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Monday, April 22, 2013
S -- Sisters and the Surprise Stephanie
One summer when I was twelve my mother was the make-up director for a play at Nomads, the local amateur theater, The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch. I was used to hanging out around the theater and had spent many hours doing my homework sitting under racks of costumes or at the make-up counters. I don't remember much about this particular play except for one thing. As I was watching the play in dress-rehearsal sitting in the seats I was taken with the young woman playing the part of the preacher's wife.
Every time someone started calling Sneaky Fitch a son of a . . . the preacher's wife would interrupt with "prairie dog" to keep the dialog clean. This was the early 70s and even the toilet flush sound had not even made it onto television quite yet. She stuck in my mind so clearly. I liked her so much.
I didn't see her again until the following April when I walked into the church with my dad as he married my stepmother and the young woman was suddenly my sister.
Betty is five years older than me and every bit of worth that liking that I sensed in her from that first moment she came anonymously to my attention. Decades later I still see her as a wonderful woman and a marvelous mother. I am proud that she is my sister.
The odd thing is that through all of these years I kept having a strange belief that I had a real sister out in the world somewhere. I puzzled over this one for a long, long time. I was sure that my parents wouldn't have given up any other child that they would have had. They were both fairly straight-laced people, even though Mum was a bit of a free spirit. I just couldn't figure out where this feeling was coming from.
Then one day, shortly after my 47th birthday, I had stopped by my mother's house for some reason I no longer remember. In a flat voice she started telling me a story from a time in her early 20s. I had known about this time in her life, but not this particular sequence of events in which she had been out with friends and one of the young men had offered to drive her home. She reluctantly agreed even though she didn't know him very well.
Ultimately he raped her and she ended up pregnant. She interrupted her college career to go live in a home for unwed mothers in St. Paul and that spring she gave birth to a baby girl at Minneapolis General Hospital -- my real sister. Though she knew that she was giving the baby up for adoption, Mum named her Stephanie.
I was floored. My feelings that I had a sister out there had been real, not my imagination. Not only that, Mum had not led the placid, uneventful, Midwest life that I had always believed. She was suddenly a real person, not some mythical creature. Where my life had always seemed to suck so much, hers had always seemed so textbook. Now I knew the truth. She was just as human.
More importantly, I have a sister! No longer an only child. Not only that I was not crazy for having searched faces around me looking for a sister I supposedly did not have.
Mum swore me to secrecy, still embarrassed by the incident. She also did not want my to search for Stephanie. Now that Mum has passed away I want to find Stephanie so badly. I have made a few internet forays to see what I can find, but have come up empty so far.
Stephanie would be in her early 60s now. I would like to meet her, though I wouldn't expect for her to suddenly become a part of my family at this late date. I just want to look into the face of what might have been, and tell her about the woman her birth mother was and how hard it was for Mum to give her up.
Stephanie Scott Dawson, where are you?