A reunion and tears of joy for Christmas in Snowmass
Snowmass, CO Colorado
SNOWMASS ” Christmas Day, 1972, Faye Franklin said good-bye to her newborn daughter.
She had spent seven months in a home for un-wedded mothers in Mobile, Alabama.
Having just gone through labor, Franklin hadn’t named the little girl and she’d only seen her for a brief moment after signing adoption papers.
She was 16-years-old.
Since then, Faye Franklin has always shed tears of sorrow on Christmas.
“I’ve always wondered about her,” Franklin, 53, said from her home near Snowmass Village, three days before Christmas. “How she was doing, who she was, or if she was even alive. Being a mother you just think about those things.”
The daughter she never knew
Tonya Barnes, Franklin’s daughter, has never had a real birthday party.
Christmas was tough for her, too.
Being born on the most celebrated American holiday sort of overshadowed the whole birthday thing. However, her adoptive parents always gave her twice as many gifts, she said.
Being adopted was not something that her parents kept from her. She always knew that she came from someone ” and somewhere ” else.
“My parents were pretty well off, and they were into country clubs and things like that. I wasn’t into all that,” Barnes said. “I’m just so different than they are.”
Over the years, Barnes went through the emotional turbulence of wanting to know her birth mother, but not knowing exactly how to find her.
“It took me periods, off and on, that I would want to find her,” Barnes said. “Especially when I was mad at my (adoptive) mother.”
But, it wasn’t until Barnes became a mother herself in 1996, that the feelings of wanting to know her birth mother overwhelmed her and she began the search.
“After my son Chase was born I started wanting to find her.” Barnes said.
After 23 years, Barnes made the first attempt to find her birth mother, but she didn’t even have a name.
Living in Jacksonville, Florida, she contacted a place close by that she hoped would be able to help.
“It was going to be this whole drawn out process,” Barnes said.
Barnes called again, a few weeks later, and was told that they had found her mother. The only information she received was that her name was Faye Franklin and that she was a Hare Krishna. But it was enough to get started.
“I don’t think they were supposed to give out any information, but the lady slipped,” Barnes said. “I started calling information for the numbers to Krishna Temples.”
She started with temples on the West Coast and made her way east, until she got to Tennessee.
“I actually spoke to her husband at one of the Temples,” Barns remembers. “I finally found someone who knew (the person) I was talking about.”
The life-changing phone call
Franklin was living in Tennessee in 1996 when she got a call from her mother.
She was at odds with her family about some of Franklin’s life choices, according to Franklin. Expecting an argument, Franklin didn’t want to speak to her mother at the time.
“I thought she was going to give me a hard time and I was like, ‘I don’t want to hear this’,” Franklin said.
Two weeks later her mother called again and left a message saying that Franklin’s sister Ruby had something really important to speak to her about.
Franklin called and her sister told her, “This is something that happened a long time ago,” Franklin said.
“‘I wonder if it’s about that baby’,” Franklin remembers Ruby asking her.
“I really can’t tell you how I felt at that moment,” Franklin said.
That night was a long one filled with unanswered questions for Franklin. The next morning she called the agency in Florida that had tried to contact her.
“Before they could say anything I asked if this had anything to do with a baby born on Christmas 1972,” Franklin said.
The lady on the other end of the phone responded, “That is right, and she is looking for you,” Franklin remembers.
That’s how the lady got Franklin’s name and information and relayed it to Barnes.
Christmas would never be the same.
A few weeks later, Franklin was at home when the phone rang again. It was her husband, the Krishna Temple President in Tennessee, who just had a conversation with Barnes.
“He said, ‘I just got a call from your long-lost daughter and she is going to call you’,” Franklin said.
Barnes called. And for the first time in both of their lives, mother and daughter heard one anther’s voice.
“We talked for hours,” Franklin said. “She told me all about herself and the next day she flew out to Tennessee.”
Franklin picked Barnes out of the crowd at the airport.
“I walked right over to her and asked if she was Tonya,” Franklin said.
The reunion lasted about a week. Barnes also met her grandmother and the rest of Franklin’s family. Barnes was not nervous and said that it felt very normal.
“I don’t think it was awkward,” Barnes said. “But, she was really shocked when she saw me.”
Despite the successful reunion, staying in touch proved to be an obstacle. Over the next 11 years they’ve only seen each other three times, and they’ve sporadically kept in touch.
“We didn’t have any coaching or anything, we really didn’t know how to keep in touch or anything or how to have a relationship,” Franklin said.
Christmas was still hard for Franklin and Barnes, but it was getting better.
The right thing to do
Christmas was always a difficult time for Franklin.
“I’ve never had a normal Christmas,” Franklin said. “It’s kind of like people didn’t understand the trauma I was feeling.”
She would celebrate her daughter’s birthday in silence, never speaking about the pain of giving up her child.
“You don’t talk about it, you don’t let anyone know,” Franklin said with tears in her eyes. “It’s still hard, but it’s also beautiful. This has really helped me see things in life more clearly through the years.”
After Barnes was born, Franklin lived an eventful life that took her around the world. She lived in places like India and moved to Aspen in the 1980s after which, she lived in Glenwood Springs for 15 years. She had two marriages and had two more daughters, Amethyst and Jessica.
But she never forgot about her first daughter.
“I never carried guilt,” Franklin said. “Because I knew better. I knew that I was a good person and I did what I had to do. Other people tried to make me feel guilty, but I never carried the guilt. I just felt bad because I couldn’t have her.”
But she’s always wanted to be able to celebrate her first-born child’s birthday on Christmas Day.
This year, 36 years later, her dream came true.
A Christmas gift
“Grandma, can you help me with this,” asked 10-year-old Amelia MacMurray, Barnes’ daughter.
“I don’t know but let’s see,” Franklin said as she helped her granddaughter with her coat zipper Sunday afternoon.
It was the first time Amelia and 12-year-old Chase MacMurray had met their grandmother.
“I’ve been real excited,” Franklin said. “I called Tonya and said that she needed to come up for Christmas and that I needed to get to know my grandchildren.”
Franklin’s other two daughters are arriving throughout the week as well.
A Christmas Tree stood in the living room at Franklin’s house, where she lives with Eric Oliphant, near Snowmass Village. They are going to decorate it before the holiday, a tradition in the making.
Being Barnes’ first trip to Colorado, she was excited, too. But she is obviously more excited to be able to spend Christmas, her birthday, with her biological mother for the first time. And for her kids to know another grandmother.
“All I want is for my children to have a good Christmas,” she said. “If that happens then, I’m happy.”
Franklin expects the tears to come again this year, but the feeling behind them will be joy instead of sorrow.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Franklin said. “It’s going to take some time to set in. I’ve got to learn how to be a grandmother.”
Then she added a simple Christmas message: “Joy to the world.”
Christmas will never be the same.