I can’t tell you how many people I’ve made cry these past few weeks.
Relatives. Friends. Acquaintances. Strangers.
I’ve watched them all well up, one by one, time and again.
It’s not what you think. I haven’t morphed into a monster (or brought my household drill sergeant persona out of the house).
Turns out the story of how I found and met my first mom is a tear-jerker, start to finish: part Nancy Drew mystery finally solved (but so much more interesting than the “Hidden Staircase,” even if the heroine didn’t have a head of auburn hair), part Saturday afternoon Lifetime movie, and all a study in the human condition.
Setting out more than five years ago on this journey, I never anticipated the people I’d meet, the lessons I’d learn, the folks I’d touch and who would touch me along the way.
- The search angels, Pris in particular. She searched in the wrong direction for a long time, pivoted when we got the name sorted out and searched some more, then helped put the final pieces in place and pave the way for me to make contact with Pat’s sister after another person, Joanne, found the missing clue. These angels are just that — many others jumped in at various points to help, each of them spending countless hours, free of charge, to help me and many hundreds of others like me.
- The other women I met who were at St. Faith’s Home for Unwed Mothers when my first mom was there, too. They offered enormous support, insight, loving thoughts and, in the case of Karen, an amazing touchstone I can never thank properly.
- Several librarians, including one at Newsday who spent time in the newspaper archives hunting down clues.
- Grae, the kind church secretary at Christ Church in Tarrytown, NY, who surprised herself by unearthing my baptismal record — the first one she’d ever found chasing countless requests over the years only to find, time and again, that records had been destroyed. I’ll never forget her return call to me and how we both sobbed. Nor will I forget the reverence with which she set that ledger before me in the church, then left me to sit alone and contemplate Pat and many other St. Faith’s women whose names were so carefully recorded among the baptisms of church parishioners. All but one that is — one baby girl whose mother’s name was left out of the book. One child now grown who will never find the initial validation I first did on those pages.
- Countless adoptees and birth moms who reached out to me with handwritten letters and emails in response to my blog posts — all eager to tell me their stories. Through many of their communications I learned that I wasn’t weird or selfish to want to know, that there are many, many other people who grew up just like me — loved and supported, but always struggling to see where they fit in.
I wasn’t prepared for the people I’d meet along the journey (not even the man who responded to a blog post by telling me I should be grateful I wasn’t aborted), just as I wasn’t prepared for the whirlwind of emotions and outpouring of warmth I’m experiencing from Pat and her huge family (I swear, I’m getting a white board to track them!).
They have welcomed me with open arms, leaving me stunned and awestruck. I had spent so much time anticipating the worst possible scenario, I didn’t dare hope for acceptance.
Lately, though, there has been yet another layer, another gift borne of this experience that I didn’t anticipate, either.
I have managed to touch people in an unexpected way.
I had hoped I’d see support from friends and relatives, so that wasn’t surprising, but the outpouring of kind messages on Facebook amazed me.
So, too, did a visit from my neighbor, someone with whom we only exchange greetings a couple times a year when we cross paths doing yard work. She brought me chocolates and hugs, cried in my living room and told of the wine-glass toast she and her husband offered on my behalf over lunch.
Basil and Catherine’s priest and one of my bosses have hugged me with joy.
The mother of one of Catherine’s church friends was so absorbed in the story, tears running down her cheeks, that she was nearly bopped on the head by a volleyball during the girls’ game this past Sunday.
Customers at Jazzercise have stayed behind after class to hear how it unfolded, see the picture of Pat and me together, offer their congratulations, hug me.
A woman whose daughter, a classmate of Catherine’s, is struggling with a serious medical issue, stopped me in CVS, but wouldn’t talk about what she’s coping with. She only wanted to hear what I had to say, and was effusive with her congratulations.
Each and every one of them has cried, even if I (occasionally) managed to get through the story dry-eyed.
And each and every one reminds me of how — family or not — we are all connected.