Montana Mouthful: Lost and Found

Page 16

NONFICTION

Paper Dolls by Katy Goforth

I first learned about her while sitting in an Ingles grocery store parking lot. I was in town from college, and my mother needed to go to the store. She burst into tears and said, “You have another sister. I gave her up. Don’t hate me.” I thought about it for the few seconds I was given and responded, “I don’t hate you. You had a baby. It’s ok.” Then we walked into Ingles and shopped. There was no family meeting. No handwritten letter pouring out her soul. We put the makings for dinner that night in our cart while she told me about 1966, her decision, and the baby that would change my life. If an emotion wasn’t beautiful to the outside world, then you didn’t feel it in my Southern family. Only show the happy times. It was like being a paper doll. Beautiful clothes for the world to see on the front but exposed on the backside with those beautiful clothes just barely hanging on by paper thin tabs. You shoved unwanted emotion down deep inside of your belly to burn. It’s what my mother had been taught before me, her mother before her, and so on. And it was very much like a fuel for me. As we walked the aisles and my mother shared her story, she also issued a stipulation. Rules for how to move forward with this new-found 14 | Montana Mouthful

information. No talking about it. No talking with my friends, my family, and certainly not my immediate family. I felt my mother’s shame wash over the entire cereal aisle that day. I was angry, and once again I would shove it down deep and just let it burn away. I was also interested. There was someone out there who might look like me. I went back to college, and I sat with this information. There was no deep dive into an internet search at this time. It was the late nineties after all. I did the one thing I always did when I had information that I couldn’t trust with anyone else around me. I called my big sister. She had actually been given a few more details about the baby—a name, a birthplace, a birthday. I also confided in a friend who I knew was adopted. Looking back on it, I realized this was my deep dive into the internet. For the first time in my young life, I was not accepting that Southern shame that women get labeled with so often, especially when sex is involved. My mother shouldn’t be ashamed. All she did was have a baby. And this shouldn’t bring shame on my family. It could be a joyous finding if I let it be. I found comfort through the years talking to my friend about her adoption. I would dayVol. 5 • Issue 1