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"Close Family"

I am sitting on my couch this evening. The remote control in my hand. My hair wet from a shower. I was supposed to go to a 90s concert tonight with a group of mom friends.


Salt-N-Pepa and Bell Biv DeVoe... (Yes, I was really looking forward to it...Two of my faves growing up.)

Since we had these plans for months, my husband made plans and took my son out with his friends.


But, I didn't end up going. I am now home alone. And tonight, this is exactly where I want to be.


The sequence of events that took place this week has sent me into a whirlwind.


I'm tired, amazed, speechless, sad and so beyond grateful in one inner hurricane that blows through me.


As my mind spins, I look down at this remote in my palm. Smelling the plate of food beside me that I can't seem to stomach.


Even though my hopes of mindless TV could somehow numb my mind... I can't imagine watching anything.


Instead, I look down at the buttons. The "Rewind", the "Play", the "Fast forward", the "Pause".


Thinking about all the times in life I wished I could have pressed them.


Yet, life always seemed to keep playing forward. Whether I was ready or not.


This moment, tonight, with this remote in my palm, I don't want to press any of it. I want to feel it all. Allow it to marinate as I sit comfortably on the couch. Whatever would play in the background would only be white noise compared to the images playing in my head. The rehashing of information given...


On Friday, my son and I got a job on set together. That rarely happens. I like to seize those moments for memory sake. But especially this one. It was at the Natural History Museum. Shooting after it closed. Meaning, we and the crew were the only ones in there.


We used to be members. I would take him there monthly for different events or meeting different people for playdates. We hadn't been back since the pandemic. It seemed special. Serendipitous.


So, I took the opportunity.


I picked him up for school early. On the way to Los Angeles, down the 10 freeway, I got a notification.

"Your ancestry results are in."


Exhale.


Just keep driving.


I drove straight to our designated parking place. We parked. We were early. My son asked if he could play Pokemon go while we waited.


"Of course." I say as I roll down my window and pull out my phone and open my ancestry app.


A "Close Family- 1st cousin" match is "Renee". The woman I thought was my aunt. I also notice it is the same woman that was on the FB page that I questioned if she was my mother. But the connection reads "Close Family-1st cousin"...


???


I look below her. Another "Close Family- 1st cousin" match named "Diane". I look at her picture she has displayed. I had never seen her before.


I'm confused...


I went to Renee's page. It had been a year since she had checked in. This felt very reminiscent to my 23 and me experience.


I could message her, I think. But she could also never get it.


I then went to Diane's. She last logged in "today".


Hmmmm...


Now, it is time to check in. We walk to holding. We eat, get checked by wardrobe, change into what they want us wearing and are shuttled to the Natural History Museum.


We are held in the iconic Hall of African Mammals with all the taxidermied animals.


The elephants and giraffes at the dark end of the hallway.


My son and I walk past each animal. Him vibrating with excitement. Me thinking this is pretty awesome too.


Reading their plaques as we pass. "Endangered" or "Vulnerable"


Suddenly, I get an email from Diane.

Exhale.


There, in the dark Hall of African Mammals, I write back...



I noticed my message is immediately "read"...


She writes back...

My heart drops.


I look over at my son, skipping in excitement from animal to animal in their life like habitats. Where they would naturally exist out in the wild. The life like, yet staged, scenarios and faces gazing back at him. The lions cuddling on the rocks with their cubs, the chimpanzees swinging from limb to limb with their young.


I look down at my phone and respond...


A shock wave rushes through me.


Afraid to lose the connection, I quickly keep writing...



Just then, we're called to set. In front of the cameras in a room where the ancient bones of the dinosaurs are displayed. The shock waves continuing to roll through me while I hide every emotion and act as naturally as possible. We do our thing. Then, back to holding.


I sit down on a foldable blue chair while my son continues pacing the room looking at the animals lifelike faces gazing back.


I open my phone...


She asks if we can talk and gives me her phone number. And then writes...



I am.


I put my phone down and watch my son continue skipping from animal to animal. His excitement growing instead of lessening.


I hear a voice behind me, "They share 98% of our DNA."


My head swivels around to a production assistant standing behind me.


"What?" I ask assuming I misheard her in some way.


She looks back at me and points to the chimpanzee diorama. She continues, "It says right there on their sign."


I look. In white writing on the black plaque. "They share 98% of our DNA . "


Exhale.


I open my app. I tell Diane I'm at work and ask if I can call her tomorrow. Then, I want to clarify...

Her reply...


Whoa....


Whoa....


... She was looking for me... She had checked her app today before I had... She's been searching... I have a family... FULL siblings.... a sister... a brother... She wanted to find me...


Breathe.


I look up in this dark room I'm sitting in. In the Natural History Museum. With my son. Moments ago, the only relative I knew.


"That's a wrap!" An AD calls out down the hall.


For a moment... I want to pause.... yet, the world plays on...


We drove through downtown LA. My son eager to see the city lit up at night. We came home. I slept...well, as much as I could.


Today, I spoke to Diane on the phone moments ago.


Answers were given. My heart both fell in love and broke simultaneously. A sad reality at the same time a seed of hope planted. A mend, a return at the same time as feeling a rip.


I now know the identity of my birth mother and father. I know the identity of my sister, who is, in fact, Jamie. My new Aunt Diane, sent me a picture of Kenny, my brother, who looks very similar to me as a child.


My cousin, Aunt Diane's daughter, and Kenny's wife already have reached out to me to let me know how much I am wanted. Kenny's wife told me they had searched for me years ago without any luck. Then, she sent me a picture of my mother now.


The moment I saw her, I knew, without any question. .. That is my mother. As if my heart remembered.


A grown version of the 80s picture I had seen on Facebook.


I sit here, on the couch, wanting to process every emotion yet not sure I can. At the same time, I'm trusting every feeling surging through me because I see the beauty as much as the pain.


In this crazy, huge world, I found my way back to her. To a family I don't know yet, but at the same time, my heart feels a familiarity. I know there will still be a ton more information to discover. I know as every family, there will be shit, trauma, shocks, heavy emotions, different views... but I also know... a part of me found my way back. All of me knows, no matter how it plays out, I want this to keep playing forward.


I'll keep you posted...






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8 Comments


Guest
Oct 08, 2022

Wow, Josie. Much love to you as you keep breathing and taking the next steps in this journey. xo


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Sally J Jones
Sally J Jones
Oct 07, 2022

Oh JO! All my heart is beating for you right now. Joy, hope, fear, excitement, concern….. a microcosm of what you must feel right now…. Sending love, love, love….. S

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OMG! I am so excited for you. I kept hoping and hoping you would find someone. I never imagined it would be both of your parents and siblings. This is really the best possible outcome no matter what the details are. Families are messy and I’m sure your emotional roller coaster ride is going to be a doozy. Still, my heart is full for you.

Xoxo PS I just missed my stop on the metro while I was reading and re-reading this. No idea where I am.

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Josie L James
Josie L James
Oct 07, 2022
Replying to

Ohhh nooo Leila. Your comment made me laugh, but I hope you found your way back. Thank you so much for all your love, encouragement and coming along the journey with me. Sending tons of love! ❤️❤️❤️

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Guest
Oct 07, 2022

I read your story with my morning coffee - riveting - "I found my way back to her," such a beautiful line. This is such an emotional journey. Your sharing brings up, stirs up all kinds of emotions! Many thanks, Jose - Caroline

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Josie L James
Josie L James
Oct 07, 2022
Replying to

Ohhh, thank you Caroline. Your support has meant sooo much to me. Thanks for being on this emotional journey with me. I look forward to seeing you soon! Xoxo ❤️❤️❤️

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Hallelujah !!!!

Tears of joy for my brave friend!!

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Josie L James
Josie L James
Oct 07, 2022
Replying to

Ohhhh. Thank you sooo much Diane. Sending you virtual (((HUGS))). 🤗🤗🤗❤️❤️❤️

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