Did I want to meet her? That was a loaded question. I had already cracked Pandora’s Box by the conversation with my mom, talking with my dad over lunch, and exchanging letters. Actually meeting her in person would open Pandora’s Box the rest of the way. Was I ready for that?
A lot had happened in my life since October 2002. Milestones. Hardships. Lots of soul searching to get to the letters in October 2007. Time had once again flown by. Now, over a year later, I was moving into my on-campus college dorm room.
Deciding to Search
Now that Pandora’s Box had relinquished some of its secrets, I couldn’t get them out of my mind. I thought the letters would quench my thirst. Appease my lifelong questions enough. Instead, they proved to only be the first sip. To awaken and strengthen my sense of curiosity. I needed more.
With my twenty-first birthday just behind me, I realized that I had entered the stage of life my health instructor had mentioned in community college. Where my health would begin to change, and I knew little to nothing about my own biology. I didn’t know what to expect.
On my adoptive father’s side, alcoholism was embedded deeply into his family history. Diet had always been something my parents had been conscientious of too, as related risks also existed in the cocktail of health history. So, with being in college, I felt it was important to know if I had genetic risks either way now that I was on my own.
Opening Pandora’s Box
On a cool afternoon during Winter Quarter, I dug out my cell phone and scrolled to Mrs. King’s number. I took a deep breath, hit the green phone icon, and held the phone to my ear. It’s now or never, I decided.
Heart pounding, I tried to control my breathing as Mrs. King’s cheery voice answered. After a brief introduction, I said, “I’m ready. What do you need?”
“Do you have paper and a pen? Even notebook paper will do.”
“Yes, I do,” I said, sitting down quickly and digging through my backpack.
“Good. So, I just need you to write your name and that you’re giving me consent to work with you. I’ll give you my fax number.”
I swallowed, hoping the campus bookstore had a fax machine I could use. After reading back what I wrote, she instructed me to call her back once the fax had been sent.
Ten minutes later, I called her back, striding confidently out of the bookstore. “Ok, it’s all sent!” I could never have anticipated what Mrs. King said next.
“Rachel — you’ll never believe who is sitting next to me right now!”
My heart jumped to my throat.
“As soon as we hung up, I called Michelle and she was just approaching my exit on the freeway! Completely random. So, she’s here!”
I stumbled and grabbed the edge of a chair. “Wha–”
“Where are you right now?”
“I’m…I’m in the SURC. L-lots of people…”
“Ok, so here’s what we are going to do. I want you to go back to your dorm room, and take as long as you need. Slow, deep breaths. I’m going to give you a private number to call. When you’re ready, Michelle will answer, and you two can talk. How does that sound?”
The next thing I knew, I was running back to my dorm room, furiously texting my circle of close friends. “You’ll never guess who I’m about to TALK to! My BIRTH MOTHER!!”
I was somewhere between laughter and panic. Excitement and fear both coursed through me as my legs flew over the sidewalk. Blood pulsed in my ears, my breath ragged. Adrenaline dictated every movement until I fell against the back of my bedroom door.
Then I was on my bed, staring into my phone. At the private number Mrs. King gave me. My birth mother was on the other side of it. This was the moment. The one I’d wanted. I’d just never expected it to happen instantaneously. It’s now or never, I reminded myself. You can do this.
I stacked several pages of notebook paper in front of me and pencil. Tangible proof that this had actually happened. Just in case I wondered if it had all been a dream when I came off the emotional high.
Hands shaking, I dialed. One ring. Two rings. Three. Then a faint click and a soft stream of white noise as the other line answered. “Hello?” Her voice was quiet, heavy with emotion, but strangely familiar.
Still Going Strong
We spoke for hours that day. I still have the pages of notes from that first conversation. Smudged and dog-eared with age, but very much treasured. They, along with our letters, are stored in a safe and special place.
Michelle and I exchanged numbers, and began texting each other. Pictures passed back and forth. Stories of our lives, and catching one another up on the last twenty plus years. Ironically, our parents lived ten minutes away from each other, and I’d passed by their neighborhood for years without ever knowing. My biological grandmother had been a math tutor at my community college, who I’d meet many times. Stranger still, Michelle and my half-brother had visited her for lunch for one afternoon, and I’d walked right by them on my way to class.
On February 11, 2009, during my Spring Break, Michelle and I met in person. She showed me baby pictures, a blanket I’d been wrapped in, and all the cards and gifts she’d gotten me on every birthday. After that, I got to meet my brother Matthew, go on an impromptu photo shoot and then meet up with Michelle’s parents at dinner. It truly was an adoption reunion story.
Since then, Michelle and I have built an incredible relationship and talk frequently. Contacting her was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
In Case You Missed it…
Adoption Choices of New York
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About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.