Finding the Gray

Maggie Lexing was bursting with excitement as she ran through the front doors of her house. From 3:15 to 4:30, her three younger sisters went to soccer practice, and her father was at work, so Maggie had time with her mother without anyone else at home.

“Hi, Mom!” Maggie said. “I forgot to tell you yesterday that everyone at school is going crazy about seeing their birth certificates! Brianna Curry found hers in the attic, and ever since then, the whole fifth grade has been trying to find their birth certificates. Can I see mine?”

“Well, honey, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I mean, my parents never showed me my birth certificate, and my friends didn’t say a word about it. It certainly didn’t affect me.” Her mother wore a sad, frightened look on her face, an expression that Maggie rarely saw, especially when she was alone with her.

“Pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top? I want to be the first one out of my friends who finds their birth certificate. You never mentioned it, and I have no idea where it is.” Maggie saw the doubt on her mother’s face. “I don’t need it right now.”

Her mother sighed, as if knowing this would be a battle where she could fight, but she would never win.

“Okay, sweetie. I guess I’ll show you when your dad comes home.”

Maggie ran upstairs with a big smile on her face, waiting for her father to come home. Her mother sat in a wooden stool, dreading the moment Mr. Lexing turned the ebony handle of the front door and walked inside their pastel blue house.


Later that night, Maggie and her mom had an early dinner before Maggie’s father came home. Usually, Maggie had dinner with her mother and father. Her mom didn’t tell her why they were having such an early dinner, no matter how much she tried to get it out of her. Even though she was still curious about this, Maggie decided to let it go.

Her dad walked through the front door. As soon as she heard the sound of his shoes clomping on the wooden panels of her house, Maggie, who was up in her bedroom awaiting her father’s arrival, ran downstairs.

Her mom whispered something to him, and as he ran upstairs to get Maggie’s birth certificate, her mom sat her down on the beige couch in the living room. Finally, Maggie saw her father come downstairs with a very fancy paper in his hands. He handed it over to Maggie, and her mom gave her shoulders a tight squeeze.

Maggie took a deep breath and looked down at her birth certificate. It looked like it had been very carefully made. It had a gold border lining the edges of the paper, and everything was written in black, fancy print. It looked so official, and for a moment, Maggie wondered whether she wanted to read it or not. But, as usual, curiosity took over, and she started to read the beige paper. But her excitement quickly changed to confusion. Just as she started to read it, her mother stopped her.

“Sweetie, before you read it, we should tell you something.” Her mother took a deep breath and started explain, “Honey, we’ve been meaning to tell you that you’re, you’re, you’re — ”

“Adopted.” Her dad finished her mother’s sentence, and even though he spoke in a whisper, the word “adopted” still held the same meaning and impact.

“This says that ‘Maria and Carson Salzi’ are my birth parents, not you,” Maggie said, and, in a way, she was sort of agreeing with her parents.

Maggie’s brown eyes shone with confusion, but soon they widened as she realized the truth. “But that means, that means, that means you guys have been lying to me my whole entire life!”

Maggie felt as if her parents had physically punched her. She began to say something else, but stopped mid-sentence at the sight of her sister, Maya, who was coming downstairs. Maya was dressed in her hot pink pjs, hugging a brown stuffed bear in one arm and rubbing her sleepy eyes with the other. Since Maggie’s dad was a doctor, he often came home late from work, and Maggie’s younger sisters went to bed before he came home.

“What’s going on, Mommy? Cassie, Sally, and I can’t sleep, because there’s too much yelling.” Maya twirled her blond hair around one of her tiny fingers.

Maggie had always wondered why she looked so different from her sisters and her parents, comparing her dark hair to their blond hair, or her brown eyes to their blue eyes. But every time she asked the question, her father told her that they all looked alike, and her mother turned very hesitant. Now she knew the answer.

Maya smiled at Maggie sleepily, her blue eyes shining. Maggie avoided her sister’s eyes and looked at the floor, not returning Maya’s small smile.

“Nothing’s going on, sweetie. Go back upstairs and sleep. We’ll be really quiet, okay?” Maggie’s mom’s voice was sweet and caring as she spoke. She saw the little transaction between Maggie and her younger sister, and the fact that Maggie didn’t return Maya’s smile, broke her heart.

“Okay, Mommy,” Maya responded, too tired to argue. She stifled a yawn, said, “goodnight” to everybody, and ran upstairs.

Maggie and her parents continued their conversation quietly.

“We didn’t tell you because we never wanted you to feel any different from the other kids. We felt like we were protecting you by not telling you the truth, but now we know that we were wrong. Then you turned six and started to go to elementary school, and we kept saying we would tell you, but we never had the courage or the heart.” Maggie’s dad looked at the floor as he said this, not having enough bravery to look her in the eyes.

“So lying to me is better?” Maggie looked up at her parents, her eyes full of pain.

“We didn’t want to lie to you. It’s just, certain things got in the way, and we never took the time to tell you. We adopted you from the orphanage when you were two years old, because I got a call from Child Services. I told your mother, and she loved the idea as much as I did. And the next thing we knew, we were signing adoption papers for you. We had your sisters a few years later.” Maggie’s father explained the whole story from the beginning, still looking down at the floor.

“They’re not even my real sisters anymore,” Maggie said, more to herself than to her parents.

“They’ll always be your sisters, and we’ll always be your family. I’ll always be your father, and your mother will always be your mother.” Maggie’s dad looked saddened by her comment, but Maggie didn’t care enough to notice the sorrow and pain in his voice.

Then, her mother spoke in a soft, fragile, and hurt voice. “Honey… we just want you to know that we’re still your parents, and we still love you. We’ll still be a family. This doesn’t change anything between us.”

“This changes everything between us!” Remembering her sisters upstairs who were trying to sleep, Maggie didn’t yell, but raised her voice slightly. She stomped upstairs, fuming that her parents didn’t tell her about this sooner, but she stopped midway up the stairs to say one more thing.

“In case you’re wondering, you don’t have to come and check on me. I want to be alone right now!”

Maggie pounced on her bed, more nervous and unsure of herself than usual. She realized that learning she was adopted made the scary idea that the people with whom she shared all her doubts and secrets with weren’t really her family. Were they? Or were they just people who picked her up from an orphanage eight years ago and acted like her family? They were people who had lied to her her whole entire life. But now she knew the truth.

“Oh, I know you’re upset but — ” Her mother started to say something, but Maggie cut her off.

“I’m not upset, and I don’t care! At all. Did you hear me? I. Don’t. Care,” Maggie screamed at the top of her lungs. She pushed away from the the wooden railing that she was holding onto and ran to her room, slamming the door.

“I’m not going to cry,” Maggie told herself over and over again. “I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry.” Repeating those words to herself, Maggie clutched her golden heart necklace that hung around her neck, got down on her knees, and cried her heart out.

Maggie could faintly hear her younger sisters waking up and questioning the reason for her outburst, but she couldn’t care less about them right now. She listened as the sound of her dad’s footsteps continued up the stairs and to her sisters’ rooms. She listened as her mother’s footsteps, which were more soft and humble than her father’s, climbed upstairs and into her room.

Maggie knew that her mom would say something or try and comfort her, but she knew that nothing could comfort her — she needed to sort this out herself. So, with her mother standing in the doorway, with the moon in its peak high in the sky, and with the stars taking their place in the night that would now fall, Maggie got into her bed and cried herself to sleep.


That night, Maggie dreamt about a world that was perfect; the clouds were made out of pink, fluffy cotton candy, the houses were made out of gingerbread cookies, and the grass was made up of every single candy in the world dyed green. There was no war and no sicknesses, and best of all, nobody was lied to, like she had been. But as she woke up, with the bright sun shining in her face, she knew that the real world could never be that perfect.

Maggie woke up, got dressed, and ate a piece of toast. Her mom greeted her with a friendly hug and a warm “Good morning,” but Maggie didn’t return her mother’s kindness. Instead, she did nothing, she said nothing, and she went out the door without a single word.     

She raced down the front steps of her big blue house and ran across the freshly cut green lawn, wishing that she could pick up a candy from the grass, like she could in the perfect world she had in her dreams. As Maggie jogged to the stop sign where she met her best friends everyday before going to school with them, she stole a quick glance back at her house. Maggie saw her mother in the window staring at her with a hurt look in her eyes. Maggie continued watching her three sisters get ready for school, and she saw her mother helping her youngest sister, Cassie, put her Sofia the First princess backpack on.

Then Maggie turned around and walked the rest of the way to the stop sign. She didn’t tell her friends about what happened the night before, and Callie, Molly, and Sophie, being true BFFs, didn’t question her silence.

At school, Maggie listened to her teacher, Mrs. Amos, drone on and on about math, and then science, and finally social studies right before the bell rang, indicating the start of recess.


During recess, Callie, Molly and Sophie decided to make a move. They had noticed that something wasn’t quite right with Maggie, and they knew that she needed to tell them what was wrong. Normally, she was a chatterbox, talking up a storm, but today, Maggie was way more quiet than usual. Her bright, brown eyes that usually shone with confidence, were dull and dreary instead.

So, her friends asked her what happened to cause her silence, and reluctantly, Maggie told them. Maggie continued on and on, pouring her emotions out to her friends, and her friends kept quiet, absorbing the feelings that she was dumping out. They knew that behind an angry Maggie was another part of her — a part that they seldom saw. They saw a heartbroken Maggie, and at the end, she got pulled into a big group hug by her friends. Then, Molly said something that not only surprised Callie and Sophie, but also Maggie.

“You can’t blame them, you know,” Molly started to say, ending the hug. As Maggie looked at her friend with a questioning look, Molly elaborated.

“I mean your adoptive parents. I mean, I know that you’re not that happy, but you should know that your adoptive family actually helped you. They took you inside their house. They are nice to you. They love you. They treat you like family, even if they aren’t your real family. In a way, you’re lucky to have such caring parents. I know learning that you’re… adopted can be a pretty big shock, but this doesn’t mean your family isn’t your family. They adopted you because they love you — a lot.” Molly finished, looking Maggie straight in the eye.

Maggie looked at her friend in wonder. The thing that surprised her the most was that Molly was right. Suddenly, Maggie realized that there were two separate emotions you feel when you get adopted. One is anger, the way you can feel at your real, biological parents. But the other is love, the way that you could — should — feel about your adoptive parents. Then, Maggie realized something that she hadn’t realized before. She realized that she was just using anger as a mask — she was hiding behind her anger. And she was taking all that anger out on her adoptive parents, when she knew that she really felt this way towards her birth parents. She also realized that what she really wanted was to find out what happened to her birth parents and why they left her at the orphanage.

She gave Molly a hug, and Molly seemed surprised to be receiving one.

“You look surprised,” Maggie said, laughing, for the first time in a pretty long time.

“I just thought you would be more angry at me than thankful to me for saying that.” Molly returned the hug, but she still looked nervous, like Maggie was going to unleash her anger at any moment, but this time on her.

“Actually, I’m really happy you said that. It made me realize that being adopted isn’t such a bad thing after all.” Maggie pulled away from the hug, as Sophie and Callie smiled.

“Well then, what are we doing here? Let’s go play tag with the boys!” Sophie started running away onto the green field of the school lawn, and one by one, Maggie’s friends followed her. As Maggie started to run after her friends, she thought about how she only had one problem left to solve — the problem with her family.


When Maggie reached the brick steps in front of her house, she slowly climbed them, one at a time. She walked through the front door and straight up to her room, making one tiny, little stop in between. Her mom was in the kitchen, and she looked surprised about the fact that Maggie smiled at her.

“Hi! I’m back from school!” Maggie seemed like she had had a major attitude adjustment since yesterday. Her mom smiled back at her, and Maggie continued up the stairs.

Even though Maggie still needed to apologize to her parents, she thought she should wait until her dad came home, and until then, she had something she needed to do. She needed to sort out her emotions–right now, they were like a swirling, twisted, tornado inside of her, and she needed to untwist the twister. And Maggie knew exactly how to do that. She needed to realize what she did wrong and fix it.

Maggie plopped down on her purple beanbag chair and started to think. She realized that after she learned that she adopted, she had let anger blind her. She was so mad at her parents for not telling her sooner, she hadn’t been super nice to them. She had been like a little devil, only thinking about herself, completely oblivious to the world around her. Rather than thinking about her family and how hard it must be on them to tell her, she took her anger out on them. She knew that they were just trying to protect her.

As she thought about some things, she realized that there were a lot of things that she had to do, a lot of things that she had to fix, and a lot of mistakes that she made, but there was one thing that she didn’t have to do. She didn’t have to rehearse her apology to her parents because, well, they were her parents, and even if she didn’t do the best with her apology, she knew that they would love her no matter what. She knew that learning that she was adopted made things seem black and white, two colors that everyone could see. But in the middle was gray, and you have to find the gray yourself–with a little help from your friends and family. Molly and her parents had helped her see the gray.  

A tiny hand placed on her lap jolted Maggie back to reality. It was Cassie- her youngest sister. Maggie smiled down at Cassie, picked her up, and sat her down on her lap.

“Can you play outside with me and Maya and Sally? We know that you were upset yesterday, so we want you to come and play with us. To make you happier.” Little Cassie looked up at Maggie, her big, blue eyes shining with hope.

“I can play outside with you,” Maggie responded. Cassie leaped off of her lap and ran across the hall to the bedroom she shared with Maya and Sally.

Maggie smiled as she heard Cassie’s voice, full of excitement, as she told her sisters the good news. Then, Sally and Maya came into her room and started to drag her out of her room and outside. As Maggie put on her purple flip-flops, she caught a glimpse of her mom, smiling at her. Maggie’s dark, curly hair bounced up and down as she ran around in circles with Maya, Sally, and Cassie.

They actually are my sisters, Maggie thought as they began to play hide-and-seek together. She was hiding behind a big evergreen tree as she realized this. And I guess that my parents really are my parents.

“FOUND YOU!” Maggie jumped and screamed as she turned and saw who scared her. Three little girls were on the ground, laughing their heads off, screaming with excitement.

“Oh, I’m going to get you!” Maggie started running after her sisters, feeling joy and love, emotions that she hadn’t felt in a while.

As Cassie, Maya, and Sally screamed, yelled, and laughed as Maggie chased them, Maggie’s mom watched from the window with a smile on her face.


After a few hours, Maggie’s dad finally came home. Maggie greeted him with a smile and went up to her room to work up the courage to say sorry to her parents. When she finally gathered enough bravery to talk and apologize for being the horrible monster she had become, Maggie slowly proceeded down the stairs.

Maya, Sally, and Cassie were already asleep in their room, and as she went down the stairs, Maggie thought how lucky she was to have such great sisters. When her foot landed on the bottom step, both of her parents looked up at her, probably expecting some kind of outburst, but Maggie surprised them both. Her eyes dropped to the floor, she took a deep breath, and she began her apology.

“I wanted to say that I’m sorry for being such a horrible daughter for the past day, because even though I know that I’m adopted, I know now that it doesn’t change anything between us because family is forever.” Maggie finished and realized that she hadn’t said such a good apology. Maybe she should’ve practiced her apology.

“We never blamed you — ” Maggie’s father started to say, but then her mother interrupted.

“And you were never a horrible daughter. You were just upset, and we understand. We just want you to know that we love you to the moon and back,” she finished.

Maggie took her eyes off of the floor and looked up at her parents. They came over to her and wrapped her in a hug.That was all they needed to say, and Maggie knew, for sure, that her apology was the best apology ever. But there was one thing she was still very curious about. She untangled herself from her parents’ arms, looked up at them, and asked the one question she was still very curious about.

“Can I meet my biological parents or my biological family?” She held her breath in anticipation and counted the seconds that passed by as her parents looked at each other.    

“Oh, honey, if you really want to, I suppose we could arrange something with them, but it’s really up to you.” Maggie’s mother felt happy that her daughter had used the word “biological” instead of “real.”

Maggie thought about what her mother had just said, and something clicked. In all the confusion of emotions and decisions, she hadn’t really thought about meeting her birth parents. All she really knew was that she wanted to meet them. But now, thinking about what had happened, she realized something.

“You know, I guess some doors are better off unopened.” Maggie had made her decision. She didn’t need to meet her biological family because she had the best family right here.

That night, as she slept in her cozy bedroom, tightly wrapped in her purple and white blanket, her head resting on her purple pillow, she had the same dream of a perfect world.

When she woke up the next day, Maggie put her hand in front of her face, shielding her eyes from the bright sun. Maggie knew that the world could always be as perfect as her dreams. She had found the gray.


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