Lovely Linda

by Renee on October 26, 2012

The nation’s oldest boarding school, West Nottingham Academy, sits on the rolling hills of the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, and it is there my father Jack McAuliffe met a beautiful, spirited young woman named Linda Pellini. She had long legs, amazing green eyes, a big smile and a bigger laugh. Jack and Linda had both been kicked out of other schools. These two smart, strong-willed co-eds were the children of brilliant fathers (William Pellini was a scientist who worked for the U.S. Naval Research Lab and later taught at MIT; John McAuliffe was a code breaker for the OSS, who spoke seven languages, and lead the American University ESL program) and especially pretty mothers (Kathryn Hatch Pellini was a Miss Rocky Mount, NC; and Margaret Quigley McAuliffe a college-educated school teacher). They had a brief end-of-senior-year love affair, and that is why I am here, in this world. It is why I am The Brewer’s Daughter. But I was first Linda’s daughter, and later the daughter of two wonderful parents, Robert and Mary Ann Mills (my beloved father Bob died in 1988). It was thanks to Linda’s honesty that I ever found Jack.

Today Linda would have turned 66 years old. She left us one week ago; died from cancer that spread throughout her body before she had a chance to fight. Linda was a fighter.

Linda fought her parents’ wishes that her baby should be given to the nuns of Catholic Charities adoptive services. But her parents knew an 18-year-old girl was in no position to be a parent–particularly this 18-year-old with big dreams of a life in law; and in the 1960s, such girls were sent to homes for unwed mothers. Linda fought Sister Beata, the administrator of the home–she butted heads with her from the start. But in the end Linda came to love the nun, and love me enough to let me go. Linda named me Christina Beata Pellini at my birth, before I was handed over to Bob and Mary Ann, when I became Renée. I had a happy life, but something was missing.

Linda went on to marry in her 20s, and had three sons through the years: Bill, Scott and Ivar, my brothers. She loved them and nurtured them, but never forgot about her baby daughter, out there somewhere. Me. And from the minute my loving adoptive parents told me the truth of how I came to them, I knew I must find this Other Mother someday too, even though I had no idea who “she” was. And despite closed adoption records, I did. We did. We fought the system and we found each other. How that came about is a story for another time, but what is most important is that we were together again. And ten months after having my own daughter, Ali, we flew to Florida to meet my mother Linda for the very first time in October of 1994. I was 30 years old. 

From the moment of her giant bear hug in the airport, and the big laugh we shared when we realized we had both recently cut and colored our hair auburn red–we knew we belonged to each other. My green eyes looked intently into hers–I had never resembled anyone else before. I felt whole again. We took Ali on her first trip to the beach. We poured over her old West Nottingham yearbooks. We spent time in the Florida Keys–Linda loved the ocean life, Jimmy Buffett songs and sunsets at Loralei’s in Islamorada. She loved sharing it with us. I met my brothers. A few years later, Linda came along on a family vacation to Disney World that included my girl at the age of 5, and my mother Mary Ann–my mothers were both generous with each other. We appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show together to talk about our reunion, and the importance of open records in adoption. (We had so much fun on that trip!)

Both of my mothers walked me down the aisle when I married the love of my life, my husband Paul, 10 years ago. He and I went to visit her in St. Augustine, just before she left Florida forever eight years ago. Linda moved back to her beloved New England then, and though we kept in close touch by email and phone, I never saw her again. I got the call that she had died when I was driving to the airport to fly to Boston and say my goodbyes to her. She knew I was coming. But I didn’t make it in time to look into her green eyes once more before she finally stopped fighting. I thought we’d have more time.

Linda loved the holidays–she adored her Christmas village and sending gifts to her family and friends. But Linda’s favorite season was fall (one of the reasons she left the South). Every year she looked forward to the changing leaves, the smell of woodsmoke in the air, wild turkeys roaming around her Cape Cod home, cranberry bogs in bloom, and Martha Stewart’s Halloween and Thanksgiving edition magazines. She mailed them to me every year. I had those magazines in my suitcase for her this trip. I never got to share them. But I did get to catch up with my brothers, and that was good. They kept staring at me, telling me how much I looked like Linda–I forget sometimes, it was nice to be reminded. My daughter Ali flew into town to meet up with us, which helped my heart–I miss her so much now that she’s away at college. We visited the graves of our Pellini grandparents at the National Cemetery on the Cape, something I had always wanted to do. We shared some beers, we laughed and we cried. We vowed not to let so much time pass before we get together again.

Tomorrow there is a memorial service for Linda, and I won’t be able to be there. But my brother Bill will read these words from me:

“When I think of Linda, I think of bear hugs, a big laugh, and an even bigger heart that holds onto love across the years. Linda had a fierceness in loving her children. There were reasons she and I were separated, but the reason we were reunited was because she willed it to happen. There was no way she was going to go through life wondering what had happened to her daughter–she needed to know and she never gave up, even though it took 30 years to find me. I was born her daughter–with a need to know my family–and it’s why I sought her as well. I am forever grateful that she loved me enough to let me go…and enough to find me again. She gave me roots to give me wings. I’ll always be your daughter, lovely Linda. Forever, Christina Renée”

Circle in the Sand, Belinda Carlisle

Sundown all around
Walking thru the summer’s end
Waves crash baby, don’t look back
I won’t walk away again
Oh, baby, anywhere you go,
We are bound together
I begin, baby, where you end
Some things are forever !
Circle in the sand
‘Round and ’round
Never ending love is what we’ve found
And you complete the heart of me
Our love is all we need
Circle in the sand
Cold wind, tide move in
Shiver in the salty air
Day breaks, my heart aches
I will wait for you right here.
Oh, baby when you look for me
Can you see forever ?
I begin baby, where you end
We belong together
Circle in the sand
‘Round and ’round
Rising of the moon as the sun goes down
And you complete the heart of me
Our love is all we need
Circle in the sand
Circle in the sand
Baby can you hear me ?
Can you hear me calling ?

 

 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Debi Harbuck October 26, 2012 at 7:02 am

Oh, honey. What a beautiful tribute. My heart hurts for all of you today, at the same time it rejoices in all the love you have together.

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Lysne Tait October 26, 2012 at 7:40 am

Dearheart. That is a beautiful remembrance. Love you. <3

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Jesse Cruz October 26, 2012 at 7:52 am

Renee, what a beautifully written heartfelt sentiment. There is no doubt that she was proud of you and your family. And mother would be.

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Cathy October 26, 2012 at 8:55 am

Beautiful. So touching.

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Tabby October 26, 2012 at 10:28 am

Beautiful and moving, Renee. Thinking of you and your families.

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Another Renee October 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I wasn’t really expecting to tear up this morning, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I did so while reading this. I always enjoy your blog posts, but this one stands apart from all of the others. So beautifully written and so touching. Let’s raise a glass to Lovely Linda tomorrow.

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Edie October 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Just beautiful, Renée. Thank you for sharing a little bit of her with us.

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Scott October 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm

This is beautiful Renee. 🙂

Brother Scott.
XOXOXO

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JoeAnne Gaunt Pellini October 26, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Renee’ ….A most loving and thougtful tribute. Simply touches the heart and soul. I can see Linda with a smile in her heart and a tear in her eye…just like me right now.
I do hope we all can meet someday in the not to distant future. It is times like this that we realize just how delicate life really is!
I am already missing her terribly!
Let’s do try to stay in touch.
Until we meet (in person), much love to you, sweet Renee’

JoeAnne PS… Carl is at work right now but I will show him this as soon as he gets home. ((hugs))

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Lisa Peet October 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Oh Renée, how lovely. Such a short time to know each other, but still… I’m glad you did. Thanks for that.

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Linda Schell October 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Oh Renee … what a tribute … I could feel your heart with each word. xo Linda ((hugs coming))

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Linda Bellini October 28, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Renee,
I am so sad to hear about Linda’s passing and want you to know that I am here for you. Your heartfelt tribute to Linda was so moving and I am sure she will always be an angel on your shoulder.
Love,
Linda

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Renee October 29, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thank you for your comments, everyone, I appreciate the love and support. xoxo R

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Bob Mack October 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Renee,

So sorry to hear of the loss of Linda. I never knew her, of course, but I feel a bit as if I do now. What a lovely tribute.

Bob Mack

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kate maloy October 26, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I’m sad for your loss, Renee, but so very happy that you and Linda found each other. What a gift, and what a moving piece you’ve written in her honor.

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Chip Slaybaugh September 5, 2015 at 10:25 am

I do so remember your mother. I called her Lee because I think that was her middle name. We were in the theater together at West Nottingham and our Director was Joe Ray. We acted together in a play called The Lark and became fast friends. As you say, she was a wonderful Young Lady. I am so sorry for your loss although this is way too late considering the year this was written. Perhaps someday you will see it and know she had many friends.

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David Vandenberg September 6, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Jack McAuliffe was one of my best friends at WNA. I also knew Linda. He was in my dorm and she was across the road.
They were both wonderful people. I am sorry Linda is gone. I lost track of Jack after we left Nottingham. He was from Michigan. He and I did some hitch-hiking together.

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