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A letter to the mother I’ve never known

Dear Patricia:

It’s me, Jennifer. I’m here, all grown up with a child of my own, wishing I was speaking to you instead of writing a letter I hope you might see in cyberspace.

And today is our day — the day that seals our fate, and continues to toy with our emotions.

I hope you don’t mind that I’ve been looking for you, wishing and hoping I might answer the questions, finish the puzzle, gain some understanding. The kind women who are helping with my search assure me you would want to be found, that birth mothers often don’t search themselves because they were told they had no right to, or because they fear rejection.

I fervently hope they are right. My letter isn’t intend to hurt you, invade your privacy or stir up trouble. I just desperately want to introduce myself, get to know you.

And me.

I’ve uncovered a bit of information here and there, discovering that you were at St. Faith’s in Tarrytown. Thanks to the kind secretary at Christ Church, learned your name — Patricia Clark — and my birth name, and saw the record of my baptism.

My search led me to two St. Faith’s moms. Do you remember Karen and Sandra? I’ve had the good fortune to meet Karen — she’s a delight — and talk with Sandra by phone. Both have filled me in about life at St. Faith’s, so I have a little idea of what that time must have been like for you. Sandra and Karen have found their daughters and help to keep my hope alive.

My non-identification from Westchester Family Services finally solved the mystery of my ethnic background — English and German, despite the Sunday gravy and meatballs I was raised on. I guess I must get my petite stature from your mom and my coloring from my first father — because I’m sure not blonde and blue-eyed!

The WFS report talks about your beautiful smile. I like to hope that mine is like it, that when I smile, I’m channeling you.

Of course, I have a million questions — about my appearance, my health, my talents and skills, values and thought processes. You must wonder quite a bit, too.

Be assured that I had a lovely childhood. My adoptive parents, Mike and Ginger Salvatore, are terrific, loving, supportive, good people. They took wonderful care of me, and continue to marvel at their good fate to have a family thanks to you and my sister’s birth mother. Unlike a lot of adoptive parents, they fully support my search, and hope I will find you.

Here I am with them in 1968 (I don’t know why we are not smiling.):

Dad, Mom and me, 1968.

And here I am at age 3:

Terri, age 3 -- all dressed up and ready to party. If the couch doesn't absorb me first! 😉

My upbringing was typical of suburban New York — I took dance lessons, learned to swim at the Y, played the clarinet for years and got good grades at school. There were sleepovers and trips to the circus, a family vacation in the Poconos and another in Washington, DC. My routine included church on Sunday, ice skating at Playland on Friday nights, and on any given day: band practice, band competitions, color guard events and participation in many of the school plays.

This was the first day of kindergarten:

First day of kindergarten, Sept. 2, 1971.

I went to college, at Pace in White Plains, and got a degree in print journalism.

Here’s what I looked like in college:

Me, in 1988. Nice hair, huh?

I was lucky to ply my trade — truly the best job I ever had — for 20+ years before the declining newspaper subscriptions forced me to regroup. These days I’m using my writing skills as a communications manager and finding that I have a whole new set of things to learn. At age 46, I’m just starting to spread my wings.

I’m also a Jazzercise instructor and continue to play the clarinet with a community band.

I’m married — for 18 years — to a wonderful man who somehow endures my tempestuous and exacting nature.

Basil and I met when I was in college and working as a hostess at a restaurant he liked to frequent. He still makes me laugh, even when I am trying not to, and he is a wonderful cheerleader for most anything I want to try. He’s even sat at this computer for hours helping me try to find you.

Here we are:

Basil and me in 2009.

Our daughter, Catherine, will be 16 in April. How strange it is to see some bits of myself in her — a first for me. She is beautiful and smart, kind and funny as hell. I wonder how many of her personality traits come from you.

This is a recent picture of her. I admit I love it when people say she looks like me, but she looks a lot like her dad, too.

Catherine Vanech, age 15. Photo taken in December 2011.

I hope that life has been good to you, that you have a family and a fulfilling job or vocation. I hope you are happy and well.

I wish, too, if I am lucky enough to find you, you’ll agree to meet and tell me all about you — and all about the events before and after Feb. 15, 1966.

With warm wishes,

Terri S. Vanech

nee Jennifer Elaine Clark

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


38 thoughts on “A letter to the mother I’ve never known

  1. Terri, my comment is totally different from the comments from adoptees/birth mothers. I was raised by my birth mother – a Narcissistic (with some Borderline Personality Disorder mixed in) troubled soul. It has taken me to my late 40s-early 50s to understand a lot about my life. In the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) world, our mothers are known as NADAs (Not a Mother in the True sense of the word). Thank you for your letter. I believe I want to write a letter (for myself and my sisters but not to give to my NADA) to the “Mother I’ve Never Known”. Thank you for the inspiration and courage to continue facing my past. Much love and admiration! Reia Duncan Mueck

    Posted by reiadm | February 15, 2013, 11:13 am
  2. Wow. I will try to make this brief….:) I have run into brick walls most of my entire search. When I was 27, my adopted family and I parted ways over a moral dispute….a mix of “old school ways” and “blood being thicker than”…. well, adoption. I do have 2 great kids, a good husband, some wonderful friends and I try to remind myself to count my blessings. For my 1st 5 years of life, I was essentially on my own. And from 1995, I am again, with no family to call my own. It’s an extremely lonely feeling, though it has taught me to be independent from the getgo.

    There is nothing I want more in this world than to find her and meet her. I pray I find her soon while we still have some time. Thanks for sharing your letter…..it’s like you were reading my thoughts over the years!

    Posted by Vicki Thompson | May 31, 2012, 4:08 am
  3. I pray for your reunion G-d bless u both

    Posted by deb | May 8, 2012, 10:25 am
  4. I wrote so many of these letters in my head over the years, often on my birthday. I wondered if my birth mother thought of me (and my twin sister) on the day that marked our birth and our separation from her. When I met her a couple of years ago, I asked her if she thought of us every July 15. She said, “I never forgot, on that day or any other day.” Best of luck on your journey and thanks for sharing your letter.


    Posted by jes97003 | February 19, 2012, 1:45 pm
  5. Thanks for sharing this, Terri. I’m hope this letter gets in front of your birth mother somehow. You are approaching this search with such kindness and vulnerability, and I pray for you to be rewarded with the same measure of love.

    Posted by Kerry Wills | February 17, 2012, 2:38 pm
  6. Teri, this letter is amazing brought tears to my eyes. I hope you find your birth Mom, but at the same time you were raised in a loving family and have fond memories as a child. Your truly a blessed woman!!

    Your an inspiration for others to find their birth moms. Catherine is a blessed girl to have a wonderful mom.


    Posted by Liz Magliari | February 16, 2012, 9:46 pm
  7. Your letter is wonderful. I’m reading this because my dear friend is looking for her birthmother and was born 2/15/1971. I hope you both find your birthparents soon.

    Liz Boone

    Posted by houseinthelittlewoods | February 16, 2012, 3:43 am
  8. Wow!
    As i read, i was hoping you were my daughter….I then realized that your birth year would be different, i am looking for 2.15.1975, i sincerely hope & pray that you are reunited with the first mom who sacrificially gave you to a family who loved you unconditionally. Blessings to you my dear, God’s favor be unto you & guidance to bring your paths together, happily ever after!
    Teri (Teresa Hays) Beeler

    Posted by Teri Beeler | February 15, 2012, 10:24 pm
    • Teri:
      You gave me a start, there! I hope you find your daughter very soon. Peace and blessings to yoy, too. Terri

      Posted by terrisv15 | February 15, 2012, 10:44 pm
      • Terri,
        Just as an update (if this link still works) I found my daughter!! She isnt ready yet to communicate. I keep sending her cards of encouragement, but not pushing any decisions on her. I know have to allow her to adapt to knowing i am here. her Bday is soon, (so happy birthday to you too!) and I plan on sending her a picture of my son & I holdng a sign saying we love her. I have been sending cards to her since I found her, no response yet….I’m waiting on God timing. I hope you find your mother soon. You’ll be in my prayer along with my request for a happy reunion for my daughter & I. Blessings!! Teri (Teresa Hays) Beeler.

        Posted by Teri Beeler | January 5, 2013, 9:36 pm
      • Congratulations! That’s wonderful news. I hope you will soon be able to talk with her. Blessings to you, too.

        Posted by Terri S. Vanech | January 6, 2013, 4:53 pm
  9. Beautifully written. Brought tears to my eyes! Maybe by your next birthday……

    Posted by Jacquie | February 15, 2012, 9:44 pm
  10. Beautifully written. Hope this letter finds her. No doubt she would be proud to know the woman you’ve become.

    Posted by Kristen | February 15, 2012, 5:55 pm
  11. terri, that is the most beautiful letter,i cant imagine any first mother not being so happy to read and see something like that.i am a first mother and trying to locate my son,he will be 52 yrs.young this july,so hoping this will be my year and yours also.hope you have a very happy birthday.nettie cox

    Posted by nettie s.cox | February 15, 2012, 12:58 pm
  12. Oh Terri, this is a heart breaker of a letter. I can’t understand why since you have her name she cannot be found, unless that is not her real name and it sure is not unusual.

    my best to you today, may you find her before another year goes by.

    Posted by zoozig | February 15, 2012, 12:26 pm
  13. Terri,

    I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. The reason is that you are such a deserving person, I desperately want you to find who and what you are looking for. I pray that your birth mother somehow sees everything you write about your desire to meet her, and that she responds lovingly and with as much excitement and joy as I know is contained in you. I have faith that there will be a meeting between the two of you. I hope you don’t have to wait much longer.
    I wish you the happiest of birthdays, full of all the people and things you love in the world.

    Posted by Celia Taylor | February 15, 2012, 11:49 am
  14. You made me cry. Happy Birthday!!

    Posted by Karen Waggoner | February 15, 2012, 11:42 am
  15. Terri, You are an amazing woman, and I know that just by reading your letter. I am searching for an adoptee, my “nephew”. I can call myself a first aunt, as I am sister to the birth father. The birth mother died last year, same age as you are now, and sadly she can’t join us in this search. I come from an irish family, and we all resemble one another in looks and mannerisms, and of course, blue eyes, and I know where that comes from! I don’t take that knowledge for granted.
    I hope you have a wonderful Birthday, and so many more. Your letter is beautiful and written in a way that would make any first mom proud.

    Posted by Paula Whitney | February 15, 2012, 10:10 am
  16. Hi Happy Birthday, Many Many More to you!!!!!!

    Posted by joannyadopteesj | February 15, 2012, 9:07 am
  17. Love this Terri.

    Posted by Denice Dutra-Laveris | February 15, 2012, 9:05 am
  18. Beautiful, Terri.

    Posted by Fran Dorf | February 15, 2012, 8:21 am


  1. Pingback: VIP May 2012: The May 2012 edition of Very Important blog Posts about adoption - June 1, 2012

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