That simple text message is all it took to reunite a Colorado Springs woman with the daughter she gave up for adoption 20 years ago.
The text popped up on the phone of Sandra McBroom, 37, last Thursday. She responded by immediately calling the number and re-establishing a connection she feared was broken forever.
The author of the text was Ashley Nellums, a 20-year-old woman living in rural Missouri with her husband and 2-year-old daughter, Tearza. Here’s a photo of Ashley and Tearza:
Ashley grew up in Grand Junction with her adoptive parents, schoolteachers who were chosen by Sandra to be her parents. Sandra had given Ashley up in an open adoption, meaning she knew where her daughter would be and she was allowed to have contact with the child as she grew up.
For several years, Sandra wrote Ashley. The relationship was encouraged by Ashley’s adopted parents.
Sandra said she tried to explain to Ashley what her life was like when she got pregnant at age 16 as a senior at Palmer High School. She said her home life was troubled in the aftermath of the death of her father, two years earlier.
But as Ashley approached her teenage years, she started grappling with feelings of rejection and abandonment. Ashley attributed her dark feelings to a simple question: Why had Sandra had given her up for adoption, then, three years later kept a son, Taylor, she gave birth to?
“I didn’t understand why I had to go,” Ashley said. “I was mad at her for keeping my little brother.”
But those feelings faded as Ashley matured, married and had her own child. Suddenly, she could empathize with her birth mother and all the stress she felt as a 17-year-old single mother trying to finish high school in the wake of her own father’s death.
So Ashley, left, went on Facebook and started searching for Sandra. Instead, she found her brother, Taylor, the one she had resented for being lucky enough to stay.
Ashley reached out and texted Taylor.
“I think I’m your sister,” she wrote him.
Sandra told her son to ask Ashley a series of questions that only she would know the answers to: Who is your birth mother? What’s your birthdate? Who is your birth father?
Sandra said Taylor started screaming: “It’s her! It’s her!”
So he gave Ashley his mother’s phone number and soon the one-word question popped up on Sandra’s phone.
One word melted years of ice. Today, Sandra, Taylor and Ashley are planning a reunion. Ashley is planning to spend a week in Grand Junction with her parents and Sandra and Taylor are hoping to drive up and meet them.
After so many years being just a mother-son team, is there room in the McBroom household for a daughter and grand-daughter?
“There’s definitely room in our hearts and our lives,” Taylor said. “There’s definitely room for Ashley and Tearza. We’re excited. I’m excited, nervous and anxious all at the same time. I can’t wait to meet them.”