The Letter

October 8, 2010
I still couldn’t believe I was doing this. The one thing I’d been dreaming and thinking about since I was eight years old. Would she recognize me? Would we get along? Questions flooded my already stressed mind, and the small pillow provided by the flight attendant was hard against my head, diminishing my last thought of sleep. Closing my eyes, I tried to relax. I’d been waiting my entire life for this moment, so why did fourteen hours seem like so far away? Last week, the thought of being on a plane to Paris would be entirely impossible, but that was before I’d received her letter.
Tuesday morning has started out like any other. I’d trekked out to the mailbox, and while shifting through my parent’s bills and brother’s Sports Illustrated, I’d found a crisp white letter, addressed formally to me. I didn’t recognize the return address, but the multiple stamps indicated it wasn’t from somewhere local. Once opened, it revealed that my Mom wanted to find me. Not the mom inside the cozy brick home behind me, with her deep brown hair and laugh lines, but my birth mom. Thoughts had flooded my mind, overflowing with contrasting ideas and questions. Why now? The fact that I was adopted was never a secret in my family. My fiery red hair stuck out like a sore thumb among the auburn locks of my brother and parents. I’d thought of finding my birth mother before, but I’d usually brush the idea away and forget about it. I’d always felt a little upset with her, this woman I’d never met, who didn’t care enough to keep me. Despite my anger, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to meet her. This time, the cards were switched. She wanted to find me.
After numerous sleepless nights and tear filled discussions, I decided I would go. I would fly, on my own, for countless hours, to meet the woman who gave me up. Her letter detailed that she’d moved out of the country shortly after I was born, and had ended up in Paris. It was a brief letter, simple, short, and not that sweet. As supportive as my parents were being, I saw hesitation and fear in their wet eyes as I boarded the plane at nine this morning. I knew they were worried, but my mind was made up. Now, here I sat, squashed between a middle aged woman, and an old man doing a crossword. All I could think about, (besides the obvious answer to 6 down on my neighbors crossword), was what she would be like. In my head, I’d always pictured her the same way. She’d be plump, matronly, and have a warm smile. Her hair would be red, like mine, and we’d share an instant connection. We’d laugh, hug, and I’d return home the next day, with a promise to write and call. My parents had bought me two plane tickets, one for about five hours after I arrived, and one for the next day. That way, I could return whenever I felt like I needed too, and the first ticket gave me the option of changing my mind.
Once the plane finally landed, I nervously made my way through the crowded airport, and onto the hectic streets of Paris. After I handed the address to the cab driver I’d finally been able to flag down, I found myself dozing off in the backseat, jet lag already catching up with me.
“Ma’am? We’re here.” The cab driver spoke in a choppy and heavily accented English. Snapping out of my nap, I forced myself out of the cab, grabbed my bags out of the trunk, and paid the driver. Smells of fresh bread and strong espresso wafted from the quaint building in front of me, and as much as my taste buds begged me too, my feet would not let me move forward. The street I stood on was sloped, cracked, and had a certain charm about it. In a nearby restaurant, people were chatting in French, sipping coffee and laughing. Across the street, a young boy sat on his front steps, holding a small dog in his lap and staring at me quizzically.
The front of the café was mainly windows, and I could easily scan the people inside. It was nearly empty, but one woman in particular caught my eye. Her hair was bright red, nearly the exact shade of mine. She had a bored, yet slightly nervous look on her wrinkling face. Her teeth looked stained, like a smokers, and her thin body drowned in the voluminous clothes she was wearing. My stereotypical grandmother would take one look, and dub her a “wreck.” Finally, she caught me staring, and as soon as we made eye contact, I knew. She was my mother. Not what I expected, but my mother. I glanced away, and realized something was wrong. It wasn’t that her appearance was different than I’d expected, it was just the overwhelming feeling of “What am I doing here?” I wasn’t ready for this. It was too much risk, and I was happy back at home, in my cozy house with my adoring family. I wracked my thoughts, and the flittering butterflies in my stomach turned into leaping frogs. Then, I did the only thing I could think of doing. I spun on my heel, and called another cab.
Twenty years later, I still thank my parents for buying me that first ticket. I was young, confused, and not ready to be hurt again. Many people couldn’t live with the “what if?” factor, but I, on the other hand, prefer not knowing. Who knows if I’d let her in, she’d stayed in my life? If we’d gotten along? If she’d have disappeared again? These are questions that I’m perfectly happy not answering. My life is full and content as it is, and I don’t need another addition to make it complete.

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