Despite how I kinda grew up I was always very adamant that I would never need to be taken care of. I was like, OK I’m going to be somewhere different when I grow up. I’m gonna live somewhere different. I’m gonna live a different life. I’m gonna be somewhere different… and I don’t exactly know where that come from.
I came home from school one day and my mom was seri….she was in the kitchen, she had a serious look on her face, and she said sit down at the kitchen table. I wanna tell you something…..
Cindy grew up knowing that she was adopted. She would watch The Phil Donahue Show and see detectives finding missing family members. She knew that one day she would hire a private investigator to find her birth mother. Finding anyone else had not crossed her mind.
Episode 5 was Produced by Bart Warshaw
Kismet production team is Zoe Saunders, Danny Lewis & Ryan Sweikert
I had always known I was adopted, and I had always wondered, “where did I come from? what are the people like that I’m related to?” Until I was in my twenties I’d never seen anyone who I was blood related to. I grew in East Tennessee, Johnson City.
Morristown Tennessee, Baptist Town. Baptist churches everywhere.
We were part of the church.
We didn’t really go to church.
We went every Sunday morning, and every Sunday night, and every Wednesday night.
My mom was a teacher for a while…
My mother was a hairdresser
And then she was an accountant.
And my dad worked for the IRS.
He was in logistics. I was always a…
And I played with all the guys
I just wanted to play soccer.
Whatever sports the boys in the neighbourhood were playing.
I never fit in with popular kids, and I was plain…
I stood out because I had red hair as a kid, bright red hair. No one else in my family did.
At school one day they had a bunch of instruments laying in front of us and everybody was trying the instruments and I picked up the flute.
At some point I played the flute.
I just started playing and I never stopped.
At some point I stopped. Despite how I grew up, I was always very adamant that I would never be taken care of. I was like : “I’m going to be somewhere different when I grow up. I’m going to live somewhere different, I’ll live a different life, I’ll be someone different, and I don’t exactly know where that came from. I got in my head that I wanted to be a lawyer. As I got a bit older, I got these visions that someday, when I’m out of school and I’m making money, I’ll hire a private investigator. I thought that was the way. I would see stories on Phil Donahue or, if Oprah was around back then I don’t even know, so I just envisioned like “someday, I’ll figure this out”.
I came home from school one day and my mom was in the kitchen, she had a serious look on her face. She said “sit down, I’m going to tell you something.” And I thought: “Oh god, dad’s dead.”
I was in law school, and I was walking through the law library, and I happened to see this big book lying on the shelf and it said: “Adoption Laws of All 50 States.”
She said: “I’m going to tell you something.”
And I thought: “Huh.”
You have a sister.
I was surprised to learn that the adoptee could write to the department of human services and request to be put in touch with the birth mother.
First thing that came out of my mouth is that I said: “I knew it!” I don’t know where I cam from, I just blurted it out, and honestly it did not surprise me at all. And I said, “well whose is it?” She said: “mine and your dad’s.”
And then they would contact the birth mother and if the birth mother agreed, they would pass her information along to the adoptee.
All these things start swirling in my head: “When did she do it? When did mom have a baby and…”
That blew my mind, I had no idea that that was even an option that you could find your birth mother just by writing a letter.
My mom was 16, my dad was 15. Well, they were in high school, and my mom became pregnant, and her family would not let her, she did not have that child at home so they sent her to a small town out in Tennessee and she stayed with the family. Her mom knew, and she had the baby there. And then she came back to town like nothing had happened.
So I wrote the letter and waited to find out if my birth mother wanted to be in touch with me. Of course, she did. Spoiler: she did. I was living in Charlotte, Carolina, because I was working for a law firm, and so when I saw the letter from the department of human services I knew what it was. It was a thick letter, and I started reading it, and it said: “we’ve located your birth mother, she’s given us permission to tell you that she married your birth father, and that you have a brother and sister. And I don’t know why that possibility never crossed my mind, but it hadn’t, so I remember being completely floored by that.
Apparently, sometime when I was 17, mom got a call from the adoption agency.
And then included in this package was…
That said: “to our birth daughter, we always wanted to know how you were, we’re so glad to know that you want to get in touch with us”, and basically said that they would love to hear from me as soon as I was ready.
So my mom told me and I said that I wanted to write a letter to her.
And then, it also had a letter from Belinda, that Belinda had written. Sixteen year old Belinda wrote this letter.
My mom wrote a letter and I wrote a letter. And put pictures of me and my brother in there.
This is was actually floors me: her reaction wasn’t to freak out, and be upset.
I wrote that letter immediately, I remember.
She wrote me this letter that talked about how excited she was. I definitely didn’t expect that. To have that kind of openness at sixteen. It was a very sweet letter, she told me about herself.
I told her all about us, how I loved cats, and..
how much she liked soccer, and…
How she/I played flute.
I just told her all about us, saying I have to meet you one day.
She talks about how she always felt like, maybe there was something missing in her life and she kind of had this weird feeling that maybe she had a sister out there somewhere. So I don’t know if it was that night.
Oh I remember!
Or if it was the next night
That I called.
The phone rings. I feel like when the phone rang, we all had this feeling that it was going to be her. I don’t know how, but…
I have a recollection of someone answering and I said: “can I speak to Donna?”
Mom answered the phone. I was Cindy, Cindy called. It was their first conversation right there.
I don’t think you know my name…And as I was starting to say “my name is…”, I think she said something like “I know who you are, I’m so glad you called.”
I didn’t listen, I was giving them space.
“Are you married? Do you have kids? What do you do?” I said that I’m a lawyer.
I kind of remember her saying: “She’s a lawyer!”
That she was whispering or something.
And then she came and met us.
We made plans to meet in person.
Oh my gosh that was crazy. So, I didn’t meet her until I was 17. You can imagine my excitement.
I have a sister! I didn’t grow up with a sister.
I remember thinking: “what does she look like? What does she look like? What does she look like?”
For the first time, I’m going to see someone who I’m genetically, biologically connected to.
And then, eventually, the emotions of “I can’t believe I didn’t get to grow up with her.” That’s the later kind of thing. That hit more, after I met her. She drove from North Carolina, she pulled up into the driveway and she got out, we all watched her come out to the front door, or to the back door.
We were wearing basically the exact same thing. I have a picture in my mind, the long brown hair.
We had the same hair at the time, very straight, shoulder length hair, we had on jeans.
Her little round face, it’s smiley, and she just, so young.
And a white t-shirt with a v-neck sweater over it, and a wooden beaded necklace. We had on the same thing. I don’t know if she notice, but I definitely noticed, and I will never forget that: “you were wearing the same thing!”
I remember that there was a lot of us just looking at one another. I was really trying to see: “maybe we look alike this way?”
We had some pictures, we still have the pictures up of our first siblings getting together. We became close really fast.
Belinda and I click in a way that feels the way I imagine what having a sister feels like?
Sisters would be, sister should be, I guess.
But we don’t have the history that most adult sisters have.
You just don’t expect it when you meet some random person
As time went on and I spent more time with them, I would notice things like Belinda and I have a very similar laugh.
We have the same wicked laugh. We seem to have a similar…
Sense of humour
It’s weird. Like on the phone, if we’re laughing, we sound a lot alike.
It really always felt so natural to me. I know it’s amazing and I pinch myself and think how amazing it is, but we’re just really lucky to have found each other and now I can’t imagine life without her.
Now you’ve had more life with her than without.
Yes! That’s a good point. Wow, that’s wild. So sometimes I do think that I wish I’d grown up with her but I don’t know, maybe this is for the best that we met later. I can’t imagine growing up with her, I can’t, but I know it would have been an adventure.