All Clean Softwash January 2019



A DNA Test Leads to a Magical Connection

How We Discovered Our Long-Lost Relatives

A couple years ago, I wanted to give my daughter, Justine, some extra incentive to perform well in school. Like many parents, I offered her a reward if she got all A’s over the course of a term. When I asked her what she’d like, she gave me an answer that surprised me. Most kids would probably ask for a new phone or a few extra hours to play “Fortnite” each week, but not Justine. She instantly knew what she wanted.

We talked with our mom, and she was 100 percent certain she wanted to meet her mother. We set up a family reunion of sorts to introduce everybody to one another. I have to tell you that despite our trepidations, it was magical from the first moment Janet saw Leota. There was no doubt that these two are mother and daughter. From their looks to their mannerisms, they had so

“I’d love to take one of those DNA tests,” she said, “so I can find out how Italian I really am.”

My mom and my grandma

I thought that was a pretty cool request, but I had no idea just how life-changing it would become.

much in common! It was clear to all of us that both of our families had just gotten bigger in the most unexpected and wonderful of ways.

We’ve always known that my mom, Janet, was adopted, but we never had any idea who her birth mother was. So when Justine’s test came back with possible news of a family member we didn’t know existed, my jaw hit the floor immediately. It couldn’t be — could it? After we were pretty certain that we had indeed found my mom’s birth mother, the question became what we would do next.

These days, we spend as much time as we can with Leota and her family. We have so much catching up to do, and it’s amazing how quickly we’ve meshed. Leota and her other children, Lane, Loree, and Tina, regularly attend Justine’s performances. Leota never knew that she had grandchildren, let alone

It was a momentous discovery but also something of a delicate situation. I had no idea whether my mom would want to know about her long-lost mother or whether they’d want to know about her. I called my brother, Joe, for guidance, and he suggested that we reach out to the family and get their perspectives before we proceeded.

My mom, Janet, Uncle Lane, and Aunts Loree and Tina with Grandma

great-grandchildren, and she’s been relishing every minute of it. It’s remarkable to think that these relationships all resulted from the fact that Leota and Justine took the same DNA test. As we start the new year, I hope you’ll leave some time for unplanned adventures and unanticipated surprises. You never know what life will throw at you, and often, the best discoveries are the ones you weren’t planning to make in the first place.

My Grandma, Leota, and my mom

When we first called Lane, one of the mystery relative’s children, he thought we must’ve been mistaken. He didn’t even know his mom had given up a baby for adoption. But he called us back a few days later saying that we were right and that his mom, Leota, would love to meet her daughter. What’s even crazier is that Leota only lived 20 minutes away from us, despite the fact that my mom had been adopted out of Boise, Idaho.

–Jennifer Ricca


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