Mary Gauthier talks adoptive and biological families

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A half-hour or so into my recent conversation with singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier about her emotion-fraught journey to find her biological mother, a topic she explores in her new album, “The Foundling,” I asked what effect the whole episode had on her adoptive parents, the only family she’d ever known, since her biological mother had placed her at a New Orleans orphanage shortly after she was born in 1962.

“My adoptive dad passed a few years ago,” she said. “But my adoptive mom is still alive in Louisiana.”
Has she shared this powerful new album with her adoptive mother?

“No,” she said. “I quit sending them to her about three records ago. I sent her the first one, and was waiting on pins and needles to hear what she thought of it. She never got back to me. I asked her, and got a nothing response. Then I sent her the second one, and the third one, begrudgingly — sort of like, ‘I’m going to send it to her, but I’m not ogoing to mean it,’ ” she said with a little laugh.

“So I quit sending them,” said Gauthier, whose mission in “The Foundling” was to reach some kind of accord with the awareness that her biological mother had given her up all those years ago and had never initiated any contact. It was doubly difficult not to be able to share the fruits of that experience with her adoptive mother. “I don’t think she’s able to hear it. I don’t think she’s interested in my work.”


And how hard was that realization for her?

“It’s hard,” she said. “My adoptive dad was an alcoholic and my adoptive mom has her own bag of tricks. I felt my whole life like I didn’t have a family, and I needed one. So I had to build one, and you build one with faith, hope and the healing power of love -- or you end up the ‘Unabomber.’ That’s the choice.”

At that moment, she said she was on her way from her hotel room in London to get dinner in Chinatown.

“What I really like is this salted calamari -- with jalapeños on top,” she said, quickly adding,"I have such a good life. It’s something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. I’m deeply grateful for every day above ground, and I can’t believe I get to make a living doing this every day. I’m really blessed.”

-- Randy Lewis

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