When I was about 10 years old, my mother took me to see Annie at Shea’s Theater in Buffalo.
It was a magical experience. For a girl who lived in the country, going to the “big city” to see a play filled me with awe. The city had big, tall buildings and lots and lots of cars. There were people everywhere. Probably more people than lived in our entire town.
Shea’s Buffalo is absolutely gorgeous. Even to me as an adult when we saw Titanic and got to sit in the luxury box seats), I was still in awe at it’s beauty. The chandeliers and the beautiful architecture captured the fancy of my young mind. The plush seats seems to be something only princesses were allowed to sit on. But here I was, a simple country girl sitting in this beautiful theater watching a Broadway play.
And the story…. Who doesn’t love the story of Little Orphan Annie? I sometimes think that people who aren’t adopted fantasize about adoption because of this story.
But it was a different view that I took from this story. Annie fantasizes about her birth mother returning and “rescuing” her. For my own reasons, I clung to this fantasy. After all, I had always been told that my birth mother “loved me so much that she gave me away.” So of course, after seeing Annie, I was convinced that my birth mother was longing to find me. And at that point I start writing to her through my journal. I called her “Elizabeth”. Elizabeth was my middle name at birth and that was changed to Jane when I got adopted.
I found out much later in life that it was also my birth mother’s middle name. It is also my oldest daughter’s middle name. I hung onto the fantasy birth mother for a really, really long time.
My mother even bought me the Annie locket.
This was the locket that Annie’s birth mother left for her. That she took half for positive identification later. When I think back on all of this, I never stood a chance.
One of the last kinda negative or sad thing that I remember about seeing Annie was that my mom and I went with a friend from my hometown. She was red haired, freckled faced – just like Annie. And she could sing like a bird. I could never be Annie. My dark skin and kinky curly hair were not a match. But my friend was a perfect match and everyone would admire her likeness to Annie. I loved and still do love this friend of mine, but from that point forward, whenever I saw her, I was reminded of Annie.
It’s funny that something so beloved could stir up such deep and sad feelings inside me. Everyone I know loves Annie. My son wants to see Annie . And I don’t know if I can do it. Just the constant reminders of how much I longed for a phantom birth mother are really overwhelming. Which conflicts me greatly because my baby boy wants to see it.
And it’s crazy because it’s so very popular, there are several marketing campaigns geared around this movie. So everywhere I look, everything I see, I am reminded. And it’s so bittersweet.
My mom never intended to cause so much hurt inside me. She was actually doing the opposite, trying to make me feel better about my adoption. She never intended for me to fantasize about my birth mother coming to get me. She never intended to reaffirm my belief that my dark skin and terrible hair were all wrong. She was just sharing a really amazing experience with her youngest daughter. I do the same thing with my kids – take them to museums and the ballet and nature hikes and just live life. It is never the intent for the memory of these outings to be painful.
Will I go see Annie? I don’t know. But I do know this, if I do, I will bring a lot of tissue!
Me at age 10