June 21, 2018
As my mom and I headed downstairs, I couldn’t help noticing that my hearing became distorted. Every sound became amplified.
“Click-clack! Click-clack! Click-clack!” my mother’s shoes sounded like a hammer banging on the ground as she came down the stairs and my ears began to ring. As I got to the car and opened the door, the interior light was blinded me, and my vision became blurred. I started to wonder what was happening because I was now experiencing vertigo.
With two hands on the door, I managed to get into the car. My mother got in on her side. “BOOOM!” Damn! Why did she slam the door so damn hard?, I said to myself. “zzzZZZzzz…CLICK!” Damn her fucking seat belt!
My mouth became dry and small beads of sweat began forming around my hairline. I looked at myself in the sun visor. My baby hair started to curl, and my stomach felt tight and nauseous. Oh goodness! I was experiencing a panic attack. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and counted backward “4…3…2…1… “You’ve got this.” I said to myself as I expanded my fingers and toes.
I started the car and drove to the restaurant, Local Kitchen & Wine Bar. The ride was quiet and uncomfortable. To change the vibe, I turned on the radio. Madonna was singing.
I have a tale to tell
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well
I was not ready for the fall
Too blind to see the writing on the wall
A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, ’til then
It will burn inside of me
“What?” I said to myself, “I haven’t heard that song in years. Why is this song coming on now?” I quickly changed the station and caught the tail end of Drake’s “God’s Plan.”
♫ It’s a lot of bad things ♫
That they wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’
They wishin’ on me
“Oh, I love this song!” I felt better, and I reminded myself that this journey was happening for a reason. It was in God’s hands because it was God’s Plan…not mine nor my mother’s.
It’s a lot of bad things
♫ That they wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’ ♫
They wishin’ on me
We pulled up to a red light, and I turned the radio up a bit and began to bounce a little in my seat. I was feeling optimistic. As my anxiety melted away, my stomach began to growl. This was a great sign because when I get stressed, I can’t eat. The light turned green, and I pressed the pedal to go. I was excited to get to the restaurant. I was ready to tell my mother about how I’ve been feeling–that was until “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo came on the radio. She belted,
Wooh! I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch
Even when I’m crying crazy
Yeah, I got ___problems, that’s the human in me
Bling bling, then I solve ’em, that’s the goddess in me
“PHFUUUUUUUKKKK! Why oh why!”, I said to myself. Why this song?” I looked at my mother out of the corner of my eye, and she turned her head and stared out of the window. I turned the song down a bit and pretended I had to sneeze. Sneeze? “Aaah Choo! Ahhhh…Ahhh…Wooh…” Why did I decide to fake sneeze?”, I ask myself. I looked over at my mom. She continued to stare out of the car window.
Finally! I pulled up to the restaurant. We both quickly jumped out of the car. Someone graciously greeted us “Welcome to Local Kitchen & Wine Bar” and led us to the patio. Our server asked us if we wanted to see the drink menu, and we both chirped, “YES!”
My mother smiled at me and I at her, and we began to small talk.
“Janeen, this is a nice place!”
“Yes, I knew you’d like it here. It’s so much better than grabbing pizza.”
The server came back with the menu, and we both order red wine. The server then told us about the specials, and we placed our orders.
“Oh, everything looks so nice!” my mother said. I could see she was struggling for things to say. The server brought the wines. We toasted and clinked our glasses. I took a sip and raised my glass for another click of the glass. “Oh!” she laughed awkwardly. I took a large yet sophisticated gulp. I needed some good juju.
The History of Clinking Glasses
Why do we clink our wine glasses together before we drink? According to Wikipedia and other online sources, no one really knows. However, there are theories behind this high-spirited practice.
Some researchers claim that during the Middle Ages, a time of chaos and mistrust, glasses were clinked together so that wine sloshed between cups to prove that one drinker wasn’t trying to poison the other. Another thought is that glasses were clinked together to create a noise that would scare away evil spirits lurking nearby.
Well, I certainly wasn’t trying to poison my mother, nor did the thought of doing that cross my mind. However, I did need to ward off as many evil spirits as possible because it was about to get really real tonight. Whatever the reasoning for clinking glasses, this moment was a perfect time. <<
After looking around the restaurant for a few awkward moments, I decided to cut start the conversation. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember what I said, and I find it strange that I didn’t write it down in my journal. But here’s what I do remember. I remember that time and space began to move in slow motion…and that I watched my mother’s tears fall like lonely raindrops on a dry windowpane. I remember taking her hand and that it was icy, thin, and knotty like a gnarled branch and that at that moment I realized how alone she was. My father was gone, and she had to manage his death and my adoption all by herself.
I remember our food was presented in slow motion and the server was smiling at us with a professional grin. I remember my mother drinking slowly and looking away and then back at me and saying (slowly). “But….yooooouu arrrreee OUR dauuughteer! Yoouuu arrre ooours!”
Those words, “You are ours.” brought me back to reality and everything move back to it’s normal space.
“Mom. I’m not yours. I’m not theirs; I’m not anyone’s. I belong to me. I belong to God.”
“But you are mine! I feel like-like you came right from me.”, she wept. “I mean, we even look alike.”
“Mom, you are my mother, but I didn’t come from you. I know it sounds harsh, but it true, and just because you didn’t bring me here to Earth doesn’t make you or dad any less.”
“Then I don’t understand why you are making this into a-a big thing? I’m sorry that you found out that way you did. For that, I’m truly sorry. I just didn’t have the strength to tell you. But we are your family!”
“Mom. Let me explain what a normal day is like for me now that I know I’m not biologically yours. I wake up a look in the mirror, and all of the things that I saw that were traces of you begin to fade. You smile, your beauty, all of the things that I was proud to have because YOU, so I thought gave me, are now gone. And my skin complexion. Ha! You know how much I was bullied. But I knew I got my skin tone from dad because of what you two told me, and I believed it, and I held on to your words that I thought were true. But they aren’t.”
“But, Janeen.” my mother said. “You look just like your father and your Nana Jackson. So I don’t know why it’s a big deal.”
“Mom! I’m not dad, I’m not Nana, and I’m not you.” More tears came down her eyes. The server came over and asked us how we were doing. We looked up at her, and she smiled and back away.
“Janeen, let’s just stop right now. I can’t take it right now.”
“No, mom. I’m not going to stop. You have that privilege, but I don’t, and since you adopted me and made a promise to take care of me, I’m going to give you a peek into what I’m going through. Not only do I watch you and dad fade away from my face every morning, but I have to embrace the physical traits and my complexion of my birth parents.”
My mother was agitated and turned her head away.
“Mom, look at me, your daughter. Mom, I’m Hungarian, Polish, and Jewish. Tears ran down my face as I said each ethnicity. I’m English, Norwegian, and German.” The tears were dripping onto my plate. “I’m Swedish, Irish, and parts of many different African countries. Look at me, mom! I’m the same but different.”
My mother cried and took my hand. Wow, her hand was still cold.
“This is my new reality every single day. So please don’t turn away. Look at me because I need you more than ever.”
I really don’t remember anything after that except that we had cheesecake, and our dinner ended in laughter. I don’t remember driving home, going to bed, and I couldn’t even tell you if I took my mother and my niece to the airport the next day. My new focus was on my birth parents, Jeannie and Sam. I was going to meet them in two weeks.
> Have you ever experienced a panic attack? What lead you to one, and how did you manage?
> What are your thoughts about hiding adoption?