I sat frozen in the back seat unable to move. Getting out of that vehicle would forever change life as I knew it and I wasn’t ready. I breathed, pushed one leg out and then the other emerging like a butterfly from the 46-year-old chrysalis which held all my former secrets. I moved toward her and awaited the explosive transformation as every previous second of every previous day dissipated when her arms wrapped around me. I was home.
My mother was an 18-year-old foster child when she had me. Her Irish mother’s indiscretion with a black man and death at childbirth had left her alone in the world. At 17 she found love with my father and then me, a five-pound brown-skinned bundle of joy taken by the state until she could put down roots. There was nothing in her life to prepare her for Brazilian and African-American couple who would take this love from her and keep it hidden until it could find its way home some 46 years later.
There hadn’t been a time during those years that I hadn’t wondered about her — what she was like, what she would think of me. I am a writer, a musician, a lover of children, food and women. I wondered how I came to all of these things: nature vs. nurture. Was I born this way or was it taught? Did someone else in my family have these hips? Was I the only one who could sing? Write? Did others love languages and the way words roll from the soul to the tip of a tongue?
Was my lesbianism informed in some way by the lack of a close mother identity? I couldn’t help but wonder as did my therapist, family and even an occasional lover. I sought women with strong family and mother bonds and later with similar cultural identities – strong black or Latina women with strong black or Latina mothers. I longed to connect in some way to what I expected my mother might be: resilient, intellectual and loving, an older version of me. Eventually, I repaired the relationships with both my adoptive and step mothers and still seeking elusive answers I tentatively began the journey toward finding my birth mom.
The phone rang at 11:45 PM. The voice on the other end sounded like my own. “I know you,” she said, her audible smile cracking open the door to my hidden life. We laughed and cried and shouted, ‘Oh my God,’ so many times you would have thought Jesus Himself would show up.
“I knew if you were a Young, you would be up,” my sister said explaining a piece of my puzzle. “We are all night owls.” I gave that a moment of thought. ‘We,’ she had said. My family, my father who I shared with her, Cecelia, my little sister, my uncles, aunts and cousins – there were uncles, aunts and cousins. I had more siblings to meet and nieces and nephews to spoil.
“We need to call Mom,” she giggled excitedly. Mom and our younger sister would be home from work by now.
“Wait a second,” I whispered, my heart was pounding in my chest.
It could be all over before it even started, but with my partner of eight years in the bedroom down the hall, I had to ask. I had to tell it. Anything less would be to deny who she was to me or who I was after 33 years of being an out and proud lesbian writer and activist, after 33 years of working through the issues with my adoptive and step families; I had to put it right out there up front.
“There is something I need to tell you,” I said sheepishly. Oh, God. Suppose they were born-again Christians. “I’m a lesbian,” I said and waited.
“Ho ho!” she laughed. Laughed! “I wondered when you said you weren’t married and didn’t have kids. I wondered if you had that gene.”
“What?” I didn’t understand.
“Yeah, Mom and our sister are too!” It took a second for what she was saying to sink in. And then there it was the revelation, the answer to that question.
It was in my genes plain and simple. All of the worries went away. All of the years of fighting for who I was and who I loved had been vindicated. The activism, the losses, the gains all of it… I was right where I was supposed to be as I was supposed to be.
A month later after a very moving Miami airport reunion between me and Cecelia, sleep swept over me during the three-hour ride to Key West where our mom and youngest sister lived. I watched Cecelia move out of the car and then my partner, who turned around to coax me along. In that moment, all of the years of fear, pain and sadness were a newborn veil I pushed aside to embrace my life and my new understanding of it.
I moved toward her and felt for the first time my mother’s loving embrace. Yes. I finally was home.
Boston-born writer, Robin G. White is the award-winning author of two volumes of poetry, Resurrection: A Collection of Work and Reflections of a Life Well Spent, and a forthcoming collection of short fiction, Intersections. To read more about her work, please visit her website at: www.robingwhite.com