Once more, with feeling

About a week ago, I posted a piece about a day that seemed to offer a strangely cohesive theme of solitude, singularity. But I cheated you. I left out something important.

That long and surprising solo day happened to be Mothers’ Day, and for the first time in my life, it occurred to me that somewhere, my biological mother was probably not celebrating.

This picture was taken at my grandparents' house - Thanksgiving 2011. I was home for the first time since matriculating to U. Va.

This picture was taken at my grandparents’ house – Thanksgiving 2011. I was home for the first time since matriculating to U. Va.

I only have one mother: Gina Delgado. Elementary school teacher from New Jersey, makes the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted, can train any dog, blessed with limitless patience. She has been my tooth fairy, my Easter Bunny, my Santa Claus. She has taken care of me when I was sick, dealt with my middle school angst (even forgiving my brief emo phase). Gripping the armrest and pressing her foot against an imaginary brake on the passenger’s side, she taught me how to drive in my high school parking lot, right next to the football field where she watched me graduate as salutatorian of my class.

lasagna

Lasagna is typically the first meal I want when I return from school. Tonight, it was my last meal at home before I return to Charlottesville for the summer.

Gina Delgado is my mother.

But on the west coast of the United States, there’s another woman. Let’s call her Jen. She watched her body change drastically over nine months, enduring a break up, her parents’ divorce, a move that uprooted her and transplanted her halfway across the country, and also the 10th grade in just one year. Any one of those things could have pushed a person to the edge, but Jen stubbornly kept me in her womb, protecting me from abortion and ingestible chemicals that could have wrecked my fragile dividing cells. And after all of that, plus two days that she was legally granted for deliberation after my birth, Jen gave me to my mother, Gina, and willingly receded into a stack of adoption papers filed in my father’s desk drawer.

Through the eery wonders of Facebook, I’ve managed to find Jen. She doesn’t know it yet; I haven’t contacted her; but I could. Luckily for me, her Facebook is highly permeable. Facebook’s many creepy privacy lapses allow me to observe, safe behind my computer screen, as she checks in at antique shops and posts statuses about food. In one particularly thrilling picture, she is posed in front of a restaurant that specializes in chicken and waffles – my favorite comfort food – and her hair is styled just like mine, bangs framing the brow, cheek bones, and round blue eyes we share. My voyeurism is maybe odd, and most likely would be disturbing to Jen, but I think anyone estranged from a blood relation probably shares my deep curiosity.

At dinner with my parents on Saturday night, Billy ordered a Green Flash – the beer brewed by a man who (from what I’ve gathered from Facebook photos) seems to be Jen’s significant other. Across the table from him, my mother asked about his recent graduation. Unwittingly delivered by a waitress, the lonely bottle of beer jarred what was otherwise a moment of family unity. But sitting there, chewing my scallops, I felt a moment of peaceful detachment. Somehow, the irreconcilable facets of my life – the real living family that surrounds me and the biological ghost family whose genetic heritage I carry – had come together. Briefly, insubstantially, inconclusively – but there.

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