For the first 18 years of my life, I was an only child and I was ok with that.
Sorry, that’s a lie. There’s a lot about being an only child that I hated. Lonely hours playing in my room with no one but Barbies and stuffed animals to keep me company… Feeling like I didn’t have having anyone to talk to… Not having a sibbling to “have my back” at school. Though, being an only child certainly had its perks. Having my parents undivided attention… being spoiled… Paving my way without an older sibling screwing things up for me.
I’m not sure how old I was when I thought snooping in my Mom’s chest of drawers was a good idea. I found a bunch of papers I couldn’t understand. I mean, I could read (duh!) but there was stuff on there that just didn’t make sense. Who was “Tina Joy Robillard”? Robillard is my mother’s maiden name, but we didn’t have a Tina in the family. I was confused… and kind of scared. Scared enough that I actually told my Mom that I was snooping, because I desperately felt the need for her to explain to me what this was all about.
Long story short: My mother got pregnant while she was engaged and very young. The relationship didn’t pan out and they decided together that the best course of action was to give up the child for adoption. Tina Joy was that baby.
So somewhere out there, I had a half-sister. Part of me thought that was totally cool, but part of me felt incredibly sad… I could see the wave of emotions mom fought to control every year on my half-sister’s birthday.
Fast forward many years. I’m 18 (or soon to be 18… the exact timeline is a blur.) Somehow, through the help of the Children’s Aid Society, my half-sister successfully got in touch with my mother and they decided to meet face to face. The entire family experienced a mixed bag of emotions. I mean, she could have been a freaking psycho, wanting to meet mom for the sole purpose of bitching her out and blaming her for ruining her life. Or, she could be the ideal daughter, the one mom had been dreaming of for years, and I would all of a sudden get pushed aside. (I know that seems ridiculous… but these are the crazy thoughts that go through your mind.)
So, while my mom met my sister (named Carolyn by her adoptive parents), my Dad took me stereo shopping as a distraction. I was super happy to get a stereo, but the distraction part didn’t work. We got a call from Mom saying that everything was ok, to come to my Grandmother’s house and meet Carolyn. Honestly, it’s hard for me to describe the exact moment of meeting her. I was nervous, scared, pissed, annoyed, envious… and kind of in love. She looked sooooo much like mom. And after a few minutes of talking, we discovered all three of us went to the same leadership camp in high school, that her and mom have the *exact same* handwriting, that all of us love to dance… the similarities went on and on.
So I had a half-sister… I mean, really. I had a half-sister. Wow… fucked up!
Months went by and we slowly started getting to know each other. I learned about her love of travel (she’s got photos of herself doing handstands in front-or on- important monuments on every continent). I learned that though she loved and adored her adoptive family, she felt the need to know more about where she came from. So in early summer of my first (or was it second) year of university, only a year or two after meeting me, my half-sister asked me to move in with her. Now you have got to understand, this was HUGE. Carolyn lived in TORONTO! To me, even though I’m relatively well-traveled, moving to Toronto even for a summer seemed amazing.
So with my parents’ blessing, I moved to Toronto for a couple of months. Carolyn got me a job as a hostess at a restaurant on the corner of King and John in the theatre district. I was in heaven. We would work mostly nights, me hosting and chatting up theatregoers, her serving/managing a restaurant like a pro (which essentially she was!) Within a few weeks, Carolyn got me serving a few lunch shifts and not long afterwards, she and I would be taking care of 50 tables on the rooftop patio overlooking the CN tower… working together like we’d been doing it for years.
After our shift were done, we’d often go dancing. I didn’t do much clubbing in Ottawa, so this was all new to me, but this was especially new to me because of the types of clubs we were going to. My favorite was Babaluu, a latin joint that seemed positively magical to me. Couples dancing everywhere!!! I mean, people were dancing… together! And switching partners! And socializing with everyone! I didn’t know a single salsa step when I first got there, but my half-sister started teaching me. That didn’t last long. You can’t be a relatively cute NOOB in a latin club without having a dozen guys wanting to “teach” you, and as Carolyn knew a lot of the people there, I learned how to salsa, merengue and bachata with anyone in no time. Still, my favorite partner was Carolyn. She was so confident, so sexy, so talented… I felt cool when I was near her.
We lived in the same one bedroom apartment…
Slept in the same bed for weeks…
Got drunk together…
Yelled at Toronto pervs together…
Ate hot dogs late a night while walking home…
Biked to the beach and sunbathed…
And we talked and talked and talked.
Before I knew it, I didn’t have a half-sister. I had a sister. Full stop.
Carolyn (who goes by Caz now… a nickname I think she got from an Australian while on her travels) is one of my best friends. She’s an amazing mom and an incredible woman. She came into my life just at a time when I needed a strong role model. Someone gutsy, intelligent, kind, generous, fearless, gentle and all around awesome.
So there you go. Some of you wanted to hear it, and I never tire of telling it.
Caz… beauty and joy personified.
Caz and I posing in front of a picture of Mom at Upper Canada Playhouse