Though we weren’t able to meet face-to-face during her stay, Simone Ingram shared her story with me via email. Here is her incredible story, in her own words…
One day, I logged onto Facebook and had a message in my inbox asking if I had a dad named Dennis Michael Cudmore and a brother named Jean-Paul. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I read it and re-read it a million times and didn’t know what to do.
It was my sister Ciera who found me on Facebook. I never even knew I had a sister. That evening I called my brother and asked if he was sitting down and if he had a drink in his hand. He replied yes to both so I told him the news – it looked like we had a sister in America. My sister Ciera DesJardins has a two-year-old little girl and just got engaged. We were both speechless. Ciera had been looking for us for as long as she could remember. Neither of us knew our father, she only knew about us from what her mum had told her, for which I shall be eternally grateful.
For the past three years, Ciera and I have mailed each other regularly and tried to Skype once, but we kept losing connection. I have been desperate to meet her since she first got in touch with me. This past year on my Christmas list, I put that I would like to meet my sister. On Christmas Day, after we had opened our presents, my husband said that he had one more thing for me. I had always wanted to have a nice English afternoon tea at the Ritz and had mentioned this on numerous occasions, so when he gave me an envelope I thought, this is it, my tea at the Ritz. I opened the envelope and could not believe what I saw, he had organized for the two of us to fly to Milwaukee for a week to meet my sister. As you can imagine the tears flowed with happiness and I just could not stop smiling.
My husband Ian had arranged everything with Ciera, she was in on it all along. Ian said that because this was to be a trip of a lifetime, he had chosen a very lovely hotel for us to stay in. And The Pfister sure was lovely. I had never been to America before. I’m from a small town called Barnstaple in Devon, England so to see everything supersize blew my mind away at times.
Ciera and I met at the airport. We just hugged and giggled nervously – my husband filmed it all. We spent the week together getting to know each other and finding out we have similar ways, likes and dislikes – neither of us like mushrooms or anchovies. Someone actually said we looked alike, in our smiles. We were both delighted, as I am 20 years older than Ciera – she’s only 23.
We also took a trip to Chicago, which for me was very special, as our dad lived in Chicago. The last known address I had for him was in Hinsdale, Illinois. Before I met Ciera, I always wanted to go to Chicago to see if I could find him. Walking along looking at the sites side by side with my sister filled my heart. Knowing I was in the same city and walking the same paths he may have walked was enough. I had flesh and blood with me. In my mind and heart I confirmed I would never ever let this young girl be apart from me again. I felt warmth and love that only blood can produce.
My dad left England when I was about five. He was a top hairdresser and worked with Vidal Sassoon. My mum had always said he was a very talented hairdresser. Sadly though since he left England, I have only seen him once when I was 16. We exchanged letters on a regular basis but one day about 10 years ago, the letters stopped and we’ve heard nothing since. Ciera has never seen him, she has only spoken to him once on the phone. We are not sure if he is alive or passed on. A sad side to our story.
Everyone at the Pfister was so friendly, warm and welcoming. We felt like royals and particularly enjoyed time sat by the open fire listening to the wonderful pianists. And the breakfasts were to die for, they kept us going throughout the day. The hash browns are nothing like the ones we get, yours are much nicer. I also got my afternoon tea! We shared afternoon tea in Blu and it was a lovely – wonderful tea, beautiful food, fantastic harpist, and outstanding view, all capped off sat next to my sister, just perfect.
We had a very special week which was over too fast. It was sad to leave Ciera, her fiancé Ross and my niece. We vowed we would both start to save so we could visit again. We had a few tears when we left, and when I landed in England I had more again, as I felt so far away from her. I would love for Ciera to come to England so I can show her her roots and I know my brother would love to meet her too. I would also love my two girls to meet their auntie, uncle and cousin.