“There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.
It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two.
But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.”
-G. K. Chesterton
Waiting to meet my birth mother for the first time in the Jackson, MS airport, I pulled out the photos she sent me a few weeks earlier. As I studied them for the thousandth time, I worried. She changed her hair a lot and her weight fluctuated, so even though she looked kind of familiar, you just never know. It would be so embarrassing to just let her walk right past me. Maybe I should have made a sign.
Of course, we had gotten to the airport way early, just to make sure. I paced around the terminal, checked my makeup, and learned the PA announcement by heart. Even as a nervous twenty-two-year-old I couldn’t be in a group of people for very long without making conversation, so word had started to spread. It felt like everyone knew something special was about to happen.
After an eternity, the gate agent announced her flight’s arrival, and people started filing off the plane. Passenger after passenger disembarked and met their parties. Oh Lord, did she miss her flight? Surely not, she is a travel agent, after all. Some of the picker-uppers told their arriving travelers what was going on and they stayed to see the reunion unfold. This is sooo surreal. If Geraldo Rivera showed up with a camera crew right now I wouldn’t even be surprised.
When Dixie finally walked off the plane, we were all speechless. I had totally wasted all that time I spent worrying about recognizing her. She looked just like me, except twenty years older. The similarity was so striking that, for the rest of the weekend, I would catch myself not paying attention to what she was saying because I was so struck by her physical appearance. To a pale, blonde, green-eyed kid raised by two brown-haired, brown-eyed parents, it felt like a miracle just to be looking at someone with my nose, my hair, my everything.
Contrary to what most people assume, when I started my adoption search I didn’t really think much at all about whether my birth mother and I would connect on a personal level. The mother role in my life was already filled. I will always consider the mama who raised me to be my real mother. Whatever relationship I might have with Dixie would occupy a completely separate category from anything I’d known so far.
My search wasn’t for love, but for truth. I wanted the same privilege that 99% of the people in that airport that day already had: to know who and where I came from. That’s what made this day significant, not violins and motherly embraces. No matter what else happened in the future, on that day, at the end of that jet bridge, my biological family went from zero to one – numbers which sound close, but are actually worlds apart.
Illustration credit: www.penguinrandomhouse.com