Ah, yes, the long awaited update on my weekend. I know you don’t really care about what I did over the Dec. 3rd-5th weekend, you just want to know what it was like to meet my birth mother. So, I’ll try not to bore you with a chronological listing of everything we did, but rather try and intersperse perspective and reflections throughout this tale of three days. Someday I’ll post further on the back story, but until then you’ll have to be satisfied with the present story…
Friday morning, Jean and I caught an early flight to Denver where my half-sister (henceforth referred to as “Kally” or “my sister” for simplicity) picked us up and we headed out to spend the afternoon in Colorado Springs. You’d have never known that Kally and I didn’t grow up together; the banter was in full swing by the time we were exiting the short term parking at Denver International. Kally even went as far as asking the parking booth attendant if it was too late to send us back (admittedly deserved on my part, but still). That should give you an idea of what was to come.
First stop was the “Garden of the Gods” in Colorado Springs; an absolutely stunning rock park. Such a distinctly different terrain than what what Jean and I are used to from SoCal or Oregon. It was around this time when we realized that Jean and I left our camera in the hotel room, so we stole Kally’s camera for the day as we drove through the ‘garden’ snapping away shots out of the sunroof and passenger window.
From the garden, we moseyed on over to a small wine shop for a tasting, and then over to the Miramont Castle for a self guided tour of a very interesting architectural build. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Kally shares similar interests. That alone made for a great afternoon, and we saw some fantastic sights to boot! A win/win in my book 🙂
By the time we were done with the tour of Miramont Castle, it was close enough to dinner time that we had to head back to the Denver metro area so we’d be there in time to meet up with Debby (my birth mom, hereafter referred to as Debby or just mom for simplicity). We had a bit of a drive ahead of us from Colorado Springs, back up to Denver to meet Debby, giving us time to digest the gravitas of the impending meeting. At one point Kally had asked me if I was nervous. I can report back with all honesty, that I was a startled by this question; not because she asked, but rather because it hadn’t even occurred to me to be nervous. I am also happy to say that the act of realizing I wasn’t previously nervous did not suddenly cause me to be nervous.
Having some time to think, I realized fairly quickly that I had social media to thank for my comfort level. Not to sound like an apologist for things like Twitter, Facebook, or email, but it is precisely due to these three tools which allowed me to connect with Debby long before we actually met in person. The discourse we shared the months prior to meeting in person, along with the passive views into each others lives, really set me at ease and with a comfort level in meeting which just made it feel like I was getting together with an old friend for dinner, much lower on the gravitas scale than meeting my birth mom for the first (ok, technically second) time in my life.
Well, we arrived at Undici early, and Debby was running a tad late due to work issues (seriously, ALWAYS the way when you have something planned), so Jean, Kally, and I sat at the bar for happy hour and enjoyed some cocktails. Looking back on it now, I’m happy I was able to have a drink before hand as doing so did loosen me up a bit. I guess I was mildly nervous after all, even though I couldn’t discern any tangible change which would have indicated any level of nervousness.
We were seated in an area which provided me with a good view to the front, so I was able to see Debby as she walked before she saw me. I took this opportunity to have a little fun and walked up to her, addressing her in my ‘professional’ tone, noting, “Excuse me, ma’am, but I believe your table is waiting for you over this way”… a quick pleased to meet you and hug later and we were on our way to the table. Now, most people will take a moment and hesitate before realizing I am not staff… not Debby. The recognition was immediate; so much so that I doubt she processed what I’d actually said until we were halfway to the table. There was undeniably, no doubt, clear as day, who we were.
Throughout dinner I’d catch myself, and the other three at any one given time, staring in awe at the similarities we shared. While Kally and I are very similar, a fact that was a constant source of amusement for us all on her trip out to meet us in Oregon, Debby and I are even more strikingly similar; a theme which would permeate the rest of the evening, and weekend for that matter. While Kally and I share interests and other personality traits, Debby and I seem to share those even more deeply to the point where attitude and personality start to manifest in shared mannerisms and expressions. At various points during dinner Debby and I would catch ourselves holding our hands in the precise fashion as the other while listening to Jean or Kally talk, completely unaware that we were mimicking each other unintentionally. Which was fine until Jean pointed it out resulting in Debby and I both became acutely aware of it for the rest of the night to the delight of the other two.
Dinner was spectacular, but for once I won’t drivel on about the food or wine. That, obviously, wasn’t the point to this particular meal. Nor will I blather on about our after dinner drinks (also spectacular) at a small wine bar called Paris later that evening. What I will say, is that the night was far more than I could have hoped for or even expected. I went to bed that night with a satisfaction that I didn’t fully know I desired or needed. My intent for the trip to Denver had been fully realized and successful beyond my imagination. And to think, this was only Friday; we still had two days in town with both Kally and Debby to enjoy the area and each other’s company. It was all icing from this point on…
Saturday morning did come a bit early, even with sleeping in by an hour. The excitement for the day, however, got us moving in no time. We met up with Kally at her place after Debby picked us up from the hotel. On the docket for the day: Estes Park. First up was the drive out, opting for the Peak to Peak route which was ultimately gorgeous if not a tad perilous at parts. Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit, but it really was a beautiful drive. Coming down into Estes Park, we had an amazing view of the Stanley Hotel, which we had discovered on the drive in is where we were going to be having brunch. While I was excited for this, Jean was ecstatic to visit the Stanley as she is a serious fan of Steven King and the Stanley is, of course, where he was inspired and ultimately wrote the Shining.
We had an excellent brunch, and the moseyed down to take a tour of the hotel. Having been on a number of tours of historic buildings previously, I was pleasantly surprised at the length and breadth of the tour given at the Stanley. If you ever find yourself in Estes Park, take the tour. You won’t be disappointed. We sure weren’t!
The rest of the day was spent in Estes doing a little shopping to punctuate our stops at two different tasting rooms for some wine. Hey, it was chilly! We had to warm up somehow 😉 And of course we sought out and found the infamous Elk of Estes Park… the herds of them just wandering the city causing raucous after amusing and damaging raucous. In our case, however, we just watched them stop traffic as they crossed one of the main roads. From there, we dined in the early evening at the Rock Inn, another fabulous dinner replete with more amusing conversation (which honestly never really ceased throughout the day). It is funny how Kally and I, not having met until this year, can so easily fall into the jokingly bickering and relentless needling so often seen with siblings who grew up together; only made even more poignant when Debby rolls her eyes and laughs with/at the two of us.
After dinner, Kally drove us all back to Denver, where she left to go dancing and give Debby, Jean, and I more time together. This provided us with what I think was one of the most telling points of the entire weekend, as Debby asked if we’d like to go to a Christmas party being hosted by some of her friends at their house in the Cherry Hills / Greenwood Village area. I noted when she asked that this was a tough question for her (later confirmed directly that it was), and while my initial fear of new people and social situations crept up a bit, I was more honoured that Debby was comfortable enough with me that she’d want to introduce me (and Jean of course) to her friends. So away we went to meet her friends.
While initially, we had all intended to stay for a brief time to say hello, meet everyone and maybe have a drink, I have to say that Debby’s friends were so warm and welcoming to both Jean and I, that we ended up staying far later than anyone of us had expected. The conversation flowed the entire time as both Debby and I answered initial questions, and then Jean jumped in the mix as we talked through some of the story about how we came to find each other. It was such an interesting time for me to be asked those questions and have the other side standing directly next to me to round out the stories. Two things really struck me from meeting everyone: 1. how honestly interested people were in the story behind our meeting, and 2. how quickly they all accepted me and made me feel right at home. And while I know Debby wasn’t “showing me off”, it still felt really good to know that she thought highly enough of me to want her friends to meet me, and conversely that I am important enough for her to want me to meet her friends. That simple encounter spoke volumes about how we were all feeling about meeting for the first time; comfortable is really the only word to describe it all.
Sunday came a bit too early again, but this time accompanied by a bout of real nervousness: we were meeting two of my three nephews for brunch. Yep, two of Kally’s kids, Chase and Jeremy, were going to be dining with us. Not being great with kids, I was nervous about how to interact, but also simply because… well… because the realization had just struck me a few days prior: I have nephews. Not sure why I didn’t realize this before, since Kally has spoken of them often in our email correspondence over the past year. I guess my brain just never processed it before.
Luckily, the kids have the same attitude, sense of humour, and demeanor of their mom and grandma. They had me laughing up a storm and ganging up with them against their mom. Hey, I had to make up for years of missing out on tormenting my sister, right? I’m sure that helped ingratiate myself to the two boys. We had a great time at brunch, and I hope to think that Jeremy and Chase did too. Touch to say with a 15 year old and 10 year old respectively, though I’d wager that Jeremy and I connected at some level over music on the ride to drop him off at his dad’s. And while I am sure they are both a terrible handful for Kally at times, they really struck me as good kids from the short time we had with them.
From brunch we all reconvened at Debby’s after dropping the kids off, and headed up to Creekside winery for an afternoon of winetasting.(See, I TOLD you we all had shared interests!) This was some of the best wine of the trip (to my palette). Because of how their tasting room is set up, we sat at a table and all ordered a different flight from their tasting menu which made for a nice leisurely afternoon tasting. Very enjoyable. Of course we may have been too leisurely as we spent more time than intended there and didn’t have time to explore the rest of the area. We all headed back down the mountain and parted ways with Kally just before dinner.
Debby took us out to dinner at one of her favourite spots called La Loma in the northwest Denver area. She opted to take us there because we’d been noting how tough it is to find -good- Mexican food in Oregon. I’ll tell you it didn’t disappoint. And neither did the conversation, still. We found so much to talk about that what had been plenty of time to have dinner and get us to the airport, turned in to an “oh wow, we need to go” moment. Not late mind you, just not exactly early either.
And this is where our weekend effectively ends, folks; at Denver International, standing on the sidewalk saying good-bye after having only met around 36 hours prior. But not a bittersweet good-bye. Nothing like that at all. It was the simple good bye of people who don’t see an end, but rather the beginning of something larger than themselves. We ended on a high, and I’ve stayed there since.
So, when people ask what it was like to meet my birth mother for the first time in 37 (or so) years… I can honestly say, it was interesting, enlightening, wonderful, and spectacular. I am a better person for knowing both Kally and Debby, who they are and the depth of what I share with them… and now you all know what I mean when I say that.