I can't remember if I mentioned this at the beginning or not, but I feel the need to break in now and tell you that I have changed the names in this story to protect... well, everyone. ;-)
So my parents decided to reach out, to give my biological mother a chance to be part of my life.
And that—basically from "part 5" to now—is what they shared with me that Sunday afternoon in August of 1998. No, they didn't just leave me in suspense… but when they got to that part, I knew. "It's Danielle, isn't it?" I said.
They just stared at me. "Did you know?" my mom asked.
No, I hadn't found out early. I hadn't known when they started or when they talked about the connection with my aunt or at any specific point in the story… it had just sort of come to me, throughout the course of the talk.
I think I mentioned early in this whole story that I had wondered about my biological family as I was growing up. I think it's only natural, knowing that you're adopted, to wonder. I would wonder about the cashier at the grocery store or the lady crossing the street in front of us or even (and in some ways, especially) people we would see when we were traveling—on a bus in Seattle, in a restaurant in Colorado, at a hotel in New York. It's not that I was obsessive about it, it's just one of those daydreams that flitters through your mind when you're not thinking about anything else. "Could this be…?"
And throughout my life, I would wonder about certain people we knew, especially single women with no kids. They just seemed to fit the mold of possibilities, and Danielle was one of them.
Danielle had always been a "family friend" as far as I was concerned, and although she was younger than my parents and didn't really live close by, I never really questioned her connection with my parents. I knew that she had gone to the same Bible college that they had at one time attended, and it never really occurred to me that they wouldn't have all been there at the same time.
But now, things were clicking. I was making connections in my head—phone calls on my birthday, Danielle coming to a piano recital… my graduation… things like that. They hadn't stood out to me as odd before, but now they made sense in a whole new way.
And then they explained how it had all come about. Now at this juncture I need to explain that there is a chance I am going to get some of the details wrong on this next little bit… I am purposefully not going back to my parents to ask them to confirm every little thing I am about to tell you, because I want it to be my story, the way that I remember it—or at least, the way I remember hearing it that day.
I believe I was about a year old before my parents made contact with Danielle. They called my aunt who had helped put them together in the first place, and explained that they wanted to meet her. They went out to visit, and I think that they met at church the first time. In fact, I don't think Danielle ever saw me that day—I was in the nursery, and I don't think she felt ready to go back and see the baby that she had given up.
Shortly after that, my parents extended an invitation for her to come to their home. I don't know who all was over that day, but I know my mom said that Danielle held me and went outside, and she carried me as she walked all the way around the outside of their house. I can't even imagine all of the thoughts and emotions that must have been inside of her that day as she held the child she never thought she'd see again.
And that's how it started. Over the years, Danielle really did become a family friend. She had a lot going on in her own life—although that's her story to tell, not mine—and I think my parents felt like they had adopted both of us at times! She moved a lot, most of the time within Ohio, but at one point I remember her living in California, but we would usually see her at least a couple of times per year.
I liked Danielle (I still do, of course J), and it was neat to hear the story and see it all come together… but it was still a lot of information. A lot of emotion. A lot of confusion. My parents gave me some papers that they had been saving for me—the card from my hospital bed, letters from the attorney, my adoption certificate, medical information on my biological parents, and a letter that Jan had written to my mom the day after I was born. It was so great… and yet so much.
My head was spinning, and my body was literally shaking. I just couldn't take it all in.
And then, it was time for me to go to work.