Saturday, May 16, 2015

Here's a story...

...that's right up my alley*: Two sisters, adopted by different families more than 30 years ago, met each other recently for the first time in a writing class at Columbia University.

An article in today's Times, "2 Women Moved to Write Stories Uncover a Surprisingly Personal One," tells of two women who were born to a teenage mother in Tampa, Florida. Katy Olson, 34, grew up mostly in Florida and Iowa, while Lizzie Valverde, 35, hails from New Jersey.

(Spoiler alert: It's not a particularly long piece and doesn't settle -- once and for all -- the whole Nature vs. Nurture debate. But it's still interesting.)

Their birth mother, Leslie Parker, 54, had both girls when she was a teenager in Tampa, Fla. She has never spoken to Ms. Olson. A frustrated writer, Ms. Parker led a difficult life that included poverty, drug abuse and emotional problems.

Interestingly, the two women, who don't much look alike from their pictures in the Times, have a lot in common despite very different upbringings. From the piece (my emphasis):

The two sisters grew up very differently. Ms. Valverde enjoyed a comfortable life in Bergen County in northern New Jersey, where her father was a television news editor. Ms. Olson, who has mild cerebral palsy, spent much of her childhood coping with physical challenges, including several medical procedures.

But from an early age, both were relentlessly curious, driven and passionate about writing, though they both also dropped out of high school and did not follow the conventional college-to-career path.

Discussing their story publicly for the first time, the sisters described this week how they both moved to New York City to pursue careers and decided at around age 30 to study writing full time.

In the first of a series of coincidences that would bring them together, both applied to, and were accepted at, the School of General Studies, which is unique among Ivy League schools in offering returning students a full-fledged undergraduate college experience. Both registered for WRIT W3680, a literary-reporting class.

Coincidences? I wonder. If two sisters looked alike no one would call that a "coincidence," would they? No, you'd probably say something like, "Well, of course they resemble each other; they both had the same mother so they both share the same genes. Duh!" So why wouldn't you say that about their intangible qualities as well?

The piece also mentions a few questions they asked each other:

Do you love Buffalo wings with beer? Spicy food? Do you have weird pinkie toes? Do you love avocados?

Regrettably, the article doesn't reveal the answers.

Have you ever heard an evangelical Christian say something like, "God has a plan for me," implying that their lives are somehow pre-ordained by God to follow a certain path? I'm starting to wonder if that's not so crazy. But as a non-believer, I would rephrase it as, "My genes have a plan for me."

* That's really a picture of my alley, taken just a few minutes ago.

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