At 8:00 a.m. I was up, dressed and staring out the front windows, waiting for an unfamiliar car to pull into the drive.
My birth mother and her husband were due at noon and to say that I was giddy with anticipation would be the understatement of the century. Giddy, I was. I was also scared to death but trying hard not to show it.
But my Dad knew better. He handed me a cup of tea before settling down next to me, more appropriately dressed in his well-loved, suddenly achingly-familiar housecoat.
"What do you think my father's name is?" I blurted out, my voice too loud in the morning quiet. "I think it's Gus. Short for Augustus."
"I don't know. We never knew that, Elizabeth, " he answered quietly. "How about Biff?"
And then we burst out laughing because really, when the only life you know is about to be forever altered and rearranged, what else is there to do?
* * *
Noon. A stranger's car turned into the lane and up the driveway while I began a slow panic:
"What do I do? What am I doing? What do I say? What do I do?" I turned in circles, flapping and fussing, trying not to cry. Failing miserably. When one's most fervent wish is about to come true, it's a bit overwhelming. Trust me.
"Elizabeth!" My Mum used her "teacher voice", effectively bringing my meltdown to a swift halt. "First, calm down. You're going to freak her out and she's likely already feeling nervous. Go upstairs. Wash your face. Wait in your room until I call."
And so I did.
Downstairs, my Dad guided M.E. into the house, while my Mum chattered happily away, as if her daughter's mother showed up on the doorstep every day. I have never been prouder of her, actually. She was a superstar.
And then, finally - all too soon - Mum called up and I came down and tumbled blindly into M.E.'s arms where we rocked and cooed to one another, surrounded by my parents and her husband, all of whom were crying.
Finally, I pulled back to look at her face - MY face, only older - and grinned: "So, how've you been?"
* * *
We spent the day trading photos and stories and discovering the serendipitious nature of the universe:
M.E. recognized my Mum as the Choir Mistress from church and my Dad thought her husband looked familiar, which in the end, he was: Throughout my whole childhood, a farmer's field separated our two families - neither of which started out in Bowmanville, but both of which called it "home."
I learned that I bore an uncanny resemblance to an auntie's sons and that they too, lived in Bowmanville. In fact, it was Auntie N's high school best friend who read my letter to the Star and called Auntie N in a happy dither, exclaiming, "I know where The Baby is. I've found The Baby!"
(Incidentally, P, whose sharp eye caught the "Amanda Ellen B" part of my letter? Went blind a year later. P. remains a warm and cherished part of the family - and one the most miraculous parts of our story.)
N. waited until Christmas Eve, when she pulled M.E. aside and handed her an unmarked envelope, containing a miraculous secret. M.E. and her husband spent the Christmas holidays working out how best to approach me and how to tell their two daughters that I existed.
Jerry made the intitial call, after Christmas, ending his planned introduction with this: "I believe that my wife is your daughter's mother."
Years later, M.E. told me that there was a full minute of silence before my Dad politely replied: "Would you hold the line an moment, please? I'll just go and get my wife..."
A minute later, my Mum came on the line, excited and congratulatory asking when were they coming to visit and wouldn't Elizabeth ,who wasn't home at the moment, what a pity, be happy? In the background, my Dad was frantically holding up hastily-written notes, asking for proof, which Jerry and M.E. eagerly offered:
A tiny white bible from my Mum to my mother, forwarded by the Children's Aid. And a hand-written, unsigned letter saying, "Thank you."
* * *
Some other things I discovered the day my mother came for lunch:
I share her laugh, the way she clasps her hands, crosses her legs and tells a story.
Her daughters were shocked to learn that their mother had given birth to another child, but were looking forward to meeting me, just as soon as I could wrap my head around their existence. Sisters!
Every year on my birthday, my aunties would secretly light a candle and send up a prayer and wishes for happiness.
The gap between my two front teeth is entirely hereditary.
Ditto the need for eyeglasses, the love of words, laughter, wine and family.
And most interestingly:
My surname began with "B"
Bio-father's name is Gus. Short for Augustus.
Like the fairy princess mother of my childhood fantasies, M.E. did indeed have long red hair.
What's YOUR story? Do you remember the day you were SO proud of your parent(s)?