95: The Season for Discovery

95: The Season for Discovery

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

The Season for Discovery

Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.

~Michael J. Fox

The Christmas season often brings wonderful opportunities for renewing old friendships and developing new memories. As the Christmas of 2006 approached I had no idea that a miracle was about to happen to me. It was far more than an occasion to partake in the exchanging of gifts and the celebration of a delicious meal . . . it was the blending of two hearts joined together as a family.

All my life I had yearned for an older brother. As a small child, every year I asked for an older sibling and every year I was disappointed. It was lonely growing up as an only child. As I got older, and one year melted into the next, I realized that to have the brother I yearned for would remain a dream unfulfilled.

Then, in late fall of 2006—just a few weeks before Christmas—my life suddenly took a profound turn. A telephone call from my cousin, followed by a flurry of breathtaking events, indeed produced a full brother I had no idea I had.

I had only just recently met Fred for the first time, and now my husband Tony and I were about to spend Christmas with my newfound family.

On a night with gently falling snow, we gathered together at my brother’s home on Christmas Eve to enjoy this most special of nights together for the first time. My heart was lighter than it had been in many years. After the death of my son, I had lived a life of depression and anxiety. Finding a brother and his whole family was most certainly the perfect remedy for my ailing heart.

Fred was as eager to learn as I was to share as many memories as I could about the parents he had never known, but I had grown up with.

“What was Christmas like when you were a child?” he asked.

“It was usually just the three of us,” I explained. “Dad loved music and could play the organ and piano really well. When I was a young girl, he entered a contest, and as a result he won an organ. He played all kinds, including Christmas carols, and he was teaching me to play.”

“I would have loved to have heard him,” commented Fred.

“He also took charge of all the wrapping of gifts,” I shared. He would spend hours folding the tissue paper into intricate pleats. He worked so hard on it.” Fred listened intently as I continued. “Both Mom and Dad were good cooks and they prepared the Christmas feast together.”

“What was Mom like?” he queried.

“Mom loved the Christmas season just as much as I did. She would make special treats for Dad and me, and she was in charge of decorating the tree. It always looked beautiful to me.”

“I wish I had known her,” sighed Fred. “I only saw her once, when I was about four years old. My dad and I were on a streetcar in Toronto just before Christmas and it was snowing. We had just come from visiting a relative to give them their presents. It was late in the day—suppertime — and I was getting hungry. I sat next to Dad playing with a little toy truck. As I watched, a lady boarded the streetcar. She was pretty, with dark hair; glasses and she wore a tan coloured coat. She seemed to be mesmerized by both of us. She watched me intently as if she was trying to absorb everything there was to know about me. Then I saw her start to cry and she fled the streetcar into the darkness. I asked Dad about the lady, but it was only later that I found out her true identity.

“You know, I never forgot seeing my mother that evening. When I later learned who she was, I wondered what had happened.”

I took his hand and gently spoke. “I know our mom, Fred, and I know that giving you up would have broken her heart.”

I gently wiped the tears from my eyes and suggested to my brother that we go through photographs. He was anxious to know everyone in the pictures and the role they had played in my life.

“I have pictures too,” he said. “Would you like to see them?”

My brother produced photo after photo that he held dear. It was only when he came to one of a lady holding him as a young baby that I was startled. It seemed surreal. Tucked away, lovingly protected against the elements of time, lay the most beautiful picture I had ever seen.

“That’s me when I was about four months old with a friend of the family,” he explained. “I know I was placed for adoption when I was about six months old.”

I sat quietly trying to absorb everything that was happening. I could feel my hands start to shake and my breathing become a bit laboured.

“I really don’t know how to say this, Fred,” I explained, “but the woman in that photo is more than a family friend . . . that is you with our mother. And you—you are the brother I spent my childhood longing for.”

Christmas of 2006 will always hold a special place in my heart. My brother and I made wonderful discoveries together that year. We continue to grow as a family and I am eternally grateful for Fred, his wonderful wife Janet, and my beautiful nieces and great-nieces. They are truly my ultimate gift.

~Gail Sellers

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