Thirty-five years ago, a little blonde-headed girl waited patiently for her visitors to arrive. There had been many visitors before, but this time was different. This day would change her life. I imagine that the she was very excited and probably stood in the widow watching, waiting to see a strange car in the driveway.
When that moment finally arrived, four people stepped out of the car; a young man with sandy blonde hair in his early 20s, a young woman with long brown hair also in her early 20s, an older man in his early 60s and his wife in her mid50s whose hair was completely white.
As the entourage approached the door the little girl’s excitement nearly overtook her. She ran straight out the door and into the arms of the older gentleman. The little girl excitedly exclaimed “My mommy told me that you were going to be my new papaw!” The visitors spoke with the lady of the house and each took their turn holding the toddler.
By the end of the visit the visitors were in love with the little girl, and they made their plans to make the little girl their own. The next week it was all set and the little girl went to live with her new family. I know that you are thinking that this sounds like the ending of a made for TV movie, but this is actually how I became the Erica Lynn Wilder, daughter of Jimmy and Karen Wilder and the granddaughter of John and Mildred Wilder, of Bledsoe, Kentucky.
I was 2 years old with hair so blonde that it looked white at times. I was very petite, but from what I have been told my size was very deceptive. I was a handful! I had a very clear vocabulary and could carry on a conversation with just about anybody. I never met a stranger and had an unwavering love for animals especially kittens and puppies. When I was adopted I inherited a whole other family on both sides. All my aunts and uncles loved me and were so happy for my mom and dad. I have many wonderful memories of each of them. I spent many summer weeks with them and their families.
I grew up happy and healthy. I learned about hard work and doing things right the first time. I ended up with two sisters and a brother whom I cherish to this day. My mom always told me that I was extra special because they got to pick me out. She also told me that God had chosen me to be their daughter, and looking back at the fluidity of the process and how smoothly it all went, I truly believe that God’s hand was in it. I was raised in church and though life was not perfect, in retrospect, I lived a blessed life.
I can honestly say that I was raised by my community. We knew all of our neighbors, and they knew us and if we misbehaved they would be just as likely to discipline us as our parents.
Now that Mother’s Day has come and gone and Father’s Day is fast approaching, I am growing more nostalgic over the memories of my parents and grandparents. My papaw loved to fish and since he was newly retired when I came to be, he and I spent many a happy hour on the bank with a line in the water. My dad took me for rides on his motorcycle, and even though I was only 2 I still remember the way the wind felt on my face as we rode. My mom would let me experiment in the kitchen with different ingredients and I specifically remember making potato chips in the oven at 5.
When I was 14 my biological brother somehow managed to find me, he was 16 years older than me, and had been living only a few miles away. He respectfully went to my mother for her permission to introduce himself and she consented. I will never forget the day as long as I live.
I remember my mother coming up to the side of the pool, leaning down and pointing to a bearded man and his companion standing outside of the gate surrounding the pool. She told me who he was and asked if I was interested in meeting him. Of course I wanted to meet him I had wondered so many things about my biological family. As soon as I saw Jerry I instantly felt a kinship that I can’t even describe. I saw MY eyes staring back at me. He never mentioned my biological mother until I was living on my own, but he was in my life until he died in August of 2015. When I was 18 my biological mother found me. We did not stay in touch.
I couldn’t be what she needed and she could not be what I needed. I will always respect that she gave birth to me, but Karen Wilder is my mom. She is the one that held my hair out of my face when I vomited, the one who read me countless stories, the one who lay beside me and rubbed my back when I was sleepy. My mom is the one that lovingly bandaged every scrape and held me and assured me that everything would be okay when it was matters of the heart that were involved.
I met three of my biological sisters; each of them but the youngest raised by their respective fathers. I love them. I continue to learn more and more about my family. I find that we share many of the same interests and I definitely can see things in them that I also see in myself. I look forward to spending time with them as much as do the sibling I was raised with.
I am married to the most wonderful man in the world. He is honestly the most humble person that I know, he is my best friend. Together we share four of the greatest kids in the world. A beautiful 15-year-old daughter that will soon be transitioning to high school, a 10-year-old son with a heart of gold, that is every bit his father’s son, a 7-year-old daughter that is as much a spit fire as I was and a 3-year-old son that is the most loving, imaginative child that I have ever met. I am so blessed. Life is crazy, happy, sad, upside down, right side up and imperfect, but I am alive and I had a chance to live life to the fullest. Every turn I have taken and every path I have trod has brought me to this place. As long as I continue to live I will continue adding new chapters to the story of me.