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Better Than One MAG
Tiny snowflakes floated from the sky and melted as they touched the ground. Though visibility was fine, I wasn't used driving in anything worse than light rain. I drove slower than the flow of traffic either in order to arrive at Starbucks in one piece, or to postpone the awkward rendezvous for as long as possible – I wasn't sure which. When I held the brake down for an extra second after the light turned green, angry honks from drivers behind me sounded. I pressed my foot on the gas and made a wide left turn due to my limited experience in my rented SUV.
A piece of paper lay on the dashboard – my short Facebook exchange with Dorothy Jameson, and the reason I found myself in Seattle in the dead of winter. I don't know if it's lawful in a closed adoption for the adoptee to contact her birth mother after twenty-one years, but I had done just that.
Unlike in most closed adoptions, I knew my biological mother's name; it was she who approached my parents about adoption. While I would like to say that I happened to stumble on a woman with my birth mother's name through a mutual friend on the world's most popular social network, the embarrassing truth is that I searched for her on Facebook and sent all twenty-four Dorothy Jamesons the same message, asking if they happened to have put a baby up for adoption twenty-one years ago.
Although I felt embarrassed after the sixth confused response, seven was my lucky number. Three days after Christmas, a recipient confirmed that she had indeed given a baby girl up for adoption in 1990. After a few messages back and forth, I learned that she would be in Seattle on a business trip over the New Year's holiday. My vacation not over until the fifth, I asked if we could meet for coffee. Within minutes, she responded, agreeing to meet at Starbucks on whichever day I was available. Spending almost a thousand dollars for a half-day trip might not be ideal normally, but this opportunity was worth every penny.
Once we set our plans, I felt a sudden urge to be there right then: to speed, fly, to do anything to arrive as soon as possible. Our meeting was inevitable. It was just a matter of getting there. I couldn't wait. But after a night of snow, traffic wasn't letting up. I was less than thirty feet away, and I couldn't do anything to inch any further without rear-ending the car in front me.
I suddenly wondered what I would say to her. I had been secretly contemplating this since I boarded the plane, but I never really thought about it until it was staring me in the face. I didn't have any questions about why I was given up. After all, she was seventeen when I was born. A thought occurred to me: Why did I want to meet my birth mother? After all, I knew what she looked like. I had a picture of her at age sixteen that she had given my parents. Wasn't I happy with my own parents?
Yes, I thought. I love my mom and dad. Is it wrong to speculate about my biological mother?
No, I concluded. Yet I could not find a point. My adoptive mother fed me and dressed me, she took me on walks and potty trained me, and it was she, not this stranger, who got up in the middle of the night when I cried. Did a biological connection matter when I easily could have gone through life without knowing of my origin?
I made a sharp turn into the parking lot, almost hitting a pedestrian in my rush. I pulled into the first spot, which was probably too small for my armada. As I walked toward the door, I wondered how I would recognize her. I had brought a copy of her picture, but that was from 20 years ago. Her profile on Facebook didn't help me; it was a picture of Judy Garland portraying her namesake in The Wizard of Oz.
When I opened the door, a gust of air conditioning blew on me, as if it wasn't cold enough already. I had no trouble realizing she hadn't arrived. The only people there were an older man taking advantage of the free Wi Fi and a woman with her daughter.
I got in line behind the little girl. As I stood there, I realized that I had made the assumption of their familial relationship not solely because of the girl's resemblance to her mother – it was their interaction. The little girl tugged her mother's coat and whined about needing to use the restroom.
I glanced at my watch. It was 3:55. Our date was for 4 o'clock, so she would be here any minute.
“Vanilla bean frappuccino, please,” I ordered.
“That all?” the cashier asked.
I thought about ordering something for my birth mother, but I didn't know what she liked. “Yes,” I replied.
“Name?” the cashier asked. I told him, automatically spelling it as I was used to doing for the sanity of others. It was a burden going through life with a rather obscure name, but I carried it with grace as I was named after my aunt, whom I both loved and missed.
I sat at a table while my drink was being prepared. It was 3:56.
Four more minutes.
Then I reminded myself that she was only human, and it was unlikely that she would arrive exactly at four.
I found myself tapping the table; I was nervous. But why? Just when I was about to tell myself it was silly for someone to be nervous to meet her own mother, I remembered that this woman wasn't my mother. Biologically, she was, but how could I call her my mother when I had never met her? My own mother was back in Santa Fe. She was the one I could talk to about anything.
Again, I questioned my eagerness to meet this stranger who once bore me. I theorized that it was the longing in every adopted child's heart, the desire to have what everyone else has: someone to whom they are biologically connected. Throughout my childhood, I had been assured that two mothers were better than one. My birth mother had always been like a hero, and I enjoyed the mystery of not knowing her. I never let the fact cross my mind before that moment: I loved her. But why? I suddenly felt stupid, sitting there with a drink I could have gotten at home.
I spent $840 so I could have coffee with a stranger.
As the door flew open, all these thoughts left me. A woman walked in, and my heart started to pound. I stood up. This woman had brown hair like me. Her skin tone was similar to mine. I began to shake. She was looking at me. I felt myself moving toward her. This was it. I loved my adoptive mother, but this woman was my mother. It didn't matter what they say about the hand that rocks the cradle – this woman was my mother.
As she walked toward me, I realized that her face bore wrinkles and that she was wearing a hot pink tank top under her heavy jacket – but I wouldn't judge her because she was my mother. I felt a bond between us. We may have been seeing each other for the first time, but a connection was definitely there. I envisioned a family dinner where I had two mothers, not one.
The woman looked at me strangely. “Yes?” she said. “Can I help you?”
My world screeched to a halted. “Oh, sorry,” I said meekly. “I thought you were someone else.”
A Starbucks employee called out my name, butchering the pronunciation. I sat down with my drink, hoping I hadn't made a scene. I looked around to make sure no one was staring. Fortunately, the others were preoccupied.
And then I felt embarrassed in a whole other way. I remembered what it felt like when I thought that woman was my birth mother. I recalled the bond I made with her. I realized that knowing my biological mom didn't matter. Any feelings I had for her would be fake and could come and go as fast as my daughterly love for a perfect stranger.
Two mothers were not better than one.
My phone vibrated. I pulled it out of my pocket so quickly I almost knocked over my drink. A text from Dorothy Jameson. My fingers shook as I opened it, and my heart pounded while it loaded at a painfully slow rate.
“Can't make it today,” it read. “Meeting went late. Maybe next time?”