Saturday, September 13, 2008

Girls Like Us

"I do and I don't. Maybe I do. Maybe I know a little. Maybe I don't know anything. I'll tell you by that I think I've done my - people are too possessive about their children, too ego-centric with their children, anyway. I reproduced myself. I made a beautiful child, a girl. When-but at the time I was penniless. There was no way I could take-she would have been - I was not the right person to raise this child. There was no indication that I would-I don't have a good education, I couldn't keep her. It was impossible under the circumstance. I had no money when she was born, none. Imagine, I mean .... We would just have been - I would have been waitressing or something. It wouldn't have been - fate did not design this to occur."
Who said this?

Yes, a mother who lost her only child to adoption. But who?

The answer is revealed in a book you will want to read: Girls Like Us.

Want a hint?

Omitted and replaced with ... is the following: "none of the music could have come out."

YES! It was Joni Mitchell's response to being totally taken off guard and "outed" by an interviewer for Greater London Radio in 1990.

"Do you miss having a close-knit family?" he asked.

"Well, we have cats and also I have lost of godchildren I haven't had children by choice, really," Joni replied.

After falling right into his evil plot, he then pounced and said: "You did have a child, didn't you, when you were very young? Do you know what happened to him or her?" was then Joni, totally stunned, began stammer out the above quotation.

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the journey of a generation by New York Times bestselling author, Sheila Weller, does much justice to our "cause." In a very different way than The Girls Who Went Away it places an "out-of wedlock" pregnancy and subsequent surrender into a person's life and the life of every woman who came of age in the 60's, and is far more readable and less academic than Wake up Little Suzie. If, like me, you too are a child of the sixties - a bit of a flower-child, a "folkie" or fan of any of these iconic singers - you would enjoy this book even without this highlight - that I, of course, IMMEDIATELY turned to!

Weller details Joni's pregnancy ("I lost my virginity and got pregnant all in the same act" Joni told a reporter in 2001) and what followed with exquisite sensitivity warmth and caring, interspersed with insights from Sandra Jarvies, president of Canadian Birth Mothers United (though I find no internet presence of this person or such a group) about the multitude of Canadian girls sent 3,000 miles from home to protect their parents' reputations. (She also quotes Gone to Aunt's: Remembering Canada's home for unwed mothers by Anne Petrie, a 1967 alumna, and mentions the millions of US mothers who lost our children during the same time period in a a footnote.)

I found lots to identify with, beginning with the fact that Carole King's "real" name is the same as my maiden name! I totally relate to the author's description of Joni floating back and forth between the "good girl" we all felt we should be and our wilder side.

But, most of all I identified with Joni who was making a name for herself in the Canadian "hootenanny" folk scene in the 60's, while I was a folk "groupie" in Greenwich Village...waiting tables while guitarist Jose Feliciano and such passed the basket at the Cafe Wha, The Why Not?, and the Village Gate. Bob Dylan had just graduated from the village coffee house scene, but it was there I met and hung out with my (still) dear friend Richie Havens. Ironically, Joni - who wrote the song, Woodstock - was slated to perform at Woodstock in 1969 - which Richie Havens opened. Her agent canceled her performance.

Weller reveals how Joni went through her pregnancy and surrender alone - with no help from her family and no maternity home (as did I). Joni kept playing music until her belly became too big, and neither she, nor anyone around her, spoke about it.

Like me, Joni - 21 (I was 22) put her daughter (born in 1965) in foster care and is described as feeling "sort of numb and half-awake". I identify with the fact that Joni was impregnated by one and then let down by another she hoped would help "rescue" her and help her keep and raise her daughter - though she married the second and I was married to the first!

She named her daughter Kelly, and in private Joni sang "Kelly Green" instead of "Little Green" (a song mothers who lost children "knew" the meaning of, long before the truth was revealed - lyrics so telling).

Born with the moon in cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to
Call her green and the winters cannot fade her
Call her green for the children who've made her
Little green, be a gypsy dancer

He went to California
Hearing that everything's warmer there
So you write him a letter and say, her eyes are blue.
He sends you a poem and shes lost to you
Little green, hes a non-conformer


Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There'll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the northern lights perform
There'll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there'll be sorrow

Child with a child pretending
Weary of lies you are sending home
So you sign all the papers in the family name
You're sad and you're sorry, but you're not ashamed
Little green, have a happy ending

Weller also sees baby hints in "The Circle Game" as well as "Both Sides Now" which speaks to her indecisiveness.

The book is deliciously seasoned with photos, including Joni's reunion.

"The unwanted pregnancy" says Weller, "seems to have spurred Joni to take new creative risks - to write her own songs; she wrote her first, what she called a feeling-sorry-for-myself-song, 'Day by Day,' on the train [leaving to hide her pregnancy]. The closer she got to delivering her baby (in increasingly desperate circumstances), the more her work - singing and startig to write - seemed to preoccupy her...
"In the months after she had her baby...Joni would write a flood of songs so beautiful and original..."
In 1982, while her baby was a still a secret to her own parents, Joni released Wild Things Run Fast which includes "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody:"
Caught in the middle
Carol, we're middle class
We're middle aged
We were wild in the old days
Birth of rock 'n roll days
Now your kids are coming up straight
And my child's a stranger
I bore her
But, I could not raise her
Nothing lasts for long--
Nothing lasts for long--
Nothing lasts for long--
Down at the Chinese Cafe
We'd be dreaming on our dimes
We'd be playing--
"Oh my love, my darling"
One more time
Nothing lasts for long--
Nothing lasts for long--
Down at the Chinese Cafe
We'd be dreaming on our dimes
We'd be playing--
"You give your love, so sweetly"
One more time..
This girl of my childhood games
With kids nearly grown and gone
Grown so fast
Like the turn of a page
We look like our mothers did now
When we were those kids' age
Nothing lasts for long--
Nothing lasts for long--
Nothing lasts for long--
Down at the Chinese Cafe
We'd be dreaming on our dimes
We'd be playing--
"Oh my love, my darling
I've hungered for your touch
A long lonely time
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me."
(Time goes--where does the time go--
I wonder where the time goes. . .)

© Mirah Riben, Sept 13, 2008

See Part II: The Aftermath and Reunion, tomorrow


Cedar said...

"Canadian Birth Mothers United"?? Do they mean "Canadian Council of Natural Mothers"??

AdoptAuthor said...

Beats me. is Sandra Jarvies President of Canadian Council of Natural Mothers"?

Either way, you'd have to take it up with Sheila Weller! :-)

Maybe contact the org and give them a heads up.

AdoptAuthor said...

On checking, I cannot find any internet presence for either Sandra Jarvies or Canadian Birhtmothers United.

But that's that the book says:

Kinda makes you worry about the rest of her "facts."

I also didn't like the footnote about the number of US women in maternity homes as it had no source.

It's a biography and not a source book for adoption, but...

Cedar said...

I am very familiar with CCNM and Sandra Jarvie is a long time member and VP. As far as I can tell, this book has it wrong.

She is listed on the contact page for CCNM . Her contact email is there as She runs a CCNM support group out of Calgary.

She was also in the "Out of the Fog" video (transcript here).

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget