Mother, children reunited in time for daughter’s 16th birthday party
Published: December 14, 2007 | 6904th good news item since 2003
Beth Gifford was trying to decide what her soon-to-be 16-year-old niece wanted for her milestone birthday.
Most 16-year-olds are in to cars, makeup, clothes, cell phones, and iPod and mp3 players, but none of those made Kimberly Dawn Vaughn’s wish list.
Her special gift was more personal.
“I wanted to find my mom,” Vaughn said.
Gifford said Vaughn and her 14-year-old brother, Steven, have been separated from their mother, June Dale Vaughn, since they were 1 and 2 months old. The children’s parents separated and eventually left them in the custody of their grandmother, Mary Wimberly.
“The children, over the years, have seen their father periodically, but all the time they asked about their mother,” Gifford said. “They had questions about her that we couldn’t answer.
“I never knew my biological father, so I understood there was a void there and I wanted to help them fill that void.”
During the week of Thanksgiving, Gifford asked Kimberly what it would mean to meet her mother.
“She said it would mean the world to her,” Gifford said. “A few minutes later, she came up to me and said all she wanted for her birthday was to know her mom.”
Kimberly said she often thought of her mother. “I didn’t remember her, so I wondered what she was like, what she looked like and what she was doing. There was just something missing in my life.”
They made the decision to start the search. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Gifford, Wimberly, Kimberly and Steven drove to Ripley, Tenn., the last place she knew Vaughn had lived.
“When we got there, we got a telephone book and started looking up everyone in the phone book with her maiden name,” Gifford said.
After they made several telephone calls with no luck, Gifford said they turned to the police department.
And as if by fate, someone at the police station was a friend of Vaughn’s.
“They told us where she lived and how to get to the house,” Gifford said.
Gifford said as they drove to the residence, Kimberly and Steven were noticeably nervous.
“They were doing a lot of squirming around, nervous acting because they didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
“It was exciting but I was scared,” Kimberly said. “We didn’t know what to expect from her, or even if she would want to see us.”
That question was quickly answered.
“My roommate came to my bedroom and said my children were at the door,” Vaughn said. “I jumped up and ran down the hallway.”
She said though it had been almost 15 years since she had seen them, she recognized her children at once. “I started crying and they started tearing up,” she said.
“There was a lot of hugging and a lot of tears,” Gifford said.
Kimberly said her first thought was, “this is my mom.”
“It was almost like a dream, because I had wondered if we would ever see each other,” Kimberly said.
When Vaughn heard about her daughter’s birthday wish, she was more than willing to make the trip back to Alabama.
“I couldn’t wait,” she said.
Vaughn said she had tried to find her children through the years but had no success.
“When she moved to Tennessee, they were still living in Illinois, apparently that’s where she had tried to find them; she didn’t know they had moved to Alabama,” Gifford said. “After so long, she had just about given up.”
Not only did Vaughn want to be at her daughter’s birthday, but she came back with them that day.
“All the way home, she sat in the backseat between Kimberly and Steven. I think they hugged on her just about the entire way home. It made my heart feel good,” Gifford said.
For two weeks, Vaughn has been “getting to know” her children. Steven said it’s difficult to describe what it’s like having his mother back in his life.
“The last two weeks we’ve spent a lot of time together, kind of getting to know each other,” he said.
Kimberly said it’s been nice having her mom back in her life.
“It’s been everything I thought it would be,” she said. “There’s a happiness that I had never felt.”
The 36-year-old Vaughn said she plans on continuing to be in her children’s lives. She plans on being with them at Christmas and she wants them to come visit her.
“It took so long to get back together, I’m not going to lose them now,” she said.
On Thursday afternoon, Kimberly celebrated her 16th birthday with her family, which finally, included her mother.
“It was the best birthday present I could have received,” Kimberly said.
“It was a pretty good gift, the best one I could have given her,” Gifford said.
“It makes me cry every time I think about it,” Vaughn said. “(Kimberly) wanted me for her birthday. I plan on being a part of more to come.”