When I was a little girl, there was a picture on my mother’s dresser that was haunting and mysterious. It was a black and white photo in a silver frame. The picture was a beautiful brick building. Inscribed on the photo was, “Rohrman Cottage, Baptist Orphanage, Philadelphia, PA.”
I would stare at the image unable to understand why the place in the photo was important to her. As ever-present as the image was, my mother always guarded her story. If she mentioned her childhood she quickly moved on to something else, “one day I will tell you all about it. Not now. That was my home for most of my childhood.”
My mother was an orphan by the age of eight years old. She had lost both of her parents to tragedy several years apart. What I didn’t realize until I was a mother myself, was that her story had a deep impact on my past and my future. I needed to write through her life experience to understand my own.
Through the years I have heard vignettes of her life experience and wondered - what was it like? How did it feel to live that experience? Hers was a childhood that reflected a Dicken’s experience. One full of tragedy, but that she survived along with her siblings growing up in a Baptist orphanage. Despite it all somehow my mother was able to maintain her sense of humor and her sense of hope. No matter what challenges life presented, she never gave up on her dream of having a family.
For years, I have listened and done my best to comprehend what her life must have been like. Through my writing, I have tried to extract the lessons, the pain, and beauty of her experience. To dig into her life, so that I may have a better sense of who I am.