“So how are the kids, Lynne? How are Kayla and Kevin?” Unlike many of my critique partners, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Lynne’s children. Her daughter, Kayla, even performed a song for me on the piano (girl can saaaang, y’all).
“They’re good! Kayla’s singing and dancing up a storm and Kevin’s plotting his escape to Korea.” Lynne’s voice gushes a familiar proud-Mom tone. “But you know us – this is a nuthouse. I’m probably one of the most constantly stressed people. People think I have it easy working from home, but I work two jobs at the same time and constantly get texts, messages, phone calls, my dog Anakin harasses me, my kids come in and interrupt me in some way… I’m always riding the crazy train.” Her laughter is lighthearted, and we chat a few more minutes about chaos before moving on.
“So tell me about your first pivotal moment, Lynne.”
“That’s really cool,” I say. “Did you draw from your own experiences much to write this story?”
“Sort of,” Lynne says. “My parents adopted me because their life wasn’t whole. My mother had seven miscarriages and wanted a child so badly. I fulfilled them, but then they had two children after adopting me. So my experience was a little different.”
“How old were you when you were adopted?”
“I was three months old when they got me as a foster child; they adopted me when I was one and a half.”
“And then how old were you when your first sibling was born?”
“I was two and a half when she had my sister. I think it was hard on my parents to have an adopted child (who was very different from them) and then have two of their own (who were very like them).” As someone who was raised by a stepmother who eventually had her own biological child, I understand her sentiment. But still, I ask.
“It’s hard to put into words.” I nod in silent agreement as Lynne pauses before she continues thinking aloud.
“Maybe it was more me who just felt different. My siblings are such clones of my parents and I felt a little like the black sheep alien child. The bad child. My parents are very good people, but I can’t say that it’s easy for them to understand people who are different. It was challenging to grow up in an adopted family that had their own kids. But that definitely contributed to who I am today. Growing up, I had the perception that most everything I did was bad (compared to what my brother and sister would do or how they would react). I was always the one bringing home stray pets even though we were told we couldn’t have another one – things like that. But as I get older, I can see that it probably wasn’t easy to be my brother or sister, either. I’m a lot more…flamboyant, maybe? I’m very creative. Shiny. It’s just the way I am.”
“Are you close with your siblings now?”
“We aren’t terribly close, no.”
“I know you talk to your mom a lot. Are you close with her?”
“In some ways, yes, but not in other ways. But I did get much closer to her and appreciate her more after I found my birthmother. It’s a complicated relationship.” I laugh with her.
“Aren’t they all?”
“I guess they are,” she agrees.
“How do you think adoption shaped you most, growing up?” Lynne groans.
“Ugh, not fitting in, definitely! I felt like I was always striving for a place to fit in. Always looking. Not knowing my roots gave me objectivity, though. Was I Jewish? Was I part black? I was open to any community where I might fit in. I desperately wanted to be part of a tight community. I know now that my roots aren’t Jewish, but I always felt Jewish. It made me weird like that. I used to go to temple with my Jewish friends and mass with my Catholic friends and look for people who looked like me. I had soul mothers and soul sisters and people I connected with on other levels because I didn’t have blood, so I found other relationships. It made me open and gave me perspective.”
“Do you still go to temple?”
“I don’t because my life is crazy. But I would if I had time. I have such great memories—I was in a temple production of Bye Bye, Birdie in high school. It’s something that meant a lot to me to be a part of.”
“You felt included,” I say.
“Yeah!” Lynne’s voice smiles. “And I’m still like that. My son will tell you, I embrace my Jewishness because Jesus was Jewish. I don’t know how you can totally separate yourself from Jewish people if you’re Christian. And I also believe we should respect others beliefs and what others call God as long as we believe in the same principles.”
“I definitely think we’d all be better off if we looked for more similarities.”
“Definitely. My friend Eric, who’s Jewish, said, ‘We’re on the same bus. I just got off before you.’” She laughs at his observation. “So we have the same foundation and beginning journey. We’re not so different. My journey just went to a different place. Same beginnings, same origins. I always loved that. It really spoke to me.”
“So tell me about another pivotal moment in your life,” I say.
“Well, another part of my adoption journey was pivotal,” she says. “When I was sixteen, I thought my parents were dead. I thought they’d died in a car accident because that’s what my adopted mother told me. That’s what they were instructed to tell adopted kids back then, so they didn’t feel abandoned.”
“So how did you find out they were still alive?” My heart breaks as I imagine a child learning this kind of news.
“When I was sixteen my mom kept talking about someone who found their adopted parents. I asked how it affected me and she said, ‘Well, in case you wanted to look for yours.’ I said, ‘Why would I do that? My parents are dead.’ That’s when she told me they were alive.”
“That had to be incredibly confusing,” I say.
“I felt disrespected. Lied to.” Lynne’s exasperation is palpable through the phone. “Our relationship was strained then anyway. But then I came to find out that she had identifying information on my birth parents because the court had sent papers to her that were supposed to go elsewhere.”
“So did she tell you who they were?”
“Sort of. She gave me names but I only found dead ends, so I gave up for years. When the topic came up again, she told me I hadn’t been searching the RIGHT name. I told her it was the spelling she’d given me, but she denied it. I was so upset and had lost faith in her by then. I didn’t trust she was giving me accurate information, so I decided not to do anything. But when I had my son, I changed my mind and decided to search.”
“How did that go?” I ask.
“It was, like, a psychic thing. Something told me to search in Boston, so I did. I looked under the last name and found my uncle. It was totally random. I called information and they wouldn’t give me a phone number, so I kept calling back. Eventually I asked for a supervisor and swore I’d stop calling if they just gave me a number. They kept saying they wouldn’t give me a number without both a first and a last name, and I told them their rules were ridiculous. I could literally go to any phone booth in Boston if I lived there and look up any number of people with the last name Ogren. I just wanted any number at all. So eventually I wore her down and he gave me a phone number for Cecil Ogren. I called the number and said, ‘Hi, my name is Lisa Ogren and I’m looking for a branch of my family.’ She was shocked. She said, “Your mom is my sister-in-law, but we’re not supposed to know about you.”
“Let me back up for a second,” I say. “You mentioned that ‘something’ told you to call Boston. Where were you living at the time, and can you point to any reason that you’d want to search Boston?”
“I was from Brooklyn, but something inside told me I was from Boston. When I was growing up, we went to Maine all the time and passed by Boston. It tugged at my heart that we never went there. It was really psychic…there’s no explanation. Before I called, though, I verified that I was born in the five boroughs by looking up my name at the New York Public Library. I found my birth name, Lisa Ogren, in the Birth Book there, and it matched the number of my birth certificate.”
“So you found your aunt, but she said she wasn’t supposed to know about you. So how did you find your mother?”
“I told my aunt that I understood, but I was twenty-six or twenty-seven by this time. We just kept talking and I asked her to please tell me if I had any siblings. She paused and said, ‘I’m sorry to say that your brothers aren’t alive. They both had Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy.’ It was weird because I’d always volunteered at the Special Olympics growing up and I got boys with that condition who always connected with me. It was another weird moment.”
“That must have been very hard to hear.”
“Yeah,” Lynne admits. “I always wanted to have a sibling who was like me, and here there were two, but I’d never meet them in this lifetime. Anyway, I called my mother and we arranged for me to drive up to meet them—they lived in Connecticut. So New Years Even I drove up with my boyfriend and we met for the first time. But my mother, in an ironic twist, was not much like me. She was just like my adoptive mother. Apparently the agency had matched up the family structure. One was Swedish, one Scottish, but they were so much alike, it was uncanny.”
“How did you feel about that?”
“I was disappointed but I also felt cured of the stigma I’d felt from being adopted. It made me understand that my adoptive mother was more my mother than I’d realized. It healed my relationship with her a lot. In my head, I’d imagined my perfect natural mother was going to be understanding and supportive. But she wasn’t.”
“What was she like?”
“Controlling! So controlling. And disrespectful. She had lost her little girl and now she had her back, so she used to try and make us dress the same all the time. She tried to make me go over there all the time and disrespected my adoptive parents. She called me Lisa instead of Lynne. It was terrible. I asked about my father and she told me he was a murderer…she just maligned him and wouldn’t give me his name.”
“Did you believe her?”
“No, not at all.”
“Do you still talk to her?”
“No.” Lynne sighs. “She died this past November.”
“It seems like that would create some conflicting emotions. Was that weird for you?”
“It was pretty horrible, but that’s a whole different story,” Lynne says. She wants to change the subject back, so I let her.
“So she wouldn’t tell me who my father was, and I tried. This is another weird part of the story. As a kid, I always thought my father’s name was Peter Rabbit or something. So one day in the car when she was talking about her brother, my Uncle Peter, I just asked, ‘What was my father’s name, anyway?’ She choked and I thought she was gonna die! So I said, ‘My father’s name was Peter, wasn’t it?’ Her head spun around and she asked who told me. But no one told me. It was just a hunch.”
“Were you able to look him up at that point?”
“No, I didn’t know anything else about him. I told her that if my father died before I got to meet him, I’d never talk to her again. She got mad, but the next day my stepfather called with my father’s phone number. I came to find out that the day I found her, months before, she’d called him. My father had been sending money and notes to give to me, but she wouldn’t pass them along. And she wouldn’t give them my information.”
“So did you call him?”
“I did,” Lynne says. “He drove from Massachusetts the next day to meet me. And the funniest thing…he brought me a pink rabbit. My adoptive parents came too, and my mother couldn’t believe it. I’d been obsessed with rabbits my whole life and my Godfather had given me a pink rabbit just like the one he gave me. He said he thought he was being stupid for bringing it, but he just felt compelled. It was amazing. So his last name was Remick and he brought a rabbit. Who knows? So many weird things.”
“Is he still alive?” Lynne’s sigh is sad.
“He died first, one Halloween when my daughter was two. Which is such a shame because he treated my daughter Kayla like the Queen of England. It’s sad he didn’t get to see her grow up. I have to say I think a lot of themes from my stories—not fitting in, not feeling complete—stem from this.” I nod in empathy.
“Those are deep-seated feelings,” I say. “I understand how they would spill over into your creative brain.” After a moment of quiet, I ask, “Do you want to talk about any other pivotal moments in your life?” Lynne pauses.
“My divorce was pivotal, but that’s a story for a different day,” Lynne says. “It broke me, but it also put me back together in a better way. I always had tons of people in my life. I don’t have as many now, but those in my life are good people. I used to keep unhealthy relationships. My divorce helped me learn to walk away from people who aren’t good for me.”
I hear Lynne’s car door close and I know it’s time to wrap up the conversation. After I thank her for her time, I consider all she’s been through and think about Molidlocks. In many ways, it seems that Moldilocks’ story is the ideal fairytale for children awaiting adoption. An off-the-wall family feels incomplete, so they search for a child who ends up fitting perfectly into their quirky world. It’s a beautiful way for Lynne to work through her own experiences, really. And it’s a beautiful way to sprinkle some optimism and hope on a subject that is all-too-often dark and ignored. And honestly, I think we need a little more of that in our world.
Look for Lynne online at:
Facebook: Lynne Marie
Pinterest: Lynne Marie
And watch her Moldilocks book trailer here!