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Interview with Louise Welch

Welch, Louise
Littlejohn, Carlos J
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming obstacles; Relationships with people and places; Then and now; Childhood adventures
Louise Welch talks about growing up as an adopted child.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Carlos J. Littlejohn interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
CL (Carlos Littlejohn): Carlos Littlejohn, I'm the interviewer.
LW (Louise Welch): Louise Welch, interviewee.
CL: How are you, how are you doing this evening?
LW: I'm wonderful.
CL: That's great. I'm going to ask you a series of questions. As an adult, as a mother rather, do you, do you recall telling your children any stories, or were you told any stories as a youngster, or do you have any recent stories, or any type of stories that you would like to tell us, tell me rather?
LW: Is this about my life?
CL: It can be about anything.
LW: Yes I would.
LW: Um, I want to tell you, um, my feelings of being adopted.
CL: So, how old are you?
LW: 53.
CL: 53? When were you adopted?
LW: I was adopted, when I was three months old.
CL: By whom, may I ask?
LW: Um, my mother's aunt. So, she would be my great aunt.
CL: OK. You want to go ahead, and talk about it? Please.
LW: Um, well, [clears throat] she said back in the 50s, times were hard, and, my mom already had a daughter, who was a year and some months older than I was and she really couldn't afford two small girls so, being a child the baby, I was put up, well I wasn't put up, uh, my aunt took me and adopted me [pause], and, it's been, different. I mean it hadn't really, been different I feel, I didn't feel as close to my sister as I should have because, she, I felt, at first, when I found out, I felt sort of betrayed, that I was the one chosen to be given away, but, actually it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
CL: And why would you say that it's the best thing that ever happened to you?
LW: Because, um, 'cause I'm from Spartanburg and, uh, it's a small town, and, I don't know what, uh, having a mother and a dad, was, the way the things, back in those times, it's the way that things, you know, really, were supposed to be, um, and, since I was adopted, I did have a mother, and a dad, because her unc-, her husband, who was my uncle, um, they were married, and, yeah so therefore I had a steady home.
CL: So, where was, um, your actual father? Was he in the household at the time your mother gave you up?
LW: No.
CL: OK [pause]. So, tell me about your life, being adopted.
LW: Um, well, it's, it was different, um, I didn't have the close attachment that I should have to my family. My adopted family I felt closer to, I guess because they took me in when I needed it and, helped me to grow spiritually, and, they thought education was also very important.
CL: When did you actually figure out that you were adopted? Uh, did someone tell you or did // you figure it out on your own? //
LW: // No, they told // me when I was, I knew when I was, maybe, seven or eight, um, my aunt told me that I was adopted.
CL: So how did that make you feel growing up, knowing that you were adopted? How did you, how did you go through life carrying that, knowing that?
LW: Well, it was OK, because, um, my lifestyle, compared to my sister's and the rest of my family, was, was totally different, um, they were, they, had one set, of rules that they lived by, or work ethics, or code of ethics, and I had another.
CL: OK, um, [clears throat] are you really, close to your sister, today?
LW: Not as close as we should be.
CL: And, you would say that's because you're adopted and you were in separate households?
LW: Yes.
CL: What about your mom? What, what, what kind of connection did you all have, knowing that you were adopted?
LW: My birth mother?
CL: Yes.
LW: Um, well we were, we weren't close. We, we, I respected her and I loved her but, that motherly instinct that I, should have felt for her, I didn't, I, [clears throat] was more, excuse me, I was more, closer to my aunt, because she was the one that took care of me when I was, uh, three months old until I was 18 when she passed away.
CL: So, your aunt, what's her, what's your aunt's first name?
LW: Louise.
CL: Did you say Aunt Lou-, did you call her Aunt Louise or did you actually call her Mom?
LW: No, I called her Mom. I called my birth mother by her name, which was Margaret, which was what everyone did, even my sister, and and until her death that's what everyone called her. She was never called Mom, by either me, or my sister.
CL: So do you think she was affected by that you called her by her first name and called someone else Mom?
LW: She didn't seem to be, no.
CL: So, how many children were in your actual-, in your aunt's household when you, were, // adopted by her? //
LW: // I was the // only one.
CL: Only one? So were there any advantages to being an only child?
LW: Well, you got every, well, I got, jus-, you know basically what I, uh, what I asked for. Because there was only one, but you know back in the 50s, what could you ask for, that, unless you were filthy rich, um. But it was, times were hard, but, I never suffered, and, I grew up in a loving household and, we got along, and, she loved me and I loved her. And it was just, the situation was, as I look back on it now, it was I'm glad that I was adopted because, I had a lot a, uh, of more advantages than my sister did, and, things just seemed to work out.
CL: Were you, um, picked with by anyone, // knowing-. //
LW: // No. //
CL: -That you were, adopted?
LW: No.
CL: Even by your sister?
LW: No [pause], no actually we were kind of close, um, when we sm-, when we were younger. Uh, as we grew older, we kind of you know grew apart because she went, her way, and I moved away but, no, there was never any, any picking, or anything.
CL: Since you all were in separate households, how often did you see, like, since you and your birth mom were actually in separate households, how often you see each other?
LW: Um [pause], I don't quite remember when I was small, but as I got older, um, they lived in Spartanburg, we lived in Charlotte, so it was only like, uh, like two hours away, so, in sa-, summers when school was out I spent the summers with, uh, my sister and my mother, in Spartanburg, and I went to school in Charlotte.
CL: So when you spent the, summer with your sister and your actual mother, did you ever feel, like homesick for your aunt?
LW: Sometimes, yes.
CL: Talk about that for a second, I mean in what way since that was your, actual, sister, and your birth mom, how did you feel homesick for your aunt?
LW: Well it's just that I was used to being with my aunt, and, when I was down in S-, when I was with my mom and my sister, it was, you know I was visiting and, we just didn't have that closeness that we should have had my sister and I were OK but my mother, and I, I guess, it's just the knowing of that she, you know put me up for adoption and it was kind of like, a distance between us but it wasn't, really bad but, I knew it, you know, I, I didn't feel as comfortable with her, as I did with my mother my sister, which is a year older than I, she was wonderful and we, um, we had some really good times when I was, you know, growing up. Then eventually, um, after my aunt passed I had to move back to Spartanburg and, moved in with my sister and my mother, and uh, we got along but there was still not that closeness that a mother and a, a daughter should have.
CL: Did she ever bring up the, did your actual mom ever bring up the fact of why, she let you go?
LW: She told me, yep, you know as, I explained earlier that she just really couldn't afford two small babies, and, you know, I accepted it.
CL: So did your mom wa-, I mean, did she have like more than one job, or, did she just have, like, one single job? Is the, is there a particular reason why, she she gave you up instead of like, both of you?
LW: Um, my mom didn't really have a job, she, um, I don't what they called it back in the day, public assistance, yes, that's what she was on.
CL: Was there a particular section in, in Spartanburg that she, that you all actually lived in? Was it-?
LW: Yes.
CL: -Subsidized housing?
LW: Yes, it was, it was subsidized housing, it's called the projects.
CL: [Laughs] The projects [laughs].
LW: // Hmm. //
CL: // So, // compare your, living, compare living with your aunt, with you know, in relationship to living with your mom. With you say you all lived in subsidized housing with your aunt, what about, uh, //excuse me-. //
LW: // Uh-huh. //
CL: -With your mom, what about living with your aunt?
LW: No, well, no she had her house. Uh, in Charlotte, she lived at 1928 Baxter Street. I still remember the address.
CL: So, do you consider yourself having a big, advantage over your sister?
LW: Yes. Because I did go to college, and she did not.
CL: So, you would say, you would say living with your aunt, was a big, advantage to you because you had some you know more opportunities than your sister?
LW: Yes, I chose, uh, more opportunities than my sister, um, I was able to complete high school, and, she was not. And um, like I said I did go I had two years of college, and, well you know basically that was it I would help her with her homework, and, but she just, so, like you, you know some people just education isn't that important to them, so-.
CL: OK let me switch gears for a second when, when you wuh-, when you went out in public with your aunt, did she actually call you her niece or did she call you her daughter?
LW: My daughter, her daughter.
CL: How did you, how did that make you feel knowing that you know, that she was actually, your aunt instead of your mom? Where they, were you, were you kind of, well, just tell me how you felt.
LW: No I was OK with it, um, because I knew I was loved and nurtured, and, um, she gave me every-, everything that she could afford to give me, uh, as far as, being born in the 50s, you know and growing up in the 60s I was fine, she died in 1968.
CL: Was there ever a sense of jealousy between, your sis-, you and your sister, because, you had, technically more advantages than she did? // Did you have a sense that-. //
LW: // No, I no, // not that as far as that point but, sometimes, um, I did wonder why was it I the one that was given away, instead of her but, we-, like I said we got along and, uh, we, never really talked about my being adopted I don't know why, whether it was taboo in those times or not, but, you know I knew she was my sister and we we we got along as well as we could, I just missed her like when I had to go back to Charlotte with my aunt and she didn't have any kids, then you know, I, I missed her, because, I was the only child then. But when I was with her in Spartanburg, I did have fun I had, ha-, a lot of cousins, I have bunches of cousins so, uh, and we all got along pretty well, so when I went to Spartanburg it was a happy time, it wasn't as if, you know I didn't have anybody to play with when I did come home to Charlotte though, I had a few friends, that lived in the neighborhood, but, uh, it was, it was different when I went home, to Spartanburg because there were a lot more people.
CL: Was there, ever, a strong connection between you and your uncle like it was between you and your aunt?
LW: My uncle?
CL: Yes, uh, your aunt's husband.
LW: Um, I don't remember him very well because he died, when I was like five years old, so, but I all I know is he was a good man and he provided for me I don't remember him that well.
CL: Is there anything else you would like to mention about your life?
LW: Mmm, no, that's basically it I, I just feel like I have some advantages, uh, I do have two families instead of one and, I was able to, go to school, and, and I eventually uh moved back moved out of Spartanburg and my sister is still there, and, I go home to see them a lot, I did. But, um, I, uh, you know it changed me I'm kind of different from what they are, but, all in all, it was it's it's OK, I've I've learned to live with it.
CL: Thank you Mrs. Louise Welch.
LW: Thank you.