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Can We Talk?

One of my absolute favorite pastimes is writing. There's a unique magic in the written word that often makes it easier for me to convey my thoughts and feelings compared to speaking. Amid the hustle and bustle of life, this space becomes a sanctuary where I can pour out what's in my heart through the art of writing. I hope you find enjoyment and resonance in these words I share. Feel free to engage and write back—I cherish our connection! Don't forget to subscribe to stay updated with new posts.

  • Writer's pictureJessica Nelson

A Journey Of Unexpected Connections

As we stand on the cusp of the final days leading into the 4th quarter of 2023, life has been a whirlwind in the Nelson/Wonson household. Malachi has embarked on his high school journey, and I find myself grappling with the realization that I have only four more years of parenting a minor ahead of me.

On the professional front, my career as a Pilates instructor is thriving. Pilates Poolside in September left me invigorated and eager to pursue my plans for fitness retreats. I even dream of taking our show on the road someday, a concept I affectionately call 'Pilates with Passports' (the name is a work in progress).

In the backdrop of these life changes, there's a deeply personal and transformative journey I've been on. In 2012, my biological father passed away, a man with whom I had never truly formed a relationship. This fact had always gnawed at me. I yearned for a connection that had eluded me throughout my life. His passing left me in an emotional quandary - how could I miss someone I never really knew? Yet, I also understood that the chasm between us was irreparable.

In October of 2022, my curiosity about who Arthur Nelson was to others led me on a quest for answers, ultimately bringing me to his cousin and best friend, Kevin. Our initial phone conversations were revealing. Kevin's voice bore an uncanny resemblance to my father's, but his genuine interest in my life contrasted sharply with the relationship I had hoped for with my father.

The truth that unraveled during our talks was a painful revelation that had always lingered in my heart, unspoken. My biological father and paternal grandparents had chosen to keep me a secret. In their eyes, my existence threatened the vision they held for him - one of grand success, including a burgeoning political career. An illegitimate child would tarnish that image, and thus, I was born into a family with a complex and concealed dynamic.

The puzzle pieces were finally clicking into place, allowing me to make sense of long-standing mysteries. I understood why my name, and my children's names, were absent from my paternal grandparents' obituaries. I grasped why I was listed as a family friend in my father's obituary, with no mention of my boys' names.

In March of 2023, I embarked on a journey to Maryland, intending to visit a Pilates studio and meet Kevin in person for the first time. We enjoyed a delightful lunch at one of Kevin's favorite restaurants, followed by an entertaining, albeit fruitless, quest to find 'les Pres Sales' butter. Kevin's involvement in my butter-seeking mission was unexpected and endearing. After a day of searching, he led me to the house where my biological father had grown up - a place I had visited once as a child. Stepping out of the car triggered a torrent of emotions. Little did I know that an even more unexpected encounter awaited.

The door swung open before Kevin could knock, revealing a face and voice I had never encountered before. Warmth and familiarity radiated from this stranger as he declared, 'Kevin! Who's that you've got with you? Just kidding, I know who you are, Jessica. Come on in, you're family. Get your butt in here.' It was my father's brother-in-law, Darrell. I was now thoroughly bewildered. Here I was, in the home of the family that had kept me hidden away, yet this man welcomed me with open arms as if I had always belonged.

So, I pondered, perhaps Darrell was an exception, but what about his wife?

Meeting my father's sister, or rather, reacquainting with her since a brief encounter in 2012, was not part of my plan. She came down the stairs, visibly surprised to see me. Our visit was pleasant and filled with humor, yet a lingering discomfort persisted. My mind grappled with the unfolding events. Before leaving, we exchanged phone numbers, and she shared her five-year journey of practicing Pilates, expressing excitement about our shared interest.

As I drove back to Richmond, I remained bewildered, still processing the whirlwind of events, unsure if I even cared about seeing these newfound relatives again.

In June, during my stay in Alexandria for Pilates training and to celebrate Jeremy's birthday, an unexpected turn of events occurred. A leisurely walk led me to a familiar area, prompting me to reach out to my father’s sister, thinking I might be near her house. To my surprise, she called me immediately, her birthday that very day, and she invited us to join her for dinner and ice cream. Initially overwhelmed, I declined, but she suggested breakfast the next day, and I decided to take a chance.

That morning, before breakfast, I was nervous. Uncertainty took over me, leaving me unsure of what to discuss or even why we were meeting. I dreaded the possibility of hearing comparisons between my father and me or glowing tributes to her parents. I had no idea what to expect, and the urge to back out was strong. In a moment of hesitation, I asked Jeremy to come with me, fearing that I might need the support.

During our breakfast together, I casually mentioned my desire to have tea later on, though Jeremy wasn't too keen on the idea. That's when she stepped in, offering to accompany me. Jeremy quickly agreed, and I found myself at tea with my father's sister.

Over tea, she graciously allowed me to ask questions about my father, answering them as best as she could. She took the opportunity to apologize for the decisions her parents had made and her role in it all. It was an emotional moment, and tears flowed freely.

After tea, we reunited with Jeremy, and somehow spent hours at her house. Jeremy had dinner, I was so nervous to eat. Sitting at a table with someone who shared my last name, I realized I had an aunt and uncle who genuinely cared....and they were cool people. The house that had been closed to me for most of my life had transformed into a welcoming place where my comfort mattered.

Since then, Malachi has had the chance to meet them, and they have wholeheartedly embraced his quirks and communication needs, which means the world to us both. It's remarkable how Pilates has not only impacted my personal life but also brought my family closer together.

Life is a journey filled with unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes, the most profound transformations occur when we least expect them. As we approach the final stretch of 2023, I find myself embracing a newfound sense of family, understanding, and connection. The path that led me here may have been shrouded in confusion and uncertainty, but it has ultimately led me to a place of acceptance and love that I never thought possible. And it all began with a quest for answers and a serendipitous encounter, all while sharing the joys of Pilates.

Looking ahead to the coming months, October marks the start of an exciting new chapter for me. I will begin seeing private clients in a brand-new Pilates studio located off of Paterson Avenue in Henrico. This transition signifies a significant milestone as I expand my practice to include private sessions involving equipment. It's a shift from the convenience of in-home sessions to a more immersive studio experience.

I am truly excited about this evolution in my Pilates journey and the opportunities it will bring for growth and connection with my clients. Life continues to surprise us, and I can't wait to see where this new venture will take us in the ever-unfolding story of my life and career.


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