The Day My Whole Life—and Past—Changed
My mind and my heart are both racing. I'm furious with myself for getting drawn into this story only to discover halfway through that it's false, pieced together.
"Everything I'm sharing with you is true," she says, eyeing me with a calm intensity that commands my attention, if not my trust. "Your birth mother spent many hours being interviewed by her social worker. I understand why you feel the way you do, but..."
I stare back at her with my teeth clenched and lips sealed. I've shut down. My parents had made me feel cherished all my life, and now, for the first time, I felt unwanted.
"Before leaving, your birth mother expressed the wish that you would lead a full and happy life," Amy reads. "Your birth mother was unable to say good-bye to her social worker, stating she 'hated good-byes.'"
The room is finally silent. She's done. Abruptly, I gather my bag and coat and stand to leave. As I reach the door, Amy jumps up and thrusts a fresh copy of her report at me, blank sheet on top. "This is yours to keep," she offers.
"Thanks," I say, curtly. Then, softening, "Really, thank you." It's not her fault. The elevator reaches the lobby and I bolt out of it, past the receptionist and through the heavy doors that lead to the street. I move in quick, purposeful strides toward where my car is parked and climb in, close my eyes and place both hands on the steering wheel, appreciating how solid it is, how dependable and familiar.
"Okay," I whisper to myself. "My life is still intact, nothing has changed."
But it's a lie, and I know it. I turn the ignition and let the car idle while I call my office to say I'm taking the rest of the day off. Then I call Leeba, our nanny, to let her know I'm coming home and I'll pick Carter up from his playdate on the way. She will have gotten Veronica off the school bus by the time we arrive.
I pull into the flow of traffic, drive two blocks and stop at a light. My mind is cranking. I cannot stop thinking about this family—the patchwork of adopted and biological kids, their skinny, uptight mother and supersuccessful dad. I can't stop trying to picture this prominent black family. I know prominent black families. I married into one. My husband, Johnny, is the bright, hilarious middle son of black business icon Earl Graves, Sr.
How hard could it be to figure out who these people are? Given a few snippets of key information, a decent search engine and enough time, everyone is findable. Not that it would even require much. With black folks, forget six degrees of separation; we're down to about two on a bad day.
As I turn east at 96th Street, Ebony magazine springs to mind. I'll search its archives, I decide, as famous faces of the era start scrolling through my head. Duke Ellington...Lena Horne...Ella Fitzgerald. The report said her father was tall (not Sammy Davis, Jr.) and brown skinned (not Harry Belafonte), and his wife was black (not Sidney Poitier). Her mother was a singer. Maybe she was the big moneymaker and he managed her career. Dorothy Dandridge was married to that tap-dancing brother...what was his name? Nichols? Nicholas?
Suddenly, I catch myself. What am I doing?
Seriously? Am I seriously entertaining being related to any of these people? These stars? I feel like a fool. But as I drive toward home, I can't let it go: the glamorous mother, the musically gifted sister, the big gap between the first child—my birth mother—and the twins, who were so close in age to me. My mouth goes dry and tears flood my eyes.
I pull the car to the curb. "No!" I yell. "No-no-no!" I cup my hands over my mouth to stifle my cries as I struggle to fit the pieces together and, simultaneously, push them away.
I can't be right. This can't be true...this can't be happening.
Timolin. Timolin. Timolin. The name of my old college friend rings over and over again in my head. It's her family. I know this family.
To find out what happened next—and yep, it will both surprise and move you—pick up Postcards from Cookie (from which this excerpt was adapted).