A new sister for Christmas: Long-lost siblings can't stop looking at each other
Tina White of Bathurst and Susan Rice of Chicago discovered they were sisters almost 2 months ago
It's a Christmas vacation that's headed straight for the family photo album — and certainly one that two sisters will never forget.
Tina White of Bathurst and Susan Rice of Chicago met for the first time at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Christmas Day. The two sisters found out they were related almost two months ago through Ancestry.com, a genetic genealogy website.
Their first meeting was filled with excitement, some jitters and a few surprise tears.
"There was a sense of anticipation," said Rice, 55, who waited impatiently for her sister to walk down the escalator toward the airport's baggage claim area.
"Will she look like what I think she looks like? Will I recognize her immediately? And what will that first reaction be?"
Before she met her sister, White, 53, spent her journey telling everyone why she was travelling across the country by herself on Christmas Day.
"Everyone was so excited to hear the story," said White, who always believed she had a biological sister out there somewhere.
Then she reached her destination.
"Once I got off the plane I took one extra swoop around my particular location and said, 'OK, I'm going down the escalator, this is it,'" she said.
'Kicking into big sister mode'
The two women recognized each other immediately and hugged.
"Susan, she had this look of eagerness, yet apprehension, yet cautiousness because she was fearful that I would fall down the escalator," White said. "So she's already kicking into big sister mode."
Rice, who grew up in Illinois, joined Ancestry.com in the summer of 2016 but never thought she'd actually meet someone related to her by blood.
After pondering the idea for years, White recently decided to search for her long-lost sister. She, too, signed up on Ancestry.com.
They're both glad they took that step.
"I can't stop smiling," Rice said. "That keeps getting pointed out to me again and again: 'Susan you have not stopped smiling for days.'"
Making up for lost time
The sisters have spent the past three days together, learning about each other and their lives during trips to the dog park and Rice's favourite doughnut shop.
"Everyday this-is-my-life kinds of things that you would want to share with family," said Rice, who plans to visit New Brunswick next year.
"If your sister came into town for the holidays, what would she do with you? And I've never had that experience before. I've never had a sister before. That's a completely different feeling than any other kind of connection in the world."
Over the past few days, they have been finishing each other's sentences and had a hard time keeping their eyes off one another.
"When we see each other, it is so evident that we are sisters," White said. "It is looking into a mirror for me and that is an amazing feeling."
They also learned about their shared loved for singing and musicals. This week, Rice took her sister to Fiddler on the Roof, where she spent more time watching her sister than the actual show.
"That was the fun part for me was seeing how my little sister was enjoying and appreciating the experience of being there," she said.
Living a world apart
The girls grew up aware they were adopted, but neither knew much about their biological family. Through a first cousin, the sisters discovered more about their background.
They were born to a couple in Quebec and put up for adoption in Quebec City.
Rice was three months old when she was adopted and grew up outside Chicago. White was 10½ months old and was taken to Bathurst.
The sisters don't know why they were put up for adoption and likely never will, unless they try to locate their father. Their mother, who had eight siblings, died in 1981.
Although the sisters have spent a lifetime apart, they're thankful for the time they have together and the future they plan to build.
"With that possibility, why not take the leap and go there because what you can find is incredible," said White.
With files from Information Morning Moncton