86: Imogene’s Girls

86: Imogene’s Girls

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Imogene’s Girls

I cannot forget my mother. She is my bridge.

~Renita Weems

For years I had been searching for my mother. Oh, I had a mom and a dad who raised me. They took care of me when I had staph infections and chickenpox and measles. They grounded me when I ignored my curfew, and comforted me when my boyfriend dumped me.

But since I was adopted, a huge part of me was still unknown. I had no idea who I looked like or where I got my personality. I wanted to fill in the missing pieces. I also wanted to find my birth mother so I could let her know how grateful I was for the decision she made, because I had been raised in a loving home by wonderful parents.

As a toddler, my family read picture books to me about being a “chosen child.” So when I was an adult and my parents shared all the adoption paperwork they had, I was not surprised by their openness. From the court papers they gave me, I discovered the name of my birth mother. It was an unusual name — Imogene Marcelle Gann. After I had called all the women who had the same first and last name and were around the right age — and none of them admitted to giving up a child for adoption — I gave up.

With all my heart, I wanted to find my biological mother… but I wanted it to be easy. I wanted her to just appear.

Unbeknownst to me, my husband Michael was doing some research, which was unlike him, since he usually viewed the Internet as a source of entertainment or a way of getting information on the weather. When he told me he dug into some online files and discovered my birth mother had died decades ago, I was amazed at what he had done for me… and saddened over what he had discovered.

The woman I was looking for had died when I was nine. I never even had the chance to meet her.

Again I thought my journey to fill in the missing pieces was over. I’d never see what the completed puzzle looked like.

Then Michael did something else out of character — he contacted a neighborhood friend who was a genealogy expert. This friend was an expert at navigating electronic bulletin boards and databases. A few days after she accepted the “mission,” she sent me an e-mail.

“Sioux — I think this message is for you. I found it on an adoption bulletin board. ‘Looking for a baby girl born in Missouri and given up for adoption in the mid or late fifties. Her biological mother was Imogene Gann.’ ” An e-mail address was included.

Without Jackie’s help, we never would have stumbled onto this. I replied to the notice (it was a cousin who posted it) and we arranged to talk later in the evening, after we both had gotten home from work.

I had a long conversation with the newly found cousin that evening, and my sorrow over my birth mother’s death turned to joy. I had a half-sister. And her name was Chris.

After the cousin was confident I was not crazy, she felt safe enough to give me my half-sister’s e-mail address. I was getting the chance to piece together the puzzle of my past.

In the months that followed, Chris and I had marathon phone sessions — sometimes talking so long our ears went numb. E-mails went back and forth in an attempt to catch up on lost time. What was my favorite Saturday morning cartoon? My best birthday memory? Who was the first celebrity I had a crush on? I had endless questions for Chris, too, since she had lived with our mother for seven years. We were both trying to fill in the holes.

I flew to Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with my sister. When our eyes locked across a crowded airport lobby, we ran into each other’s arms and sobbed. It was an instant connection — as if we had known each other decades ago and were now reuniting. And as I held on tightly to Chris, I felt another pair of arms encircling me… I felt the woman who gave birth to me embracing both of her girls.

During my visit we hunched over pictures. I finally got to see what Imogene looked like, and I received a much-treasured gift — a photo album filled with pictures of my birth mother. So that’s where I got my high forehead and my smirky smile — from her.

After almost two years of cards and calls and e-mails, Chris and I settled into being sisters. She was coming to St. Louis for Easter. We were getting excited about decorating eggs and eating chocolate bunnies — stuff that we missed out on during our childhood. But then, two weeks before her flight, we got word that someone else had responded to the same Internet notice that had introduced us. It seems that Imogene had given birth to a girl before she had me, and this girl — like me — had been given up for adoption. And she lived only a two-hour drive from me.

Chris and I drove halfway across the state to spend the day with Nancy, our newest (and oldest) sister. More photos were pulled out and compared. We chatted and laughed and cried together. Chris and I shifted a little to make room for her in our sisterhood.

But as glad as we were to piece the puzzle together, I wondered why the notice on the Internet bulletin board had not been removed once I responded. Why had it been left up for Nancy to find? And why had my husband gone against his character to elicit Jackie’s help? What were the chances that Jackie might have missed that single notice on that one bulletin board?

In my heart, I know it was not coincidence. I know these weren’t just ordinary events. I know these weren’t just random happenings that resulted in the three of us finding each other.

No, in my heart, I know that it was our mama making the arrangements. She made sure that everything was aligned so that her girls would be together. We didn’t have each other growing up, and we had lost her, but now we could live on as sisters… with her loving embrace encircling all three of us.

~Sioux Roslawski

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