As each day of my reunion brought new and exciting discoveries about the little girl I had always loved, but never knew, I feared I would lose track of all that I was learning. Initially, I tried to keep a journal of all my thoughts and encounters with Joanne, but had difficulty finding the time or even the desire to write, missing days at a time, and then attempting to catch up all in one sitting. It was just too much. My search efforts had left me drained. Maybe, it was all too reminiscent of the daily journal I kept during the months before and after Jackie’s illness and death. But, talking with Joanne via email was fun and I had saved all of our correspondence. Between Joanne’s emails and those from my birth mother groups, there was enough material to fill a dozen folders.
Joanne and I had often joked about writing our story and it was my husband, Jay, who laughingly suggested we do so. Saying he wanted us to write a best seller so he could retire and live on the beach! Well, Joanne and I wanted to live at the beach, too, so we began writing a little each day. My first drafts were terrible. My second drafts were, at times, even worse. Joanne’s writing clearly put mine to shame. Still, I persisted. I was hooked, and not about to quit just because my writing talents were limited.
It was then I came to recognize my inability to properly express the various feelings I had experienced throughout my life and that surprised me, because I always have something to say. But these events in my life were extraordinary and the emotions they generated were powerful, leaving me to examine what I thought were capable writing abilities
Having attended Catholic schools for the majority of my education, with a curriculum that dictated strict writing disciplines, I consistently scored high in all aspects of writing and grammar. However, sophomore English at New Bedford High proved pointless, for it was the same course I had just studied as a freshman at Bishop Stang. I recall feeling quite clever passing in book reports from the previous year and enjoying the ease in which they produced high grades. Then, during the last half of my junior year, I was much too preoccupied with my pregnancy and the ordeal that lay ahead, to be concerned with such things as writing and grammar. Upon returning from St. Mary’s Home for Unwed Mothers, I quickly discovered I had lost any enthusiasm I may have had for school, dating, or life, for that matter. Never mind the finer points of writing. As a result, it was a daily struggle to accurately put my thoughts to paper. Without the help of my good friend and patient teacher, Rachel Jupin, I would still be laboring over my initial draft. And she thought raising her six kids was a tough job. It was nothing compared to teaching me how to punctuate!
As the months progressed, Joanne was barely writing, saying she didn’t have the time. So, as my pages grew, hers lagged behind. Finally, she confessed, “Susan, I can’t do this, it feels like homework and I just don’t have time for homework.” At first, I felt selfishly disappointed, I had so wanted to hear her side of our story. But then I realized she might not be ready to share her feelings, and told her so. She made no comment and, with all things considered, that was okay. I simply incorporated her already written pages in with mine. However, in the last months of editing, she realized I had been right. She hadn’t been ready to share, or to even admit to herself many of the feelings she had been experiencing. But now she was ready and wanted to add her thoughts, as well as writing an Afterword I will forever treasure.