Dizzy, lightheaded, clammy skin, heartburn, nausea, anxiety, palpitations, and shortness of breath are symptoms of a heart attack, which I thought I was experiencing. However, it was my nerves, and they were getting the best of me. I was about to make the call to Jeannie and hear my birth mother’s voice for the first time.
Slowly, I dialed her number. My heart raced as I put the phone to my ear. Ring… … Ring… … Ring… … Each ring sent a bite to my nervous system. I flared my nose and prepared to hang up.
Hello? May I please speak to-
“Wow!”, we both said in unison. This moment was surreal. I was speaking to my birth mother–my BIRTH MOTHER!
We laughed—a lot, joked, and laughed some more. We spoke for 2 hours about our lives and I we connected effortlessly. Told Jeannie about my family; she spoke of hers and stories about her sons’ lives (my two half-brothers. Jeannie’s voice satisfied everything my spirit needed to feel for all of these years. I didn’t recognize that it was her voice that my soul was craving.
>> Pause. According to this article. I experienced fetal trauma. While in utero, I learned to be comforted by my mother’s voice and heartbeat– a voice that was not Jim and Jay Jackson’s. Because of my adoption, this connective disruption, unbeknownst to anyone, impacted my brain and body.
Jeannie then told me I was conceived in the summer of ’71 on a mountain—Sourland Mountain. (Whoa! Okay…) Once she realized she was pregnant and began to show she was bullied, at school and became angry and bitter. Darkness tried to take over, but she sang through the loneliness and pain instead.<<
When she decided to put me up for adoption, she said that she thought she was signing papers for was an open adoption.
I would have never agreed to a closed adoption, and your case manager told me that when you turned 18, your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, would let you know you about your adoption and about me. I was angry that your parents didn’t agree to those terms.
Jeannie, I am sorry to tell you this, but the case manager lied to you. My adoption was sealed. My parents never agreed to an open adoption. They never told me I was adopted because they weren’t obligated to let me know.
She then said a few days after my 18th birthday, excited, she called the adoption agency, and they informed her about my adoption being sealed. Devastated, confused, angry, and hopeless, Jeannie said she spiraled into darkness again. So she decided that the only thing she could adopt was poison, which only masked the pain she forever felt in her heart.
There was a long pause…
“Well!” I chirped. “Tell me about your career. What did you do after I was born.”
Well, Janeen, I sang my way through the loss of you at various jazz functions. I was also the opening act for several years at the Cape May Jazz festival. I was popular and had a small following. Many white people attended the festival, but one group that stood out the most was a small black group. I think they were a club from out of town and always supported me.
“The Cape May Jazz festival?”
“Yes, it’s on the coast of New Jersey—Cape May, New Jersey. Have you heard of it?”
Jeannie, I know this will be really hard to comprehend, but…my parents were members of a Black yacht club, Seafarers Yacht Club in Annapolis, Maryland.
Anyway, in the ’90s, The Seafarers would boat up to the Cape May Jazz festival. I remember my parents and some of the other club members would love listening to the performers, but they would always rave about the opening act, who was a woman, which I am assuming was you. Of course, us kids weren’t allowed to go, so we’d and stay on the boat with our friends when they’d listen to you.
Jeannie gasped. “Whaaaat? I remember that group. They’d usually offer me a drink after my set.”
Jeannie, I believe that you sang to my parents.