. And I no longer need to know. I’m sure you’re just as okay as you can ever hope to be. You’ve left it at that and so will I.


Born with more wings than roots, Ella enjoys writing, painting, playing only two computer games, teaching practical English, collecting stamps, travelling, driving, reading, taking pictures, genealogy (her husband’s family), new age music, making jewelry and, most of all, hugging Adrian and planting a kiss on his belly button.


Editor: Malin Bergman

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