New York City
December 1999

Dear Susanne,

After all this time, I finally met Katherine. A kind, loving old lady she turned out to be -- appropriate hairdo, sober dark blue outfit, small pearl necklace and matching earrings, impeccable manners, and an endearing, almost translucent, smile, which greeted me as if we had known each other for a long time. We met at Le Refuge, an elegant French bistro, which she picked. I didn't expect Katherine, who hadn't been in New York for two decades, to be the one selecting our meeting point. But I guess that shouldn't surprise me -- after all, she is my mother.

I won't lie to you -- it's very strange to meet your birth mother. On the one hand, it feels unnatural, something that hardly makes sense. How is one supposed to introduce himself to his own mother? Shouldn't it have been the other way around? Shouldn't she have been the one who introduced herself to me? Wasn't she the one who should have picked me up 38 years ago, smiled at me, with that very same adorable smile, and said, Hello Julian, or whatever name she would have given me, I'm Katherine, your mother. Welcome to the world, my dear.

On the other hand, reluctant as I had been for many years, I wanted to see her. I wanted to be able to shake her hand, to touch her skin, to kiss her gently on the cheeks. I wanted to make sure she existed, I needed to know that she wore lipstick and make-up like other mothers, I had to know that she was real, not just a figment of my imagination, not just a doubt. And, suddenly, there she was, in her blue outfit, with the cute little smile, and the jewelry. She, in fact, is.

I went alone. I decided not to bring Sarah, or the kids, even though some people had recommended me to do so. But I did not want my family to participate in that moment. It was not selfishness, but self-preservation. I had prepared myself for that encounter. I had staged it in my head many times over. And yet, I was not sure of anything. I had no idea how I would feel.

But somehow, and I don't even know when it really started, Katherine and I were talking like friends, exchanging glances, frowning at each other, laughing even. There were no tears, though. They just weren't necessary. Perhaps we both had lived long enough already to realize that shedding tears, can, sometimes, be a waste of time. And that, after all these years of separation, was totally unconceivable.

It was wonderful to hear about my mother from my mother. I had heard about her from mom and dad, from my half-brother, from Sarah, from everyone. But not from her. Never had I heard my mother's stories in her own voice, with her own inflections, and sighs, and accent, and pauses, and breathing. Even small, mundane things suddenly became so interesting, so full of meaning and purpose.

The music she likes, the books, her husband, her grandchildren, her voluntary work, her job, her accomplishments, her joyful moments. Conspicuously, we didn't talk about us. We haven't gotten there yet. We haven't been able to look back at all the reasons why she gave me to my foster parents. We haven't yet been able to walk through that hard, yet inevitable, path. I know the story, of course. But I want to hear it from her. It will happen, I'm sure. Now that we have finally met, of course.

I told her about me, my marriage, my job, my life, the man I have been for all these years. Deep inside, I wanted her to be surprised, proud even. But she looked at me with her twinkling blue eyes, as if there were nothing in the world I could possibly tell her that she didn't already know. She acted as if she had always been by my side, like she had always known me, always felt me. Maybe that is true. Or perhaps she just has an enviable memory and a sharp ear for the stories my foster parents told her about me as I grew up. Regardless, it felt good. It felt cozy. It felt like home.

Who knew?

Much love,


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