I am going to tell you the sad pathetic truth about me. I am a foster child and nobody loves me. I made up stories about my mother when I was a child to cope with it.
At some point, I decided that Halle Berry was my mother.
I always put my imaginary mother in a humble role, because if she was too amazing and rich from the start she would have been a selfish woman for ditching me after coming from a life of privilege. But if she became rich years later, after struggling and being homeless, that was different; because my mother couldn’t stay a loser. My mother had to be an ambitious woman who only gave me up to pursue her dreams. Her narrative fit my requirements.
Geographically, I knew I was born in the state of Ohio and Halle was born in Cleveland. Today she is 53, which would have meant she was 22 when she gave birth to me; the perfect age to have your dreams derailed by an unexpected pregnancy.
When she starred in the 1997 comedy film B*A*P*S, I decided that my mother was a little goofy and really pretty because… who else could look that sophisticated with gold teeth? When she played in X-Men as Storm, I decided my mother was a badass Black queen and followed her career close enough to watch her change accents in the X-Men sequel. When she appeared in Swordfish, I thought she had a striking resemblance to me; short curly jet black hair, high cheekbones. I thought I was looking more and more like my mother every day.
One of the main reasons I was convinced, was her skin color. My entire life has been dominated by white people, including the media. Hollywood has been pretty white since the beginning of time. Black women have been so underrepresented in Hollywood that my long lost mother was literally the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball, 2001. When she was up there holding that award and saying This is for all the nameless faceless women of color who now have a chance because this door has been opened at the 2002 Oscars, I was like Thanks Mom and I cried along with her.
It was the happiest moment of my life.
Most of the white people in my community never saw an Afro before mine, and thought I was a cancer kid wearing a wig; my foster parents took in a lot of special needs children. I wasn’t dark enough to be Black and I certainly wasn’t white. My ethnic identity was puzzling to everybody. I grew up in a white, lower-income neighborhood for most of my life. The people around me were even whiter than the Oscars and they would sometimes say I looked like her.
Living in a foster home, raised by two white foster parents but having the nappiest curly hair you would ever see and a cooper skin complexion, I didn’t know who I was and I had no chance of fitting in; so I watched movies about misfits, which were basically the only roles Halle Berry got to play. If she wasn’t playing an addict, she was a bad mother, a mutant, a woman having a psychotic breakdown, a hacker, or a thief. It was easy to find hope that she might come looking for me one day after she accomplished all of her dreams and made history for Black women everywhere.
In 2007, my dream of having a glamorous mother who became a Hollywood star come looking for me one day was broken.
After receiving several phone calls that seemed like a persistent telemarketer interviewing me for a survey, and after hanging up several times on this woman, a voice screamed through the phone.
“Wait, wait – I think I am your sister.”
She was asking general and personal questions, like When is your birthday, Where were you born, trying to track her sisters down. Though it hasn’t been confirmed by a blood or DNA test, there is a striking resemblance to the woman they claim is my biological mother.
Ironically, Halle Berry’s debut film where she played a crack addict named Vivian is a close portrait of my biological mother, Victoria, who was forced to give us up at the hospital because we were born with crack in our systems. Victoria’s story isn’t as charming as Halle’s. My birth mother’s life was full of drugs, violence, jail time, prostitution, and the abandonment of nine kids. I was just one of them. And even after meeting her, she never looked at me like a daughter. She looked at me like a thing she was glad not to be burdened with. She was a mean woman, who came with an even meaner sister, missing an eye due to her own crack addiction.
Meeting my birth mother wasn’t a magical Hollywood moment where there was redemption for the years I was left alone. We didn’t ride off into the sunset as a happy family. If anything, meeting my birth mother made my life harder and more complicated because my life now had drug addicts and criminals added to the mix, and they didn’t love me or know me or care if I lived well. They added a lot of heartache and pain, and if I could have missed that phone call and stayed in my imagination with Halle, I might have grown up to become anything.
A large portion of your self-esteem comes from your family and how they treat you, and my family tossed me aside like garbage, neglected me, and when they saw me again they kicked me, tried to beat the light and hope that admiring a woman like Halle put in me, out of me. They tried to steal all thoughts that I could be a remarkable Black woman like her. They wanted me to know I was the daughter of a crackhead, not a star, because they could see I dreamed big dreams.
See, life isn’t glamorous like the movies.
Everything doesn’t get wrapped up neatly like it usually does in the last ten minutes. Most sad stories don’t have a happy ending. Sometimes sad stories get even sadder.
The best part about meeting my birth family is: there is a lot of mystery surrounding who my birth father is. No guy has ever shown up claiming to be him, and my mother really has no idea who my daddy is. I am thankful for this piece of the puzzle remaining unsolved.
I don’t need to know my father was a murder who lit some chick on fire and is now on death row. I need this mystery to dream ridiculous things again and hold out for the hope that Barack Obama might be my father.
Everybody has secrets and I have his ears.
Are you a writer? We’re looking for short stories and personal essays to feature on our digital and print platforms. Click HERE.