As the Day approached, I kept saying I didn’t know what to expect. In my heart I knew I couldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t have any expectations. It’s that easy, right? I was happy about the reunion of course. Although “re”-union probably wasn’t a good word to describe what I was about to go through. It was more like a meeting, an introduction, a first time event. It was hard to describe using words. The rollercoaster of feelings taking me up, and then as quickly spiraling down as I feared the worst. The ups maintained as the downs were few and far between. How could I be down when my life was about to become so much fuller with new siblings and family members I never knew existed?
Family has always been important to me. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, don’t get me wrong. But now, at this time in my life, family is more important to me than anything. I know what it’s like to lose my family, to walk away and wonder later what happened. I know what it means to long for relationship only to be disappointed by the consequences of my own actions. The result of this is to put value on my family and for them to be in a place of honor in my life. My adult children probably don’t realize how much they mean to me. It is easy for a mother to vocalize the importance of her children, but it is much harder to move the mountains of wounds to prove your love for them. I don’t always make the right decisions and I certainly did not have a good example in my own adopted mother. But today, in this moment, I’m not sure there is anything more important to me than my family.
I hear my husband and father in law chatting in the front seat as we drive to the airport. They seem less concerned with me and more in to the latest status of our Texas Rangers baseball team. Here I am beyond nervous, trembling because the anticipation has gone from fear to excitement and longing for it to reach a secure peace in the unknown. I struggle with my Ziploc bag full of makeup, trying to apply it from the back seat while we drive down the highway. My elderly father in law, swerving in and out of traffic, moving the car from side to side doesn’t benefit my attempt. The result is my mascara flying back and forth trying not to create raccoon eyes in the process. Why in the world didn’t I sit up front with the mirror? What will I look like when I get there, applying eyeliner with no reflection? What was I thinking waiting to the last minute to get ready? And why in the world did we not call Uber??
He does it every time. As we walk down the jet way towards the plane, my husband reminds me he always touches the outside of the plane as he steps in, reaching up to place his hand on the exposed body of the aircraft. It’s not superstition, but almost a habit he’s kept up throughout his life. So there we are, waiting to board and I see the edge of the plane. It is in this moment I have to question this doorway I’m about to walk through. It’s almost like a gameshow and I have to pick the door with the biggest prize. Only there’s only one door, and I don’t get the prize until we land in another state. I step over the threshold, reach up, and my fingers touch the outside of the aircraft gently symbolizing the choice I’ve made. I am embarking on a journey I spent my life denying I would ever take.
We navigate to the only two seats left together at the very back of the plane. Typically, this would bother me and I would spend the entire flight hearing every engine noise wondering about the rattles and shakes of the flight. Today is different. I take my seat, leaving my husband to adjust our belongings as we prepare for takeoff. I sit back, buckling my seatbelt and allow myself, for the first time, to feel the emotions that have welled up in my heart.
So here I sit, looking at the upright tray table with the shade down on the window as the engines roar and we begin the ascent up the runway. Tears randomly stream down my face, with no explanation. I can’t help but ask myself, why me? And why now? The “why’s” enter my mind and the tears appear, when least expected. What if they don’t like me? Is my makeup ok? Did I wear the right top? What if we made a mistake and they aren’t my family? Maybe I should’ve curled my hair instead of leaving it straight? Will they like my nail color? Is it too bright? Or maybe that isn’t the root of my tears at all.
Recently I began to wonder, are the personality traits others have condemned in me, are they really who I am and maybe – just maybe – my family will recognize them in me? Growing up in a generation where dark skin was called out as inferior I was used to being rejected. The “what if’s” were dragging me down that road of fear of rejection. I thought I’d left that path and wasn’t looking forward to facing it again.
Seriously. I don’t know how to do this thing – this birth family thing. I don’t know how to act, or what to say. What will they think of me? And really, what in the WORLD was I thinking? I bought a ticket, to a place I’ve never stayed to meet people I’ve never met and to allow myself to become a part of something I’ve never known. In less than an hour I will meet a part of my family I didn’t know existed until just a few weeks ago.
There they are, the tears again….
We struggled with whether we should carry on or check our baggage. When we arrived at the Sacramento airport, we were ok with the fact we had agreed to check the one suitcase with all of our belongings. We stepped off the plane, I pause briefly, took a deep breath, and moved forward in to what would change me forever.
As we walked through the airport, the voices and sounds of the rolling bags and speakers calling some to board echoed through the terminal. I counted my steps, holding tight to my husband’s supportive arm. The sign for baggage claim called to me, I was drawn to it like the sirens. The nervousness left me and I felt myself walk past security as if I could see myself from the outside. My walk became less deliberate as I stepped on to the down escalator. In that moment I looked, wondering if I would recognize my sisters from the pictures I’d studied so hard. How would they know it was me? Would I feel familiar to them at all?
So many questions, and not enough answers as I felt myself glide down the moving stairs. It was about halfway down, but possibly a little less or a little more, I saw them. There was no doubt in my mind and no question in my heart. I looked up and knew it was a sign for me. Literally. There was this huge, beautiful sign with the words “Welcome Home Little Sis, Jesi” written across it. And for the first time in my 52 years of life, I saw the most beautiful sisters waiting for me. I began to cry years’ worth of tears in just the few minutes it took to get to the bottom of the escalator. I saw her first, not specifically but because my eyes were drawn to her. She was familiar to her pictures, but I didn’t see her features instead I saw her mother like love. Her physical wasn’t important in that moment but instead her arms opened to me. I had not allowed myself to dream such a beautiful scene. I didn’t see what she wore, or her shoes or even her hairstyle. The physical appearance ceased to matter in that moment. What I did see was a woman who was ready to receive me, unconditionally, with her arms spread wide ready to receive her baby sister.
As my sister wrapped her arms around me, I knew – I was home.