The Internet Gave Me Back My Sister

Snapshots of life at home.
Jan. 5 2012 3:07 PM

Marci and Me

After 34 years, the Internet gave me a sister I’d never known.

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The romance metaphor came in handy as I tried to talk my mother through her anxious few weeks before the first face-to-face. “How can I love someone I don't even know?” she asked me. Think of it like you're going on a date, I said. You both want to like each other already, but there's no need to come on too strong right away. She may be your biological daughter, but at the moment she's just a woman whom you're going to meet, and who may or may not end up being your friend.

When they finally met, my mother found herself surprised at the sight of her lost child, all grown up. Somehow she’d imagined that Marci would have stayed a baby forever. For her part, Marci told my mother she was excited simply to find people in the world who looked like her, which we most definitely do. When I first checked out her pictures on Facebook, I thought I was looking at old pictures of my mother. Or maybe they were of Amber, from a few years into the future? Man, this new Facebook timeline thing is amazing!

“I saw the similarities right away,” Amber said. “I felt like I was looking at a different version of myself, with blonder hair. She has the same little crooked tooth. Bites her nails like us.” There's a lot more we have in common, which I learned the first day I met Marci and her own, separate family a few weeks later. She inherited out tendency to carry around a large Dunkin Donuts iced coffee everywhere we go, although I think most people in Boston are born with that. But what about our personalities—would we get along? Would her kids (my nephews, I guess) like me? Did we really have to do this meeting on a Sunday afternoon when football was on?

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In stories like this, as in all love stories, the narrative usually ends at the reunion, or the coming together. There’s no follow-up, though. You never get to see what happens next for the guy from Colorado and his new biological family, or the centenarian and her elderly daughter.

“I talk to her regularly, or at least text with her every other day,” my traditional sister says. “I really like her. There are things where it's like, oh my god, you are my sister—similar personality traits I see in you and [our other sister] Amanda, but I don't know, it's hard. I feel like she's a good friend, but I haven't said ‘I love you’ to her yet.”

What's the rush? Right now we're all still in the early stages of the relationship, with butterflies in our stomachs, trying to put the best version of ourselves forward. No one wants to be the first to say I love you, and no one wants to scare the other person off for wanting it too badly. My mother and sisters have been waiting to find someone a lot like themselves for a long time, and now that they have it—or think they do—they don't want to spoil everything.

So what comes next? Will it be a true and lasting love, or will we look back on it someday as a brief moment of intense emotion that quickly flattened out? We've all felt the sting of relationships that go wrong, and yet we throw ourselves back into them again and again, hoping that this time things will turn out different.

Personally, I'm looking forward to getting this early part over with, and having the honeymoon be over. I want to find out that Marci is not an idealized, alternate-reality version of us, but rather a boring, old, regular human being. That's what we all are—just a bunch of people who happened to have been pulled together by happenstance of biology and geography. If we can all appreciate one another all the same after recognizing that, then we’ll know we're family.

Luke O'Neil is a journalist in Boston. He blogs at PTSOTL.