We’ve all heard the expression, “Peeling back the onion” in reference to many-layered stories or investigations. The concept involves working from the dessicated outer layers of a given onion, peeling back those weathered layers and getting to the juicy, tasty innards. “Oh, peel that onion, that ON Yun, Have some fun, son. Pa- Peel that onion.” Okay, these lyrics will only make you cry, just like fresh onion vapors or Led Zepellin’s the lemon song lyrics. Toxic to sensitive membranes… eyes, ears, nose, and lips. But how do you peel an onion you can’t see? One that may not even exist?
Enter DNA and the internet revolution. What had been science fiction among science fiction minded folks in the 1950’s came to pass in the 1990’s like a speeding bullet and has continued to flood into the present day. Uh, curiosity stirred for various reasons, and the ticklish “What if…” nagged at that unconscious hair ball in her psyche. Life’s bell tower clock was running faster and nearing its final gongs. Urgency broke through latent consciousness like a 17 year locust digs out of its burrow, eager to live fully and fly, and do that ga-ga-ga thing they do.
[Okay, focus, BS. This is the critical meeting of fate and faith.] You see, my wife’s fate was given to her. Her life was mysteriously determined by others; and yet, somewhere deep in her consciousness, faith kept moving upward to complete the mystery, to come to completion. As you have read in the last two installments, the reunion of siblings was coming. Magically via texts and emails and Facebook, ten days ago she met up with her half sister and full brother on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a span of 4.3 miles that my bride has always feared crossing.
There we were, a bit anxious about meeting folks who were strangers about to become permanent family members in a sort of reverse adoption process. I drove as she navigated the simple directions to her new sister’s home. Strangely it was as simple as sticking a stamp on a letter. They hugged and welcomed one another exuberantly and then eyeballed each other thoroughly. ( I would have done the opposite and checked for weapons first, but that’s just me. At no time did anyone suspect this was an elaborate Nigerian financial scam, however.)
Before the screen door settled back in its latch, we were sitting down with Uncle B and Aunt M. Uncle B had grown up in the same household with my wife’s new siblings. He was only 8 years older than the oldest sibling, so he functioned like a big brother more than an uncle. Photos, stories, family news like a hot nail gun began to ooze and fill up the space and time until the little bro J and his long time girl K showed up. (Thank God they all have different initials.) The intensity kicked up a notch or two as each moment brought a new connection that merely cemented the known information. Everyone present seemed intent on gently excavating this archaelogical dig. No shovels or picks were used, just fine brushes and baby breath. No politics or religion crept into the room. No surprise since Sweetie, the 130 pound rottweiler/black lab mix, stood guard. She looks like a whiskey barrel with legs, head, and a tail.
Being the outlaw in-law, I did not want to distract from my wife’s new family interactions, so I suppressed my charm and humor as best I could. I did not want her people to love or hate us because of me. (Not sure why I don’t do this all the time, do you?) Anyway, we comfortably continued the chat fest through dinner and into the dark of Friday night, laughing at the pranks and jokes of young J, who like most teenaged boys prank-called pizza shops to order a pizza with no sauce and one with no crust. Unlike other grown teen boys, J still had the 40 year old tape recording of his prank calls on his phone, which he played for us. Hysterical. Then there were the homemade videos of his girl’s cooking show/ weather channel outtakes: marvels of culinary and meteorological delights. K is a hoot, born for the stage.When we stopped laughing it was time to sleep. Fortunately for all of us, we had another full day together, filled with improbable stories about imperfect parents.
I don’t know about you, my Blog stars, but if life is a huge jig saw puzzle, then most of my wife’s life has been about creating her own pieces, hoping to find a picture, a place where they all fit together harmoniously. There have been many forced fits and snaps that did not feel quite right. Awkward comes to mind. Antiphonal does also, like your own voice coming back up the empty well as you shout down, “Are you my mother? My mother? My mother?”
I recalled a favorite book we read to our children. Are You My Mother?
“Remember reading that to the girls?”
“The little bird goes searching for its mother, and it asks a steam shovel and a car and a dog and a cat… to no avail. Nope, you’re not my mother.”
“I do remember just squeezing our girls. They knew who their mother was. I loved tucking them in at night.”
“And you’ve been a fine mother all around.”
“I hope so.”
“Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Now the circle is complete. The onion is peeled. The bridge traversed.”
“I wasn’t so scared on this trip across the bridge, did you notice?”
“Yep. You are riding on the backs of angels, my dear.”
“Yeah, that’s what it feels like. I can’t fall. I can’t fail. I’m home.”
The next day at S’s living room, as we admired the siblings photos on the wall beside the big television screen, sister S said to my bride, “I’ve decided to add your photo right here in the middle.”
“For an orphan, then an only child, then the oldest of four,” my girl whispered, “being cozily in the middle of my siblings feels so snug and so right.”