A Mother’s Gift

When my COVID 19 quarantine days began to melt one into the other to the point I didn’t even realize Memorial Day Weekend was upon us, I needed to find a new diversion. There are only so many blog posts you can write about at-home beauty treatments, cleaning your closet and other ways to pass the time. Since I loved reading serial stories growing up, I decided to give it a try. As always, I don’t pretend to be writing great literature, just a small diversion from our crazy daily life. Thanks for reading.

A Mother’s Gift – Part One

It was Friday morning, 9:00 o’clock. Libby was sitting in the empty attorney’s office in hopes of concluding the final paperwork of her mother’s death. She had sat in the same chair over five years ago when her father passed away.  Her father had cared for Libby all his life and he cared for her in his death, leaving her money to purchase her beloved flower shop, Fleur de Lis.  Now her mother had passed and she had spent the last two weeks taking care of the multitude of details that come with a parent’s death.  Luckily the family home had been sold two years earlier when her mother moved into an assisted-living facility so Libby didn’t have to deal with packing up an entire household and selling a house. As soon as she finished today, she planned to leave this town where she grew up and start the drive back to West Grove. She was eager for life to get back to normal but wondering how her life could ever seem normal without her beloved mother. They usually spoke on the phone several times a week and Libby knew she would grab her phone to call her mom before realizing she was no longer there to answer

Brian Carter had been her mother’s lawyer since before Libby was born.  His hair was white, his suits old fashioned, and his oxblood brogues were always freshly polished.  He shuffled into the office and gave her a kind smile.  “Just a couple more things and you can get on the road.” Looking down for a moment, he seemed distracted. “Elaine, um, your mother, left you a letter.” Not looking up into Libby’s eyes, he handed her the letter.  Libby opened it slowly and began to read.

            My Darling Daughter, Please read this letter with the knowledge that I loved you from the first day we met.   I’ve held a secret that I should have shared with you a long time ago. Even though I knew in my heart I should talk with you, I never found a way to tell you this, but you were adopted.  You came to your father and me when you were three days old.  We were never able to have a child of our own, so we were elated. I’ll always be grateful to the woman who gave birth to you, but in my mind and in my heart, I was always your mother,even more so after your father passed.  I think I was afraid if you knew it would change things between us and somehow I would lose you.  Please forgive me. My attorney has information regarding your adoption, including some information about your birth parents that he will give you. Please don’t hate me, I just loved you too much to share you.          Your Mom

Libby sat frozen.  After a few moments, she carefully refolded the letter and put it back in the envelope.  She muttered a thank you to the attorney and left the office.

For the next several weeks Libby was in a stupor, unable to process this new information.  Her world as she knew it had completely exploded.  Her parents were both deceased, she had no siblings and almost no extended family.  Her mother had one sister, Beth, but she hadn’t been able to attend Elaine’s funeral.  Libby only remembered seeing her twice while growing up but to help begin her search for any clues regarding her birth, Libby telephoned her.  She read her mother’s letter to her and while her aunt acknowledged that she knew Libby was adopted, she firmly denied having any other information.  Beth was ten years younger than her sister and they had lived on opposites coasts for many years.

Several weeks later, back in the flower shop, she received a text from her best friend.  Libby – You need to have your lily-white ass at the bar in Café Isabella’s today at 6:00.  Carolyn. Her best friend for the past decade, Carolyn never swore  so Libby understood she was serious.  They originally met waiting in line at a Starbucks soon after Libby moved to West Grove.  Both had ducked in from the biting, sleeting rain in search of life sustaining coffee and bonded over the fact that they seemed to be the only two people in the place who saw the absurdity of waiting in line to fork over nearly $5.00 for a pimped up cup of coffee.  Libby had just started working at the flower shop, Fleur de Lis, and Carolyn had just started as an associate attorney for Grayson & Thomas.  Over the past decade their friendship grew.  They had seen each other through professional crises, boyfriend catastrophes and bad haircuts.

Walking through the door at 6:05 that evening, Libby allowed the familiarity of the cafe to wash over her for a moment before heading toward the bar.  Even if the bar had been crowded, with her grey linen suit and layer-bob haircut, her friend would have been easy to spot. “So, you are still among the living.”  Carolyn’s sarcastic greeting was softened by her comforting hug.  Libby’s formal, polite response alluding to work issues didn’t hold any water with Carolyn.  “Libs, I know you need to grieve the loss of your mother, but you don’t have to do it alone. I haven’t seen you once since the funeral.” 

After weeks of holding in her pain and confusion and getting through each day by focusing on work and putting one foot in front of the other, Libby finally burst into tears, sobbing right in the middle of their favorite bar.  Carolyn grabbed her by the shoulders and steered her over to end of the bar, seating herself to shield Libby from the view of others.  As Libby’s sobs slowly quieted into intermittent gasps, she rifled through her purse, pulled out her mother’s letter and shoved it into Carolyn’s hands.  “I feel so lost.  The woman I idolized my entire life isn’t even my mother!!!”

Carolyn quickly read the letter. She sat quietly for a moment still holding the letter and sipping chardonnay, collecting her thoughts.  “Elaine may not have given birth to you, but she was certainly your mother.  The two of you had a special bond.  Of course this came as a shock, but maybe you should try to get more facts.”

“You don’t understand.  Growing up, I was never the smartest, the thinnest or the prettiest. I wasn’t a cheerleader or prom queen.  I didn’t win any college scholarships.  But I was always all right.  My mom believed in me and always cheered me on.  Now it turns out I was rejected, unwanted and given away.”

Carolyn took a deep breath before responding. “That’s bull crap.  You have no idea what the details of the situation are, and you absolutely cannot dispute the fact that you were truly and properly loved.  You did ask the attorney for the adoption information.  Perhaps it’s time to investigate.”

While afraid of what she might learn, Libby had finally called Brian Carter for the adoption information.  She discovered that the adoption agency located in Daniel’s Ferry had been defunct for over 15 years and she wasn’t having any luck accessing her records online.  “Other than knowing my birth parents were young and healthy and that my mother is from Pennsylvania, I don’t have anything else.  I even called Aunt Beth and she doesn’t know anything. I have hit a brick wall.  I would just like to know why.  Why didn’t they want me.”  

They ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc for Libby and some yummy baked brie to share as their conversation veered onto other subjects.  Hot new attorney in the litigation department at work.  Men who send $100 bouquets to women whose last name they don’t know.  And through all their catching up, Carolyn’s mind had been in high gear, thinking about her friend’s dilemma.  “Libby, what about signing up for 23andMe?  You may not find your birth mother, but I bet you will find others that share your DNA.  I think you should give it a try.”

After devouring all the gooey, delicious brie and a second glass of wine, Libby and Carolyn said good night and headed home. Carolyn grabbed a taxi and Libby walked the short two blocks to her building.  Libby was exhausted from the long day at work and emotional evening.  After waiving to the doorman and collecting her mail, she took the elevator up to her small tenth-floor one bedroom overlooking the city.  The rain had dissipated, but she could still hear the wind blowing. Libby began to relax as she undressed and climbed into her soft pajamas.  With a freshly scrubbed face, she slid into her cozy bed and leaned back on her ridiculous mountain of pillows.  As tired as she was, she couldn’t resist firing up her laptop to begin checking out 23andMe.  Could a simple saliva test really be the key to finding her birth family?  After a short pros and cons argument with herself, she entered her credit card information and pushed the “Complete purchase” button.  Sleep came quickly and she slept soundly for the first time in weeks.

To be continued…

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