“You look pretty decent when you run a brush through your hair,” my boyfriend Fletcher says. I roll my eyes at him as I attempted a fancy head-wrap with a summer scarf I’d seen on Pinterest. “Pretty decent, gee thanks,” I reply with a big smile, “you’re going to miss ‘pretty decent’ for the next week.” “Yeah, you’re right,” he says, undoing the scarf I’d just spent twenty minutes wrapping around my head. “I don’t feel like missing you just yet…” – the next thing I know, we are both unwrapped from our clothes and completely wrapped up in each other.
Fast-forward an hour and we are mad-dashing out the door – sans head wrap, damn it you sexy man! – to catch a taxi so we can hop on a train that will eventually get me to a plane where I will be taken to San Fran to see my mom for the first time in a year. My mother and I we – well, we’re something. We have such an interesti- we used to be extremely close, then something happened – some sort of disconnect that I don’t understand – so naturally I am thrilled to be visiting for an entire week. Who knows what will happen? I’m hopeful for re-connection, or to at very least address what happened to begin with. None of it makes any sense and I want to hear it from her. I’m extremely hopeful that this visit will go well, and I swear I’m starting the trip with nothing but positive vibes – swear it.
I knew I was going to be late for my flight, just knew I was going to miss it and have to call my mom with the disappointing news that my trip would be cut short by a day, but to my surprise, the flight was delayed by an hour for maintenance and made it just in time. I was really treating myself for this trip. I’d booked my first first-class seat on a flight that made me feel more luxurious than Gwen Stefani. I had someone to help me put my non-Louis Vuitton bag in the overhead storage. I’d thankfully remember to swipe my copy of Dune to keep me occupied on the flight. Fletcher gave it to me to read months ago and though I was unsure at first, it really is the best sci-fi novel I’ve ever read. Ever.
I was relieved that no one was sitting next to me, even though the plane appeared to be full. I loved this, things were really starting to feel like vacation. I put my ear-buds in and opened to the marked page where I’d left off. “It was a dangerous universe where such ideas were allowed to float around freely.” I was repeating this line, over and over in my head when a gorgeous brunette woman briskly stepped on to the plane, making the most subtle of grand entrances, the way a talented but not overly proud artist introduces his work. She was tall-ish, in an awkward way, but still managing to control the attention of the entire first class and all of the flight attendants, who were immediately helping lift her bags, fawning over her like she owned the damn plane. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, she was the most fabulous person I’d ever seen. “Mrs. Grigsby, it’s so nice to see you again, what a lovely bag, is it new?” Okay…maybe she did own the damn plane.
It was wild. I immediately stood and grabbed my purse from the overhead compartment, dashing in to the bathroom to check my face and re-attempt the Pinterest head-wrap thingy. I felt instantly pressured for this woman’s approval as I knew the seat she would be taking would be the one next to mine. I wanted her to look at my brunette beach waves and think to herself how perfect they look with my effortlessly chic head-wrap and purposefully non-matching maxi dress – looking effortless is a lot of work people. don’t be fooled. I gave myself a once-over at least three times before deciding that I felt okay enough to sit back down. A little fact about me: I have no shame in admitting I need a stamp of approval, even from strangers. I have no idea why I feel like it’s important, but I don’t feel okay about my day if I don’t catch the barista at Starbucks silently wishing she was wearing my shoes.
I made my way out of the bathroom and back to my row, storing my purse back in the overhead where it belonged, a stewardess practically pushing me in to my seat as the Captain had already called for everyone to take their seats before departure. I slipped in to my seat and fastened my seat-belt, noticing I was breathing heavy. I tried to slow this as I slightly opened the window – I like to look out the window when we take off, it’s the best part. I reached for my book, but it was gone. I went in to a slight panic, then out of the corner of my eye, I saw in perfectly manicured hands, my copy of Dune. I turned slowly to face the woman sitting next to me and I felt as though someone had punched me in the throat, in the gut and had kicked me in both knee caps simultaneously. I more than recognized this woman’s face. At the same moment that the proverbial wind was kicked out of me, Mrs. Manicure spilled her glass of Chardonnay and dropped my book, drowning it, her eyes never leaving mine. Our moment of recognition was equivalent.
Twenty years of no memories at all could ever wipe that woman’s eyes from my memory. I haven’t seen my birth-mother in twenty years. I was on a plane to see my mom, the amazing woman who found me and raised me for the first time in a year and I end up sitting next to my mother. I tried as hard as I could, but couldn’t for the life of me fathom wrapping my head around the probability.
I sat there in complete, mind-numbing silence for what seemed like eternity, but was probably only thirty-seconds or so. Attendants were hurriedly cleaning up, “Mrs. Grigsby’s,” spilled wine as she sat stunned also. Lets pause the scene: you must understand something. When I was four years old, my mother, the allusive Mrs. Grigsby (if that’s even her real name?) left me at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Literally, she dropped me off at the front steps of the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, when the nurses are taking their smoke breaks. I had a terrible cold and extremely high fever, and also a giant suitcase full of my stuff. “Cleaning my room,” she’d said. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that the hour I waited in the ER for her to come back, was the hour that she decided she didn’t want to be a parent anymore. Apparently, I was too much to deal with.
The nurses asked about my dad; I’d never met my father. My mom was one of those, “rebel types,” that got knocked up young and, “didn’t need or want anyone to help her.” I guess she handled the first four years and figured out she was sick of parenting. I’m thankful I don’t remember much about those first four years, except for constantly having my shit in a suitcase, shoveling back and forth from aunts and uncles in Florida to grandparents in Oklahoma. I suppose my little toddler-self thought this kind of existence was normal and fun. “Road trips with mommy!”
So – my mom drops me off at the hospital where it was made very evident that she was never coming back. An hour passed, then two, then two days. I was very thankful to have been taken home by a single, sweet nurse named Jamie, who had a beautiful home not far from the hospital. I was given endless amounts of Lucky Charms and watched all the cartoons I wanted. “Your mom is just on a little vacation right now,” she said. “We’re trying to call her to make sure she’s okay and to see when she’ll be back to get you. I’m sure she’s having a great time but missing you so much!” She hugged and squeezed me like my birth-mother never had and brushed my hair at night to put me to sleep. It’s odd – even then I don’t think I missed my mom for a minute. I like to think that around three I finally made an assessment of her parenting skills and ruled her wildly unfit.
The rest, is obviously history. One thing lead to another, as it always does. The court got involved, I was shuffled through a few foster homes until I finally got back to Jamie, who adopted me. It was as if the four years before then vanished in to thin air. I remember everything, but it didn’t ever bother me…not until now. Confronted and confined on this godforsaken airplane with my birth-mother. What are the fucking odds.