Life was warm like blood today. I carried my inner daze like a weight as I quietly tried to fill up my tank with gas without feeling the pressure. Shivering at the pump, her necklace hung from my neck, a symbol of this grand design. I wandered on toward Atlanta with my sister in the passenger seat and without any knowledge what to feel. With my 23 years of anticipation all about me, I parked my imperfection at the house where she would soon arrive. I hadn’t ever imagined my life continuing after meeting my biological mother, this day had always been the one I was waiting for, but by tomorrow I would be breathing in an unimagined day.
Inside the house I sat trying to find an answer to the question I had just been asked, “So, how do you want this to go?” The answer, in my head, was “perfectly” but an answer so obvious felt more like no answer at all. “We could sit me at the end of a long table with a cigar and sunglasses. After she enters I could say, ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’” My response was just an attempt to lighten the mood and stall until I had my actual answer. My mother laughed and chipped in, “we could have you sitting in a chair where she only see’s the back of your head, and once she walks in you could spin around in the chair and be holding a cat.”
I laughed, mostly not for the joke, even though I found it funny, but for the emotional relief that the laughter itself brought me. We walked from the kitchen to the front door of the house, while my father, sister, aunt and uncle all continued to talk in the kitchen. I stared at the brick steps outside, still damp from the cloudiness and rain. I noticed the Plexiglas door in front of the true, wooden front door, and the entrance to the neighborhood which could be seen from the steps, as the paralysis of having to choose the scenario for our meeting began to set in.
It would be strange for me to answer the door with the Plexiglas still between us. It seemed to me that such a moment, spent being so close to each other but separated by the clear barrier, should be avoided. Once I saw her I was going to hug her, without hesitation, and I wanted nothing to complicate that priority. So considering the plexiglass… me answering the door was out.
I stared back into the house, lit with the day’s cloudy natural light running through the doorway. Perhaps my parents could answer the door and I could step up to met her after them. The entrance from the front door was greeted by a staircase wrapped in Christmas wreaths. To pass the staircase on the right would enter a hallway. Passing a small Christmas village assembled ceremoniously against the right wall. The hallway pushed to the family room, which also had Christmas decorations, where we could sit and talk just the four of us. Even with such a warm welcome from my aunt’s house and its decor, I felt no inspiration from this second option. Why would I have been anywhere else but right by the door after 23 years waiting for this moment? Wouldn’t it feel like I designated my parents to open the door if this was the option I chose? It wasn’t natural, it wasn’t sincere, and I wanted to see her first.
My stare returned through the Plexi to the red-weathered steps before the front door, and I knew how I wanted it to go, “I’m going to wait outside.” Slightly surprised, my mother brought the news back to the kitchen where my father, sister, aunt and uncle could be heard catching up like family do. I walked through the clear barrier to find my seat on the steps, where I would wait at the edge of our encounter.
I wore a sky blue, collared long sleeve and my favorite pair of jeans. Her necklace still swung trustingly as I landed on the top level of the entrance steps. Looking straight ahead my eyes passed the winter-tanned lawn and the street, darkened by the rain, toward the entrance of the neighborhood. I wouldn’t recognize her car so why was I looking? A car passed in front of the house and I was startled, thinking that it may be her. Since this was the first time I would see her in person, I didn’t want to see her from her car. I wanted to see her closer. My emotions were a fog as I closed my eyes with a promise not to open them until she was in front of me. These were the last moments of my life having never known her.
She had told me a story, in a letter she wrote me at the age of 17, about the importance of my eyes to her after my delivery. She described her desire to see me open my eyes in the delivery room and how I showed no sign of opening them. She had let my adoptive mother, Jeanne, be the first to hold me. She described my adoptive and biological family filling the delivery room to pray, and the whole time Erin just watched my eyes, but they remained closed. She had asked for one hour with me alone before I would be taken back with my adoptive family. She said that then, finally, I opened my eyes.
I began to realize that as I sat on those steps, I was dedicating this moment to that moment. Tears began to form in my eyes as I realized the next thing I would see would be her. After 23 years, this moment would be my way of honoring the story she had shared with me at 17, and this time I would have it as a memory. My eyes closed tighter against the suspense of another car passing.
The darkness settled in softly like the fog, and I shifted my arms across my knees trying to find the best position. A prayer left me, there in the dark, as a smooth presence entered in all around me. It was a familiar warmth, something I had felt since I can remember. It was an embrace of the love I had felt from her all my life, and it was amplified. Tears increased, and I fell deeper into the cradle of a present peace. Her love was with me now, and the warmth of its atmosphere completely overtook the daze I had carried. The answer to my prayer had come, it kissed me with a warmth and love beyond all understanding, and all my emotional fog was lifted for a sweet safety. It was rich, it was home, it was like silk.
I felt such strong emotion and validation in this presence, as if everything around me in the darkness was telling me that I can be proud of how emotional I am. I shifted my arms and cried again. What a gift it was to feel loved for exactly who I was, and to feel such a peace for her arrival. A car passed and my breath was caught in my lungs. Each passing car seemed to take hours as the wheel’s hissed through the puddles of rain water. I began to notice less as I felt myself in new ways. It was as if all the space around me was saying, “you are made well."
I wept in awe of a moment beyond my control. It was an experience I couldn’t have made myself, so full of anticipation and belonging. I spent 23 years running into the most beautiful darkness I have ever known. Her love denied me my worry, still filling every empty part of me with peace and joy until I was overflowing. As the curtain of my worry vanished, it revealed that this love was not her doing, but instead being done through her. With my eyes closed, my gaze shifted, and I felt as if the earth was about to quake as I shook my head in awe within my hands. She was the window into the love I had always known, and I gave thanks on those steps realizing this presence, the peace I was swimming in, was not dependent on her, but reaching me through her.
A cold wind came from my right, but failed to gain the moment. I was raptured into a safer space. The smell of rainwater on the cement didn’t carry its normal potency as I rested my head on my crossed arms. My tears no longer ran down my face, but fell from my eyelashes, as I sat for uncounted minutes on those wonderful brick stairs. The moment was an eternity and my eyes were faithfully closed, still waiting to open once she and I were alone. I no longer felt uneasiness for her arrival because I was safe in the love I was afraid I’d lose in meeting her. I was suspended 10 feet high; embraced in identity and purpose. My gaze was on love and it ran over me like honey.
Suddenly, there was the soft click of shoes on the sidewalk in front of me, and I opened my eyes to discover that these hadn’t been my last moments having never known her, these moments were the proof I had known her all my life.