I lived in Toronto, Canada for almost a year. I arrived in the summertime of 2018. I’ve seen and felt the seasons in full circle. The sunshine and fun of summer, the coloured leaves of fall, the purity of snow in winter and the beautiful bounce back of spring.
In a place where the four seasons are prominent it’s noticeable how all the events and big decisions are made in seasonal blocks. I hear people in conversation say things like, “last summer” or “in the fall”, which isn’t a sentence we would use in our subtropical climate of Brisbane, Australia. At home, you can do anything, in any season.
Summer is just around the corner and therefore time to make my big life decision. Do I stay for another twelve months or should I head home? I make a list of all the reasons why I came. Almost everything has been ticked off. The last one is the hardest and scariest of them all. Not physically hard but emotionally. I’ve been thinking and dreaming about this event my entire life.
Packing up my apartment, terminating my lease, quitting my job and breaking my Aunt’s heart to go home seems easy in comparison to the last item on my list. The decision is made to fly back to Australia at the end of July and force myself to be brave enough to take the necessary steps in the coming months.
My Aunt and Uncle have the biggest hearts and deepest souls of anyone I have ever known. Easily, they are one of my favourite couples. They were always my “up” when I felt down, my sunshine in the rain, the outreached hand when I needed it. Adoringly, they named me “Cinderella” and I felt that they would truly miss having me around. I am going to miss our Friday night’s when we had breakfast for dinner.
In true form, my Aunt offered to be by my side on the day. I needed her. I really needed her. In a few week’s, I would be meeting my birth mother for the first time since I was a baby. I was adopted at the age of three.
Fast forward those few week’s to Sunday. I wake up early and head over to my Aunt & Uncle’s on public transport as planned. First, I catch the bus to the subway at Eglinton, train down to Davisville and another bus to Bayview. The trip takes about thirty minutes in total depending on the connections. Today it seemed like no time at all. Speeding towards the inevitable.
I arrive at the house and just like every other time I walk up the path, into the front door, yell out hello while walking through the kitchen and out the backdoor to find my Uncle on the patio. We sit and chat for a while. I’m so nervous, I can’t sit still or eat any breakfast. My Aunt will be down soon to join us.
My aunt arrives and we sit and talk some more. They both can tell how nervous I am. Perhaps my leg was jittery or I was noticeably more reserved than usual. Amidst our chattering a bird appears from over the fence in front of us only a few metres away. This isn’t a bird I have seen in their backyard before (and I would know because I keep tabs on all the wildlife entering their yard including the raccoons, skunks, squirrels and birds – Chickadees, Blue Jays and Cardinals). I look to my Aunt who is as surprised as I am. Surprised at how close it is to us and the brightness of colour.
Previously, I have had the conversation with her about how a bird appears in any big event of my life. For example, the white cockatoo sitting on the fence while my childhood pony was taken away or the black bird in my front garden when my dog was put to sleep. Now this. We agree it’s Jean (my late adoptive mother) coming to say it’s okay and assure me it is exactly how it’s meant to be. I felt more at ease and reassured I was on the right path. She came to give me her love, guidance and approval.
Around mid morning we get into the car and begin our two-and-a-half-hour journey. Driving out of the city and eastbound on the 401, I begin to panic. Not only haven’t I heard from my birth mum (Carol) this morning, I am also feeling very overwhelmed. Scared. Nervous. Anxious. Excited. There are a million unanswered questions that I have been asking myself for years. Today, all these questions can be answered.
As we near the little town of Picton (the place where I was born) in Prince Edward County, I direct my Aunt to exit the highway. Moments later I realise it was the wrong turn, so we get to have a quick glimpse and drive through of the quaint little town. It’s very cute and I start thinking that I could have grown up here and potentially still be living here. My mind raced through my childhood and all the journeys and adventures that I’ve already had.
Only moments away now and I receive a message to say that they are on their way to meet us. My half brother, who I didn’t know I had until recently, will be there too. I did laugh a little at my proposition as I have always dreamt of what it would be like to have a sister.
My Aunt pulls into the Tim Horton car park and chooses a spot with empty spaces all around. It feels like the right choice. We get out and stand at the back of the car waiting. Feeling nervous is an understatement. This is almost 40 years of the unknown about to stare me right in the face. Am I ready for this? For all the answers? For the emotional overhaul? It’s my belief that an event of this nature could never be fully prepared for. And so we wait.
We spend the next hour or so seated inside Tim Horton’s with coffee and doughnuts. Carol sat beside me and held onto my forearm and right hand for the entire time. It was like she never wanted to let me go ever again. Like she never wanted to let me go all those years ago. I realise how terribly difficult it would have been for her.
When it was time to leave, we took a photo to solidify the moment.
After she left, I broke down for many reasons. It would be very difficult to explain them all here. To put it simply, I cried for the past. Her past. My past. For all the unanswered questions now answered. For grief. For loss. For suffering. For the here and now. For gratefulness. For everything I ever had and held onto.
I felt like I had journeyed to the other side of the rainbow. Only now could I fully understand why I was where I was and who I had become.