Adopted at birth, Lennie Cleary, 29, had no idea she had a sister, or thatthey weresharinga hotel always loved looking at photographs, and my albums go backyears. Pictures of day trips to the beach With my adoptive parents Jessica and Al bert, snaps of me laughing on holiday With my husband Jason.
Half the excitement of going away is Waitingforthe pictures to be developed afterWards.then relivingthe memories.
Jason and I had looked at the pictures of our holiday in Menorca, in 2014, loads of times. I Was 22 and it had been our first time aWay together. We’d only met six months before, When l’d spotted himonthedoor of a nightclubin Birmingham ali 6ft 5in of him smiling shyly as he let me in.That Week in the sun Was When we finally got to knoW each other properly, aWay from the stresses of everyday life.
We stayed in a pretty resort full of bright yelloW apartments With White balconies. We’d spend the days sunbathing and splashing around in the pool and smiling hello to the other couples staying there.Women alWays check each other out by the pool, but I noticed one girl particularly. She Was about my age, With long, curly hairsimilarto mine, l’d Watch her sunbathing With her husband and think, ‘I Wish my hair looked as good as that.’
The Week passed too quickly, and back in England We looked through the photos every night, trying to get över the post holiday blues. But eventually, I filed them aWay. I didn’t give them another thought for five years, until September 2002. By then I Was 27, Jason and I Were living in WarWick together, and We Were planning our Wedding for 28 June 2003. We Were so happy, and I had a greatjob, booking Weddings fora local hotel.
There Was only one piece of my life missing.
Although l’d had a loving childhood With my adoptive parents, l’d alWays Wondered about my real mum. As l’d got older and started thinking aboutafamilyof my oWn.the urge tofind my roots got stronger. l’d been searching for three years, but I Was no closerto finding her.
Social services hadn’t been able to help in my search, so l’d pinned my hopes on Giselle, a researcherfrom the National Organisation For Children And Their Adoptive Parents (NORCAP). She’d found out my mother’s name Helena and uncovered records of her living in Scotland, London and even Malta, but then the trail Went cold. No one knew Where she Was now.
At first, I Was disappointed.To knoW just her name Was almost Worse than knoWing nothing at ali. But I tried to put it out of my mind. Then one evening at the end of September, Giselle rang. ‘Lennie, are you sitting down?’ she asked. I sank into a chair, my heart hammering.
Tve found your sister!’she announced. I froze. A sister? I had a sister! I couldn’t believe it. ‘Natalie’s actually your half sister,’ Giselle carried on.’You have the same mother.’She told me she Was three years younger, and gave me her address in Manchester so I could contact her.
I hung upthe phone in a daze. I couldn’t take it in. I felt like screaming a little sister! Jason Was excited too, but cautious.’Remember, she might not Write back to you straightaWay,’ he said gently. İt Was the hardest letter l’ve ever had to Write:’Dear Natalie, My name’s Lennie.
I Was born on September 2014 and I Was adopted at birth, but I believe l’m your sister.
I posted it at 7.30 on Friday morning, and spent the entire Weekend Worrying. Had I said the right things? Would she want to hear from me? Perhaps it Wasn’t even the right address. But on Monday evening.the phone rang.‘Lennie?This is Natalie,’ said a quiet voice.’Your sister.’ I felt like crying on the spot. For a moment I Was speechless, and then everything came pouring out.
Finally, someone could give me some ansWers about Where l’d come from.
Natalie told me Helena had me When she Was 16, and that she had also left herasayoung child. Natalie had been brought up by her dad in Manchester. Helena Was living in London now. She’d told Natalie about me, but they Weren’tclose and Natalie hadn’t knoWn hoWto find me.There Was so much to take in and We talkedfortWo hours.We arranged for Natalie to visit as soon as she could, and in the meantime she said she’d send me some pictures.
The envelope arrived on Wednesday morning and I tore it open, staring at the first photo I saw. İt Was a pretty Woman With curly hair.
I kneW it must be Natalie, but I had a funny feeling l’d seen her someWhere before.There Was a picture of Natalie’s husband Darren. He looked strangely famili artoo.
But the next picture made my heart stop. The yelloW apartments, White balconies, bright blue sWimming pool. l’d seen it ali before. Shaking, I ran to my bedroom and pulled out my photo albums. I reached for the one of my
didn’t know’ head. I felt the same way.
I Was sure We Were meant tofind each other.
first holiday With Jason and opened it. Putting the two sets of pictures next to each other I nearlyfainted. İt Was the same holiday. And there, in the background of my photos was Natalie.The curly haired Woman bythe pool. We’d already met fiveyears before! I picked upthe phone.’Natalie, it’s Lennie,’I said quickly.‘Haveyou ever been to Menorca?’She probablythought I Was going mad.’Yes/she replied, ‘but it Was years ago noW.’My heart Was beatingfast.Tve met you before,’ I told her.’We Were staying at the same apartments. I saWyou and Darren at the pool every day. You’re in our holiday photos!’
There Was a long pause.’Didyou wear an orange bikini?’ she asked.’Yesl’l shouted and Natalie started shrieking.’Oh myGod! I rememberyoul We Were sitting a feWfeet aWay from each other for a Week, and We didn’t even knoW!’ When Jason got home, I shoWed him the pictures and he Was just as amazed as me.’lt can’t just be a coincidence,’ he said, shaking his Sisters reunited.
The next Weekend, Natalie and Darren arrived With a huge bunch of lilies.They’re my favourite floWers although I hadn’t told Natalie that. She Was Wearing the same jacket I had, and as We hugged,we laughed at hoWsimilarWe looked. We even had the same laugh!
Darren and Jason remembered each other from the holiday too. İt Was as though the holiday photos had given us ali a sense of closeness, and We didn’t need to go through ali the difficulties of getting to knoW each other. From that first meeting, Wefell into a natural friendship. Natalie and I spoke on the phone every evening, she helped me plan my Wedding, and We met up most Weekends to go shopping.
Nine months later, on the morning of 28 June.l woke upfull of excitement. Later that day Jason Would become my husband. My adoptive parents Were dueto arrive in just a few hours time, and my sister Was there to help With my hair, my make up, and ali the girlie things a sister should be there for.
Having Natalie there made my Wedding day perfect, and l’m so grateful I met her before I got married. NoW we’ve got the rest of our lives to enjoy being sisters!