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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Opal Leigh, Madeline and Jerry

Put a camera on a football player after a great play and what does he say? "Hi Mom!" We all tear up, we love it....the love between a mother and a child trumps almost every other relationship there is is is major.

But sometimes this relationship takes some strange turns. But that is all it is, a turn

Take me for instance I have three birth mother, Opal Leigh......Madeline the woman who adopted me with my dad, and Jerry my step mom....who married my dad when I was six.

My childhood wasn't exactly a scene from Oliver Twist, but it was different.

These three women all influenced the woman I am today. For the longest time I felt I was the most unlucky person in the world. My birth mother gave me away, my first adopted mother Madeline divorced my dad, took me with her, gave me back to my dad, and then a few years later died. My step mom married my dad when I was 6 and I never thought she liked me. On the surface that seems like a lot of rejection, and terribly, terribly dramatic. From the perspective of an eighteen year old, which is the age I decided to feel really sorry for myself, it feels like a lot of rejection. Had life dealt me a lousy hand? Or was I amazingly blessed? Thank goodness I grew up, and saw my life for what it was, and not some big plot hatched to cheat me out of happiness.

There is the story of my birth mother Opal Leigh Jones...What a gift to know her name! I didn't know it until after my dad passed away and I found my adoption papers. I also discovered she had given me a name. Patti. Patti Jones. I like that name, I bet she named me after Patti Page...I may have only had that name for a day, but it's a good strong name. And Opal Leigh? That is a great Texas name, it is as Texan as Neiman-Marcus! Being from Texas has always been my heritage....I may not know anything about my actual lineage, but I do know I am from Texas. And then after seeing my birth mother's name I knew birth mother is Texan. I know it sounds odd, but that name connected me to a place, and that felt so good.

Opal Leigh did the most noble thing, she gave me up for adoption to a family who couldn't have children. Arnold and Madeline Beckman....I wandered into their lives at the age of 2 days..
Madeline was the best hunter and the best fisherman...she could also out drink everyone too, and had a fabulous pink Cadillac.
She loved to do my hair, lots of curls, lots of bows, and I had an never ending series of dresses....frilly dresses and patent leather shoes, even hats and purses to match. It's funny the things you remember isn't it?

My parents divorced when I was so little, my mother took me to Alaska, it was the farthest she could get from my dad. After awhile Madeline wasn't able to take care of me so she sent me back to my dad. I only saw her a couple of times after that, she passed away when I was 8. The day I found out she died was the hardest day of my childhood. I really didn't believe them, and I looked for her for years.

And then what had to be the hardest job, Jerry was the step mom. She married my dad when I was six....I know now that she did the best job she could, but we never had that mother daughter thing I yearned for. I remember being in a restaurant one time when I was very young. I watched a young girl about my age having lunch with her mother. I remember it so clearly. They were laughing together, and the way they looked at each other.....just a look of love, acceptance, and friendship. Jerry loved me, I know she did, but we never had that relationship. We limped through my adolescence, doing our best. My parents had lots of financial problems which kept their lives very stressful. The really good news is before she passed away we mended the parts of our lives that had been broken. As I have gotten older and have some stress in my life as well, I understand why things happened the way they did. I not only have put the negative things behind me, but I have realized how much I learned from things not being perfect.

I believe in the law of compensation And you know that time I described in the restaurant, the scene with the mother and daughter? The one I wanted so badly? I have that with all of my children. They are not only wonderful children that I love ferociously, but great friends too. I have only been married a wonderful man who simply and completely loves me. the greatest gift of my married life is I have never, not even once, doubted him. So for all of the circuitous twists my childhood took, I didn't repeat the really hard parts.

Life can be a great teacher.

I want to wish my three moms a Happy Mother's Day. I honor them all, and thank them for their sacrifices, their love and for all they added to my life.

Thank you Opal Leigh, Madeline and Jerry....


  1. Life is what you make it. You could have been bitter and carried it with you for life or build on the good that came out of it.

    Your family has been blessed by your choice.

  2. Very beautiful and very poignant! I have been told that when we face big boulders in our life path, we have a decision to make. We can stop right there and never go on. Or we can take a running charge at it and leap over! Gives us strong legs!!! You, Good Neighbor, have very strong legs! Thanks for sharing, and Happy Mother's Day to you, too!

  3. I'm glad you were able to make the relationships you wanted with your own children. Good for you, Donna.


  4. It is never too late to have a happy childhood. You are amazing Donna Tagliaferri!

  5. Oh my goodness! This is so beautiful! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Did I mention beautiful? I love it.

    Gave me chicken skin. And sweaty eyeballs. This goes right along with some things I'm writing. Can I remember this and use this someday somewhere? giving you full credit, of course.


    And so well written. Thanks for inviting me to read it.

  6. That was a really beautiful post dedicated to your three mothers.
    I can relate but for me it is all my fathers.
    It is a strange thing to not have the same life as the other kids but like you, I was blessed with one husband and fabulous children.
    It is amazing the twists and turns life takes and if you can ride it out you really do get some blessings!
    You done good my friend!

  7. Wow, what an interesting life. I am sure you are wise about relationships, coming from all of those moms.

    I LOVE the name Opal! Is she still living?

  8. I have never looked for Opal...I know some people feel a real need to find their birth mothers, but I never have. She might be alive,I don't know.

  9. Love this post! You are so kind and forgiving to everyone in your childhood and that shows you have so much love in your heart and understanding. You are an awesome lady! So glad you did not repeat your childhood and you've had a very blessed adulthood.

  10. Donna, Thank you for bringing my attention to this wonderful tribute to 3 very different but influential mothers. I truly believe that if we can learn from the hard things in life without becoming bitter or self-righteous, we turn into truly amazing people. And you, my blog-friend, are truly amazing!

    While I read these tender sentiments, my heart kept repeating, "Oooh" over and over! Beautiful.

  11. This was beautiful Donna. You should be so proud of yourself, that you were able to create the life you wanted as a child, as an adult...and you were able to give that life to your children. you are amazing.