“Sit down Daniel, I have something to tell you,” my mother began. The next sentence she spoke was, “I’m not your mother. Your real mother (Sophie) lives in France and you have another family there with two sisters.” I was beginning my sophomore year of college as a pre-engineering major when my “mother” Johnnie called me to the kitchen to give me this news.
As I sat there in disbelief I responded with, “I always had a feeling there was something different about me.” I come from a very diverse, racially mixed background. My father was African-American and my biological mother was Parisian French; they had met during World War II at the Pharamcie Place de la Nation in Paris when my father’s army unit was camped at Chateau de Vincennes.
My blue eyes, blonde curly hair, and tanned body belied my black heritage. My stepmother, whom I considered to be my mother, for she was the one who raised me and to whom I bonded, was German, and the brother and sister I grew up with look very much like they come from an interracial background more than I. In fact, my brother and sister sometimes referred to me as the “white sheep” of the family.
It took about a year for me to come to grips with the information I had been handed. But on the day after “man landed on the moon,” I took pen to paper and wrote to Sophie. I don’t recall the contents of the letter, but I’m sure it had much to do with me recognizing her as my biological mother. She had known for about a year that I knew of her existence—it just took a while for me to acknowledge her and that I was not who I thought I was.
It would be forty-eight years later, after my father passed away, that I would learn the partial truth about my parents. At that time I came across hundreds of pages of letters and official documents buried in a trunk providing information about their tumultuous life. However, it would take another thirteen years to translate documents written in French into English. They provided a treasure trove of not only official documents and correspondence between three governments (France, Germany and the United States,) military and legal officials, but also personal letters between friends and family members.
The last time I saw Sophie was one day during the summer of 1953. She was leaving our second story Frankfurt, Germany apartment and I at the window crying for her to return. At that time Sophie had come to take me to Paris, but as happenstance would have it, my father just happened to come home for lunch and thwarted the “kidnapping” attempt.
There was one more “kidnapping” attempt, in November 1953 by Sophie’s brother, Henri, at the Frankfurt airport. It was at that time my father put me on a four-engine, tri-tail Super Connie TWA Airliner with my “Uncle Bill,” for the long journey to the States. It’s amazing that I remember that airplane, for I was a month shy of age four. I remember the gigantic plane with its huge wheels, but I don’t remember anything prior to that trip. I was being sent to the States on the recommendation of the United States Court of the Allied High Commission for Germany Area III to prevent another kidnapping attempt from my estranged mother.
Upon arriving at LaGuardia Airport in New York (November 1953,) and being met by father’s Aunt Rosie and Uncle Howard, a letter was written to him describing my arrival.
3 November 1953, Election Day
Bayside, New York
Danny arrived safe and happy with Mr. Bill Hamilton at about 10 PM. “Uncle Bill” took another plane to Chicago at 11 PM from LaGuardia Airport. We drove him over which gave us a little time with Danny before he had to leave him.
He (Danny) has behaved very well. When we arrived home he did not want to go to bed because his “daddy” was coming later. However, I read his books to him and when I came to the German book I could not make him understand that I could not read it. So for the first time in many many years I read the pictures. He then told me he was hungry. I gave him toast and milk although I have seen the note. He awoke in the night and I took him to the toilet, then we were friends.
There is a five year old living in my second-floor apartment. This morning he took over. Now Danny is in. They are now playing in the yard. David’s mother, who is an English war bride, is watching.
This is election day. Howard will be home soon and we will take him out someplace. Don’t worry too much. Danny is making the adjustment that is expected of him. I hope it will not be too long before you come home. If for any reason his stay in Washington does not work out, I will be glad to keep him for you as I am taking Gloria’s two boys after Christmas. I don’t know exactly why. I do not think things are going too well for her. YOU YOUNG PEOPLE.
Hazel telephoned last night before the plane arrived. She is coming up for Danny on the weekend.
I did not hear anything from Addie so I suppose you have not told her just what you were doing so I will not telephone her unless you advise me to do so.
Please write Danny often. He is a fine little boy but you know it must be very hard on him being shipped to strangers. Also, write us often. We know that it is also hard on you.
Sincerely yours – Rosie
Dear Daddy, when are you coming home. I love you. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX – Danny
Shortly after my arrival, I went to live with my Aunt Hazel, my father’s aunt in Washington D.C. Later, I went to live with my paternal grandparents in Detroit. It wasn’t until 19 months later, during the summer of 1955, that I was again joined with my father, this time with his new wife Johnnie and my new baby brother.
Throughout the time I was living with grandmother Addie Mae and grandfather Percy Frank Freeman Sr., I would receive recordings from my father P. Frank Jr. and my stepmother Johnnie. During the summer of 2018 I found one of those records from 1954 and digitized it. These recordings can be found on my Amazon Author’s page.
Because my stepmother had become part of my family, as my nursemaid when I was young, she automatically became my mother without me knowing about my true biological mother. For me, having her step in as my mother at such a young age provided continuity in my life.
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 10, 2019
It’s never too early to start talking about Father’s Day on The Good Men Project. We’re looking for sponsors and contributors for our #ModernDayDad campaign. https://t.co/WJvKqq2kTe pic.twitter.com/j66LNCY0VG
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 11, 2019
We celebrate Gay Pride all year long. But this year, we’re doing some special programing for a large-scale campaign #LoveEqually. We’re looking for both sponsors and contributors. Check it out! https://t.co/tkraXFPxLL pic.twitter.com/X2FlBEZb8Y
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 11, 2019
Photo courtesy of the author.