My first year at Lane Community College in 1999 was amazing. However, the first day of my second year was life-changing.
I was about 20 people deep in a line back when Financial Aid was upstairs in the Center Building. A woman walked up to me and asked if she could help me. I knew this woman. I looked down at her name-tag just to be sure, then back up at her face. Yes I knew her. She, however, was looking at a stranger and waiting for a reply.
“Uhh … Uhhh,” I stammered. “I forgot something.” Turning to my friend I said “Come on Cari, we have to go now.” I felt like I had just been hit in the gut as I ran down the stairs of the Center Building. Cari stopped me and asked what was wrong. I looked up at her and said, “Cari, that was my Mom.”
I had only seen my biological mother once since my dad moved my brother and me away from her, north from California, 300 miles to Oregon. I was four years old at the time, and I had no idea where my mom was all those years. As it turned out she had been right at Lane with me for the past year.
We never crossed paths until that moment, and it was all too much for me. The rest of the day was a haze as I moved from one class to the next trying to meet the requirement of showing up in order to not be dropped.
When I got home I called my grandma and my brother to share the news. We were all shocked. They asked what she looked like, and if she looked happy and healthy and if she recognized me.
“She looks older, but I could tell it was her right away,” I replied. “She looks clean and sober if that is what you mean and, no she did not have a clue that she was speaking to her own daughter.”
For nearly ten weeks I spied on her. I would sit up in the old library and watch her from up above through the windows that looked down into the Center Building area. One time I came out of the bathroom and she brushed my shoulder on the way in. I would watch her interact with others and watch her work at the desk.
I needed that time to feel her out, to find out if she was a safe person to allow into my life after all those years. Since I was a little girl I dreamed of the day when I would get to live with my Mommy again. I imagined her combing the earth looking for her precious daughter, desperate to find me.
There were so many stories I had made up in my head of how life would be when we were finally reunited and these stories comforted me in some very dark times. I was a victim of her addictions and yet, at the same time, felt she was my hero who would some day rescue me. It had been at least five years since I gave up all of that nonsense and left her behind as she did me.
Could I find it in my heart to forgive her? Would I ever find the courage to reveal myself to her? I finally decided and wrote her a letter. I tried hard to keep my expectations low regarding what would happen once I made myself known to her.
I sealed the letter in an envelope, along with a picture of her teenage self holding my newborn self and my brother, then two, standing beside her with his round belly nearly poking out of his shirt.
In the photograph she looked like a happy and proud mother. I wrote in the letter that I am the baby in her arms. I told her about our meeting in the Financial Aid line and gave her my email address in case she decided that she wanted to talk. I delivered the letter to her co-worker and went home.
She responded, but the story doesn’t end well.
Continued in the June 5, 2015 edition of the Torch.