A Mother’s Gift

You met Libby last Sunday. Her life was turned upside down when she learned her beloved mother had kept the fact that Libby was adopted from her, only disclosing the information in a letter given to her after her mother’s death. Here is the second part of her story.

A Mother’s Gift, Part Two

Fleur de Lis was deep into the annual Mothers’ Day madness leaving Libby very little time to obsess over her adoption.  Every holiday in a flower shop brings the intricate dance of figuring out exactly how many dozens and dozens of fresh stems to order so that every customer’s request for a special bouquet for mom, grandma, aunt or mother figure – all white flowers please , colorful spring mix, classic red roses – can be filled without having a glut of flowers left over.  

Libby and her staff survived the holiday, but not without Libby thinking of the mother she had just buried.  The past couple weeks of working long days, she had almost forgotten the DNA test kit until it arrived in the mail on Wednesday.  Opening the white box, she examined the contents.  The saliva collection tube, the funnel lid and the tube top.  Never in her life did she think she would be spitting into a tube, registering it online and mailing it off to be analyzed. But in for a penny, in for a pound.   Libby followed the directions to the T and popped it in the mail the next day.  The accompanying literature stated she could expect her results within 3 to 5 weeks. To Libby it seemed like a lifetime.

A watched pot never boils.  Even now, Libby could hear her mother saying those words to her when she had been impatient for something to happen.  When Libby would sit staring at the phone willing it to ring, her mother would find a chore for her to do to pass the time.  Her mother’s heart had been kind, but she didn’t indulge idleness.  Libby tried to heed these words now and stop constantly checking her email for the results of her test.  She forced herself to stay busy. The shelves of vases and other floral necessities in her beloved flower shop had never been neater.  She spring cleaned her apartment, her closet was Instagramable, and when her dentist called with a last-minute opening, she got her teeth cleaned.  She and Carolyn went on a hike each Sunday, checked out a couple new restaurants in town and saw two movies.  The one chore Libby had been putting off was going through the boxes she had brought from her mother’s.  As week   three of waiting became week four, she decided it was time to rip the band-aid off.  She invited Carolyn over for Thai takeout, a bottle of Portuguese wine and sorting through the mementos of her mother’s life.  

Amy Winehouse was singing the blues on the stereo, there was a chilled bottle of Vinho Verde on the coffee table with two glasses, and a wall of storage boxes awaiting sorting and purging when Carolyn arrived.  Libby had been avoiding the trip down memory lane that was contained in those boxes and was grateful for Carolyn’s company.  She was also a little apprehensive of what she might find.  If her mother had kept her adoption secret, had she kept any other secrets?  She fervently wished she could unknow that little secret, but that wasn’t how life works.

The first thing was ordering their dinner.  They decided to split some pad Thai so they would have room to share some dumplings and spring rolls.  With dinner ordered, Libby put her wine down and grabbed her box cutter to open the first box. Her mother’s storage closet had been full of boxes all neatly labeled.   The boxes had a theme and that theme was “Libby”. She and Carolyn started pulling papers out, examining the keepsakes Elaine had treasured enough to pack and store all these years.  “Oh my goodness, she must have kept every slip of paper you scribbled on!”  They opened several more boxes before dinner arrived and they were all the same.  If Libby had colored or written on a piece of paper, Elaine had saved it, often dating the item.  There was a poem she had written in third grade and a book report on The Cricket in Times Square from fifth grade. If Libby had created it, Elaine had kept it. “Well this makes it pretty simple, we just need to trash all this stuff.”

Luckily at that point, the doorman buzzed to say their dinner was on the way up, providing a welcome diversion.  After opening up the steaming, delicious smelling cartons and divvying up the food, the friends settled into their dinners. Other than the music, which was now Adele, the room was pretty quiet, each woman lost in her own thoughts. 

Twenty minutes later, Carolyn set her plate down and turned to face her friend directly. “Libby, you are my best friend but now I’m putting on my attorney hat.  I believe you need to put this ‘opening boxes only to throw out all the contents’ mission on the back burner.  You never destroy evidence halfway through a case.  There is still too much unknown.  If in the end you make a conscientious decision – not a rash decision – to trash all this, I’ll rent and pay for the shredder.  Now, do you have any chocolate?”

No chocolate, so they cracked open their fortune cookies and read their fortunes.  “Oh, please. ‘When you can’t find sunshine, be the sunshine!’ I’m sure that’s how people think of me at the office.  I walk down the hallway and they say, ‘Here comes Sunshine!’”  Libby wasn’t sure about her fortune either. ‘Make each day your masterpiece.’ Did it refer to her floral designs or did it mean stop making a mess of your life?

With an agreement to put a halt to sorting through the boxes until they had more information, the friends said goodnight.  After Carolyn left, Libby went back to obsessively checking her inbox.  She didn’t have to wait long.  Opening her email the next morning, there it was.  The much-anticipated, dreaded email from 23andMe welcoming her and telling her her reports were ready.  Her heart was pounding as she sat frozen. Curiosity quickly took control and she clicked on the message.  After logging in, she clicked on her DNA Relatives report.  She couldn’t believe there were so many.  There was someone out there who shared 24.4% DNA with her!  Several people listed as first cousins.  There were possible second cousins, third to fourth cousins!  She was excited and terrified at the same time.  Clicking on the different relatives, a curious theme started to develop.  Over ten of her matches lived in the same town, including her 24.4% match.  When she googled the town, she discovered it was about 30 miles south of Pittsburg.  Before heading to the shower, she printed the report and texted Carolyn to see if she could meet for dinner.

They met at Toscanos where the mouthwatering smells of garlic, tomatoes and baking bread helped to calm Libby’s nerves.  Carolyn studied the report off and on through dinner, taking breaks to digest the information.  Libby thought this must be part of what made her such a great attorney.  She didn’t rush to conclusions.  While quick to absorb information, Carolyn tended to let it percolate for a while before making any judgments.  The waiter cleared their plates and both women ordered dessert and a cappuccino. When their coffees arrived, Carolyn was ready to address the list.  “So, what do you want to do?  Are you going to contact any of them?”

Libby’s head had been spinning all day with thoughts of what she was going to do with her new information.  And she had made a decision.  “No, I’m not going to email anyone.  I’m going on a road trip.  I’m going to go visit the town where so many people I share DNA with live, it’s only five hours away.  I’m leaving Sunday.  After that, I’m not sure.”

To be continued…

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