Lynn Miclea: Becoming Whole

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Becoming Whole

Lynn Miclea

A restless unease moved through Emma as she joined her family for dinner. Tomorrow she would turn eighteen, and her birthday always brought a sense of agitation. She knew it should be a happy day, but it was usually filled with increased apprehension.

She always knew she was adopted, and an underlying feeling of loss and rejection filtered through her life, even though her parents were loving and kind. Her family was nice to her, but she had lingering anxiety and a nagging feeling that she simply did not fit in. Her light brown hair and blue eyes did not look like either of her parents or her sister. But more than that, she always wondered why she had been given away, and she longed for a place where she really felt she belonged, and that longing filled her with guilt.

Nervous and dreading her birthday the next day, her stomach ached as she sat at the kitchen table for dinner and stared at her food.

“Are you okay, Emma?” Her mom looked at her. “Are you feeling sick?”

Emma shook her head. “I’m just uncomfortable about tomorrow. I guess I just don’t like birthdays or all the fuss.”

Her mother nodded. “I know, sweetheart. We won’t do anything big, but I have your favorite cake for you — red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.”

“Thank you. I love that cake.” She gave a weak smile and pushed her food around on the plate, and then picked at her food and slowly ate.

Dinner finally finished, she pushed away from the table and ran to her room. She hated her birthday. It was another reminder that her birth mom had given her away, that she was not wanted, and her anxiety grew. Trying to calm down and slow her breathing, she looked around the bedroom. There was not much. A few books, her guitar, and a notebook where she wrote poetry. A few treasured stuffed animals from her childhood sat on her dresser. An emptiness gnawed at her, and she blinked back the tears.

After a restless night of dozing on and off, she crept into the kitchen the next morning for breakfast.

Her mother was making pancakes and she turned and smiled at Emma. “Happy birthday, honey. Want some pancakes? I know that’s your favorite for breakfast, so I wanted to make that for you.”

Emma sniffed the air, loving the smell that filled the kitchen. “Thank you. I do like your pancakes.”

“I know, sweetie. Here, the pancakes are ready.” She placed the plate on the table and Emma inhaled the homey aroma before digging in. Maybe the day wouldn’t be so bad.

As Emma began to push away from the table after finishing her breakfast, her mom sat down across from her. “I have something special to give you. When we adopted you, your birth mother gave the adoption agency a small box of items for you for when you turned eighteen. We promised that we would hold it for you until then. And now that you are eighteen, you can have it. I don’t know what’s in it, but it’s for you from your birth mother.”

Emma’s mouth fell open and she stared at her mom.

“Wait here and I’ll go get it.” Her mom left the room, and Emma stared after her. Her stomach churned. What could be in the box? Would she find the answers to her questions? She tapped her foot as fear flooded her system.

A couple of minutes later, her mom returned carrying a small box, and she placed it on the table. “Here, honey. This is the box. Take your time.” She pushed the light blue cardboard box toward Emma. “And please know that no matter what is in it and what you want to do, we support you and always love you, and you are always part of our family. And if you want to talk about it, I’m here for you. Okay?”

Emma nodded and whispered, “Thank you.” She grabbed the cardboard box and ran up to her room.

Nervous and jittery, Emma sat on the bed and stared at the box. She wiped her damp hands on her jeans and, hands shaking, she slowly untied the old, wrinkled ribbon and lifted the lid. After a moment’s hesitation, her fingers trembling, she peeked in the box and carefully removed the contents. There were a few letters, some pictures, and a small, pink ribbon.

Her heart pounding, she picked up the pictures and gasped, peering intently at the photos. A teenaged girl, holding a baby wrapped in a pink blanket, smiled at the camera. There were a few pictures of the baby, some with a pink ribbon in her hair — the same pink ribbon that was in the box. Emma’s heart thudded in her chest as she studied the pictures again.

On the back of the baby pictures were written her name and a date. She felt her throat close up. These were pictures of her as a baby — she was a few weeks old in two pictures, and one month old in one of the pictures. The young woman, who must be her birth mom, looked just like her. Emma felt a deep soul yearning building inside. She was actually looking at a photo of her biological mother and herself as a baby. Why did her birth mom give her away? Did she still remember her? Did she ever think about her?

Her hands shook as she put the photos down and opened the letter. She began to read, struggling to breathe, as tears fell.

My sweet baby Emma,

I love you so much and I wish I could give you the life you deserve. But I cannot, and you deserve the best life possible.

I am only seventeen and am not able to care for you. I wish things were different, but they are not in my control. I love you so deeply but I am not able to keep you or take care of you. After a month of agonizing over it, I have reached the difficult decision that I need to give you up for adoption. I desperately hope you will have a loving home and will have a better life than anything I can offer. I hope and trust this is the right thing to do.

Emma looked away and then fell forward, sobs wracking her body. She had to keep reading, but it was hard to focus. Her mouth dry, she wiped her tears away and continued reading.

My parents drink too much and we have no money. Your dad was my boyfriend in high school, but we are no longer together. This is such a difficult decision, and I wish I could keep you. It hurts me so bad to give you away, but I really have no choice. Please know that I love you with every fiber of my being and I will always love you.

I hope you will be happy, and I hope one day you can forgive me.

With Love, your mother, Claire

By the time Emma finished reading the letter, she was sobbing and gasping for air.

For a few minutes, Emma could barely breathe. Then she looked through the other letters. In one of the letters, Claire said she played the guitar and wrote poetry — just like her! There was more information about her birth family and contact information if Emma wished to reach out to her. If the information was still valid, Emma would be able to reach her.

Fear gripped her. Would Claire still want to be contacted eighteen years after she wrote the letter? Would she still remember her? Or was she long forgotten? Would her birth mom want to meet her now? Or was she a bad memory of a difficult time? Was she even still alive?

Emma held the letter to her chest. The yearning inside grew too strong, and she knew she desperately needed to call and try to meet her birth mom. Claire would probably be about 35 now. Her heart ached as a rush of fear, anxiety, desperation, and conflicting feelings rushed through her. Should she call?

Clutching the letters and photos, Emma rocked back and forth, sobbing, trying to muster the courage to make the phone call.

After an hour, she could no longer hold back. Hands shaking, she called the number scrawled on one of the letters, hoping Claire was still at the same number.

The call was answered on the second ring. “Hello?”

Emma could barely speak, and her voice was hoarse. “Um, Claire?”

“Yes?”

“Um … I’m not sure how to … This is Emma. I’m your daughter.”

***

One week later, checking her image in the mirror, Emma ran her fingers through her light brown hair and smoothed down the yellow blouse she wore. Wearing her favorite color, she hoped it looked bright and cheery, but her nerves were getting the better of her. Her hands were sweating, and she felt jittery. Why was she so nervous? But she had to see her. She had to meet the woman who gave birth to her.

Claire’s voice had been soft and hesitant on the phone when they had briefly talked, but she had agreed to meet. However, Emma sensed some reluctance. Was she reluctant because she did not really want to meet? Was this a mistake? Or was Claire simply as scared as she was? Whichever it was, Emma could not back out. This was too important, and she felt driven.

Whatever happened, she would deal with it. Even if it ended in disappointment, it was better to know than always wonder. She checked her watch again. It was time to leave.

Twenty minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot at the coffee shop and parked. She sat there unmoving for a few minutes, trying to slow down the racing of her heart. Finally, hands cold and shaking, she got out of the car and walked to the entrance of the coffee shop.

Her legs feeling rubbery, she hesitated. What if Claire didn’t even show up? What if she really didn’t want to see her? Maybe this was all a mistake.

Tires pulling into a parking spot got her attention, and she turned and watched a small white car pull in a few spots away from hers. A woman got out, shut and locked the car door, checked her watch, and looked around. She seemed nervous.

For some reason, this woman held Emma’s attention. The woman was short, slightly built, and had light brown hair about her color. As the woman came closer, something seemed vaguely familiar. The woman approached the front entrance, stopped, and looked at Emma.

Emma saw her own blue eyes, worried, scared, and anxious, reflected in this woman’s face. The woman wore a beautiful yellow blouse, a color that matched her own, and …

Emma gasped and then held her breath.

The woman turned to her and her eyes opened wide. “Emma?”

Emma nodded, at first unable to speak. Then she finally whispered. “Claire?”

The woman nodded and opened her arms. Emma moved forward, and the two embraced, holding on to each other.

When they finally pulled apart, they both had tears running down their faces. Emma looked at Claire, who was so much like herself. “Thank you for meeting me. It is so good to see you. Let’s go in and have lunch and talk.”

Claire dabbed at her eyes with a small tissue. “Yes, yes, let’s go in.”

Emma opened the door and held it for Claire, then followed her in. After being seated in a booth, looking over the menu, and ordering their meals, they relaxed and gazed at each other.

“Thank you for the box you sent when I was adopted.” Emma’s voice was soft. “It was nice to read the letter and see the pictures. But I was afraid to call you.”

Claire’s face softened. “I’m glad you got the box and I’m glad you called. I didn’t know if you would be angry or resent me.” She toyed with her napkin. “Emma, I loved you more than you could know. It was so hard to give you away, but I could not offer you a decent life. I could not take care of you.”

“I know. I understand. Thank you for doing what you felt was best for me. And thank you for that letter. That helped a lot.”

Claire reached out and squeezed Emma’s hand. “I hope you had a good life and are with a good family.”

“Yes, I am. My parents have been very good to me. They are loving and kind. But something has been missing in my life, and I always somehow felt lost. I always longed to find a blood relative. A place where I felt complete and where I truly belonged.”

Claire nodded. “Yes, I can understand that. You’re not mad at me?”

“Oh, no, no, of course not. I just always wondered why you gave me away. And reading that letter and meeting you helps a lot.”

The waitress placed steaming plates of food on the table, refilled their iced tea, and then went to another table.

Claire smiled. “Do you know that I celebrate your birthday every year?”

Emma gasped. “You do?”

“Oh, yes. Each year on your birthday I get a small cake and put a candle in it and sing happy birthday to you. And every day I think of you and wonder how you’re doing. I always wish I could hold you. I never stopped loving you.”

Emma took a bite of her chicken sandwich and looked at her mom. “I look like you.”

Claire smiled. “Yes, you do. And you are so beautiful.”

Emma laughed. “Thank you. You are too.” She grabbed a French fry. “And we’re a lot alike, too. We both play the guitar and write poetry.”

“You do that too?” She sipped her iced tea. “And look — we wore the same color.”

“I know — I love yellow. It’s my favorite color.”

“Mine too!”

Conversation flowed easily as they shared more about themselves, opened up to each other, and gradually felt more comfortable.

As they finished their meal and pushed their plates forward, Emma saw worry in her mother’s face. “What’s wrong? I can see you’re worried about something.”

“It’s nothing. I —”

“Tell me. Please.”

Claire blinked and looked away for a few moments, then looked back at Emma. “You’re the only remaining family I have. My parents are gone, and there’s no one else. I don’t want to lose you again.”

Emma grabbed Claire’s hands. “I’m not going anywhere. You’re also the only blood relative I have. I want you in my life. We need each other.”

***

A week later, Emma went downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. Her adoptive mom was making omelets and turned to her. “Hi, honey. How is it going with your birth mom? Is that going well? Did you want to talk about it? Would you like an omelet?”

“It’s good. We have a lot in common and it feels good deep down to connect with her. It means a lot.” She sat at the kitchen table. “But you’re still important too. You’re my family,” she quickly added. “And yes, I’d love an omelet, thank you.”

“I want you to know that I’m proud of you for having the courage to reach out to your birth mother, and I’m glad that’s going well. And please know that I love and support you. Please don’t forget that you’re an important part of this family too.” She blinked. “You’re my baby, too.”

Emma felt heat rising in her face. “Thank you. I know. And I do feel a little guilty, like I’m betraying you.” She shook her head. “You’re not upset that I contacted her?”

Her mom set a plate with the omelet on the table and then sat down across from Emma. “Not at all. This is a big thing, and I know it’s important to you. And if it’s important to you, then it’s important to me. I don’t want to lose you, but I also don’t want to hold you back from what you need to do. You do what you feel is right. Just know that we love you, you are part of our family, and you are always welcome here. I want what’s best for you.”

“Thank you.” Emma sighed. “Claire has no other family — just me. And I’d like to develop more of a relationship with her.”

“Hey, why don’t I invite her here? I would love to meet her, if that’s okay with you. And she’s welcome here as well.”

Emma looked up at her. “Really? Thank you, Mom. That is really nice. I really appreciate you being okay with all this.”

“I love you, sweetheart. I want you to be happy. I know this is important to you.

Emma blinked tears away as her eyes burned, and she could not speak for a few moments. Finally, she looked up. “Thank you. You will always be my mom, and I love you. Thank you for supporting all this.”

“You’re welcome. She can be part of our family, too.”

Emma wiped away a tear. “It feels like instead of not quite belonging, I now belong to two families. Or maybe our family just got bigger.” She smiled. “And I feel complete now. I finally feel like I am whole and I really belong. Thank you, Mom.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart. How’s the omelet?”

Emma laughed, an overwhelming sense of relief, gratitude, and wholeness flooding her. “The omelet is great. Thank you.” She laughed again. “I think I’m going to be okay now.”

—————————————–

Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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