If you’re just joining me, this is part 2 of a condensed mini-memoir I am conducting, and you can find part 1 right here.
** Some names will be changed to ensure that I don’t receive the Internet equivalent of being drawn and quartered **
In one of my very special Garfield the Cat binders, there contains one very special document, amongst others. It’s a Adult Graduation Dogwood Diploma with my name on it. Perhaps I fibbed a little bit to get accepted legally into the high school — wait, “international student” and “illegal immigrant” AREN’T the same thing?? — but every course I took, every achievement and award I walked away with, was earned honestly. The day of my graduation, I was asked to open our ceremonies with singing the Canadian National Anthem.
No one would ever know the irony of this.
For me, receiving that diploma was the ushering in of a new era. I was determined to make 2007 onwards about me and my life. It was not selfish — it was survival, independence, revolution. Do or die.
Or, at least, do or be deported.
I knew that once I started the paperwork, my life would be changed. I would have to tell the story of how I got into Canada (probably multiple times), pay money that I didn’t have (definitely multiple times), and at the end of it all, there was no guarantee that they would let me stay. I might have to go back to the country I hadn’t set foot on in 10 years.
But I had to try.
My mom wasn’t too happy. She’d spent so many years trying to keep us “safe”, and now I was undoing all of it just so that I could drive, work, travel, get married…I wasn’t trying to be ungrateful, but to her, it certainly felt that way.
Nevertheless, I had turned 21, gotten my nose pierced; why not take the rebellion all the way? So I asked for the names of my Dad, and anyone related to him. It fulfilled my lifelong curiosity, but also prepared me for the possibility of needing family to go to if Canada kicked me out. As far as I had heard, he had been my mom’s best friend-turned-baby-donor, and he was a good man (despite the fact that he was married with kids when I was born). He would take care of me if I needed him.
I sat on the information for awhile. All I had were names, and I didn’t necessarily know what to do with them. You can put a lot of fantastical expectation into a name, and my little-girl heart was picturing all kinds of heartwarming reunions…but what if all I actually got was the door slammed in my face?
I decided to start small, testing the familial waters with my toes. I would try to find my Dad’s other daughter, my half-sister Cassie Winters, on Facebook. I prepared for a million and one Cassie Winters’ to pop up.
Only one name appeared. One. And it wasn’t hers. Cassie Pope.
She was probably married by now, but still, it’s not like Winters was included in my results. This one name came completely out of left field.
And then I saw her profile picture. 3 small girls, mirror images of me when I was that age. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, beyond Facebook search technicalities, that I’d found my sister.
So I private-messaged her. “Hi, my name is Carly Butler, and I’m looking for relatives in the States. I’ve been told that my father’s name is Matthew Winters, and I wonder if you know him?” I kept it pretty nonchalant, just in case.
Less than 12 hours later, I had a response.
“Hi. My father is also Matthew Winters, and I believe you are my half-sister. I wondered when this day would come.”
To be continued…