My finger traced over all the craters, dents, and protruding detail on the car door. I focused on my breath, it was heavy and heated. My mom was rambling on about something, but I ignored her. The radio was blasting music, it went in through one ear and out the other, my brain not registering the lyrics. I was way too anxious to concentrate on anything but breathing in and breathing out and the intricate carving on the panels of the car door.
I don’t know why I was so nervous, it was my mom’s big moment. She found her family. My mom always knew she was adopted but there were always so many unanswered questions, who? Why? How? The curiosity teared her up inside, constantly wondering where she got her rosy cheeks, and icy blue eyes. Today was the day we finally got those answers, today was the day we met my biological family. I knew my mom felt anxious but she’s calmer about these things, more level-headed than me.
I looked calm on the outside, I was always good at that, hiding my emotions, keeping a strong front even when things were falling apart. I tried to breathe, but even that was becoming more difficult. I can’t breathe in, I can’t breathe out, I’m afraid that I might drown. I focus on the tiny things, I find peace in the details, I find the silver lining in the inner workings. I start to look outside, the trees danced along the horizon soaking up the golden rays of the sunrise.
“Maureen, Maureen, Maureen!” My dad snapped me out of my trance, and I was anchored down, back to earth.
“Oh yeah,” I stutter.
“Do you want to stop for lunch now?” my grandma asked. My grandma was trembling and breathing fast and short breaths. She was paranoid that we’d ditch her and find a new family. We could never do that. My mom’s bond with my grandma was stronger than titanium and nothing would ever so much as put a dent in their relationship.
“Not right now Gammy,” I replied. I’ve always called her “Gammy,” ever since I was little. I used to think I was special because I was the only little girl with a “Gammy.” Now I know my “Gammy” will always be there for me.
The car seat was soft like a pillow, and the air was warm and stuffy, because of all of the bodies forced inside. I was tired and groggy and I could barely hold my eyes open. I slowly drifted away into the safe haven that is my dreams.
The car bumped and I was jolted awake. Confused about where I was, the now shining sun glared through the window blinding me. It took me an entire 5 minutes to regain consciousness.
“Sweetie are you up?” my mom whispered gently.
“Yeah,” I said rubbing my eyes.
“Ok we’re about 15 minutes away.”
That sent my mind into a flurry of emotions, like frustration, anxiety, and excitement fought mercilessly for a spot in my heart. They were tumbling around in my stomach churning around the food I had for breakfast. I now felt queasy. I tried to concentrate on my breath, slow and steady. I focused my gaze on the road, it moved so fast it soon became blurry and disjointed. The next thing I remember is my mom yelling, “Sweetie we’re here!”
My breath began to move quickly and it came in little spurts. I didn’t want to get out of the car, I was afraid of what would happen if I did. My mother opened my door.
“Come on,” she gestured me to come out. I was on the verge of bursting into tears by then. All I had to do was step out of the car. A simple task, but this time it was worth the world to me.
“Don’t be scared baby, they’re family,” my mom said softly.
That’s when I exhaled. That’s when I let go. That one word: Family. They were family, my family. I nodded and took my mom’s hand. Her palms were sweaty and her grasp was tight. I could tell she was nervous. I stepped out onto the pavement. The sun beating down on my back. My dress was long and flowy, and my heels were tall, and I worried I would tumble over. My legs began to feel like spaghetti. Loose and flimsy, I gripped my mom’s hand tightly as we turned a sharp corner.
My grandma was walking behind us with my whining sister, who was at the time completely oblivious to the importance of this moment. My dad was next to my mom, with his arm resting on her shoulder. I began to fall behind until I was walking in sync with my grandma and sister.
We turned another corner and that’s when we saw them. It hit my like a bullet train. The sight of their faces, almost exactly identical to my mother’s, caught me off guard and I stopped dead in my tracks. My grandma nudged me to continue moving. I could feel my heart beating in my throat. A fast hard thump ringing in my ears. I kept my head down, avoiding eye contact. When we reached them I stopped. We all did. For what felt like an eternity we just gazed into each other’s eyes, examining one another. Eventually, a short raven-haired girl took my mom’s trembling hand and pulled her into an embrace, it was like she had broken a barrier and an overwhelming feeling of safety and familiarity came crashing through. The older reached out to hug me and I flung my arms around her my eyes wet with tears.
“I’m your great aunt Pat,” she said enthusiastically. She gave off an aura that was motherly and welcoming. I introduced myself to her and the rest of my family.
They invited us into their house, and as I walked through the door there was a strong sweet sensation, a smell wafting from the kitchen. The smell of warm homemade cookies filled the air and brightened the house. The rest of the family entered after us, giggling and joking.
The entire experience was surreal, it was as if I was watching a movie of someone else’s life or as if mine was going in slow motion. I wanted to capture this moment in time, to save it forever but as much as I disputed it, time continues and life moves on and all you can do is seize the moment while you still have it because you never know when you’ll be able to feel this emotion again. The moment is now long gone, and it has started to whittle away in the depths of my memory, but the emotion I felt when I stepped into that house I will never forget. I was in such an unfamiliar place, but I felt like I was home. I was with strangers, but I felt like I was with my family.