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She walked out of the Jetway, pushing a double stroller carrying small, tow-headed and groggy identical twin girls, with their older sister, brother and father trailing behind. Except for the blonde hair, she looked every inch my motherómore so than either my sister or I ever have or ever will I suspect. We had written letters, exchanged pictures and a few phone calls, but just like when you read all the books and attend all the classes in preparation for having a baby, no amount of groundwork could have prepared any of us for what this newest arrival would mean to our family, least of all me.

I was sixteen when I learned I had an older sister. My mom had been involved with a married man in her mid-twenties when she found herself pregnant. Being in no position to raise a child on her own, she gave the baby girl up for adoption. A few years later, she met and married my dad and had three more children óme, my sister and brother. She told my dad about the baby before they were married, but opted not to tell us when we were young.


When I first learned of my half-sisterís existence, I hated her. In my mind, she had ruined my perfect family and usurped my esteemed role as oldest child. I knew my motherís decisions both to give up the baby and finally to tell us about her had been exceedingly painful, but I felt no compassion, only anger. Instead of thinking my mom had marveled at all the newness and excitement of being pregnant with me, I believed she grieved over the child she had given away with each of my kicks. I felt the special connection my mom and I should share because of my birth order had been severed by a person with whom I could never possibly share any kind of bond. It was a good thing that we would probably never meet. What could I, would I, possibly say?

Six years passed. I had graduated from college, gotten a job and was living a more or less normal post-college life. Somewhat out of the blue one early fall day, my mom asked if it would be okay if she opened the adoption files that had been locked by the courts for over twenty years. She didnít want to search herself, but she didnít want to prevent anyone from searching for her. Fortunately, I had matured enough in those years to take this news much more in stride than I had the initial information, and I agreed to her opening the documents. Still, I was tentative.

Just before Motherís Day in 1992, my mom got a call from the Bureau of Vital Statistics that they had a match to her information, and her biological child might contact her. The day after Motherís Day, a letter arrived. It had been just over six months since she had opened the records. My sisterís search had been even shorter. She had only filed her papers at the end of April and was informed two weeks later that they had a match. A scurry of exchanges via mail and phone followed that first letter (this was before e-mail) as we learned more about my sister, her adoptive family, and her husband and children, who consisted at the time of one daughter and son. She sent each of us our own letter, introducing herself. How I wish I had kept mine! But the fear I was feeling over what welcoming this person into our lives might meanónot to mention my own fastidiousness, a trait that I would later find I share with heródid not allow me to. I figured the novelty of the situation would soon wear thin, and once the major questions were answered as to how everything transpired, we would all go back to life as we knew it. Well, maybe we would exchange Christmas cards.

It came as a huge relief to my mother that my sister had not ended up in foster care and that she had grown up healthy and happy. We learned that she had been adopted at three months by a couple who had a biological son eleven years older than she. They had moved from our city to a small town in the Midwest when she was fairly young, and that is where she grew up. She got married right out of college and had started a family soon thereafter.

It came as a huge shock to me that although my mother did not name her, her first name, Jolee, is almost the same as my middle name, Jolie. Moreover, she chose my birthday as her wedding date, and it is in April, not June or anything as predictable as that. We both like to cross-stitch, a hobby not practiced by any of the other members of our families of origin. We share the same love of the color purple and have a flair for decorating. No longer able to ignore the miracles of similarity, my heart was softened, and I finally met my sister.

Originally, Jolee had planned to travel with her family to meet us soon after first making contact, but then discovered she was pregnant . . . with twins. So it wasnít until the summer of 1994 that they finally were able to make the trip. The connection between all of us was amazingómagical even. We had gotten to know each other somewhat through the letters and phone calls, but when we finally saw each other in person, it was like reconnecting with that friend that you donít see for years, but when you do, itís like no time has passed.

They came for the fourth of July. It seemed like no small coincidence that the fireworks display that my family had always gone to when we were growing upóbut hadnít been scheduled for years before and hasnít happened sinceówas on that year. We had a blast watching them, eating fried chicken and ice cream, running through the sprinkler and taking scads of pictures. It was a family reunion for a family really meeting for the first time.

In the years since meeting the sister I thought I didnít want, Jolee and I have grown close enough for me to ask her to be one of only three bridesmaids in my wedding. We have shared war stories of marriage and childrearing over phone calls, in old-fashioned letters and now mostly via e-mail. Occasionally, the fact that we werenít raised in the same household or place is evident in our exchanges, but more often, I continue to discover our similarities. Just recently, I found out that we have the same favorite flowersópink roses with periwinkle wildflowers.

The word ďsisterĒ is rife with meaning. She is someone with whom we share biology and/or life experience; to whom we tell our secrets and with whom (and sometimes about whom) we gossip; for whom we will go to the ends of the Earth. Growing up, I felt lucky to have one sister to share these experiences with. I didnít think I was missing anything. But when Jolee walked off that plane, I let her walk into my heart, and my life is all the richer for it.

© 2006 from Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

 

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Haven On Earth

A Great Adventure

Landscape USA

Fight Memory Loss

Nancy's Healthy Recipes

How To Avoid Identity Theft

Kid Stuff

Fraud How To Get Off The Mailing List

Hit Him Again

Everybody knew the roof was leaking, but the church kept putting off replacement. Finally some areas of the ceiling in the sanctuary began to sag. They called a congregational meeting. A very wealthy member rose and pledged $300 toward fixing the roof. Just then a small piece of the ceiling fell and hit him on the head. Somebody in the back of the church said, "Hit him again, Lord!"

Strawberry Cake from Scratch

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup strawberry puree made from frozen sweetened strawberries

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and dry strawberry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. Blend in vanilla and strawberry puree. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a small knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in their pans over a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, before tapping out to cool completely.

 

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