Here I am. It’s a beautiful day for January in Paris. I look out the window to admire the clear blue sky of this wintry afternoon. I try to distract myself, to think of something else, to daydream. I stupidly try to convince myself that I must relax, but there’s nothing more normal than being tensed in my situation. I am in the office of the “Nids de Paris“, and my birth mother is in the room next door, speaking with Mrs Debois.
A few hours earlier I arrived in Paris. I went straight from the airport to the “Nids de Paris“. I finally met the wonderful Mrs Debois, the organizer of this upcoming meeting. We spoke for a while and then she asked me to come back at 15:00 to meet with my birth mother. She was invited to arrive at 14:30. Mrs Debois had warned me that my birth mother was very stressed and that she might be too overwhelmed to meet me. I listened without hearing, because for me this encounter had to happen. It was the D day; it couldn’t be otherwise. The few hours I had to kill before 15:00 were endless. How can the time seem so long?
What a deafening silence. There is not a sound. I can’t hear any murmur coming from the room next door. No phone ringing in the office and no city noise even though I’m in the heart of Paris. Is it me? Is the universe suspending this moment? The world has stopped, that’s for sure. Or at least my world. I look out the window for the umpteenth time, searching for a sign of life on the rooftops of Paris. Suddenly, the handle of the door creaks slowly, I turn around and see Mrs Debois only showing her face. She said to me in a reassuring voice: “She is next door, waiting for you. Go when you’re ready.” She left the door opened and disappeared delicately.
It’s now. Empty your mind, don’t think…. jump into the unknown. Just do it, mechanically.
Without waiting, I went to the room next door, and I entered without knocking. A woman is here, standing. I am tall and I find her so small; it’s the first thing I noticed. Actually I did not have time to see anything more, not even her face. The second I stepped in she rushed on me and clung to me firmly. How long did this hug last? I have no idea. It was very long, very intense. She pressed her head against my chest, and her little arms squeezed me so hard that I remember thinking how could she have so much strength. My hands were gently resting on her shoulders. After an infinite time, she slowly released my hips and took a step back. My hands were still on her shoulders. She looked at me and said in a tender smile, “You look like your father. He is tall and strong, like you.” Her voice was soft and trembling. I replied with a simple smile and – still with my hands on her shoulders- I helped her to sit on the chair that was right behind her.
We looked at each other for a few long seconds without saying anything, sitting face to face. Very close. She took my hands. I inspected every aspect of her face; it was the first time in my life that I was facing someone with the same blood as me. She was smiling tenderly. I did not find any obvious similitude, but an incredible family resemblance. Then I realized that I knew her eyes. Like a déjà-vu. I have the same ones. Better than that, I have the same look in the eyes. These black eyes, intense and gentle at the same time. Her hands began to tighten mine stronger and stronger. She started to cry. She closed and frowned her eyes, exactly like when we are suddenly in physical pain. Leaning her head down, she said “forgive me.” She repeated it three times. In all sincerity I replied, “but what do you want me to forgive you for? “. “Forgive me, I need to hear it. I beg you”. I realized that nothing else mattered more to her at that very moment. She’s been waiting for these words of forgiveness for almost 28 years. I knew why she needed to hear it; but from my point of view, I had to forgive the woman who gave me life? It was a bit troubling for me. Then, putting my head against hers, I said “Of course I forgive you; I never held any grudge against you.” I said it only because I could feel her pain. But all my life, I always thought of her with thankfulness. Forgiveness never occurred to me.
She put her head back up, smiled and stared at me intensely. Her eyes were telling me “thank you.”