Two sisters who had completely lost contact for 15 years and last saw each other in person as teenagers celebrated a full house when they were reunited by chance over their love of bingo.
Amanda, 44, who lives in Ipswich, Suffolk, and Melissa Paterson, 43, from Colchester, Essex, were reacquainted when they started talking in a bingo chatroom in February 2020 – their true identities masked by usernames – only for their many common links to soon expose their true personas.
Carer Amanda, a mum-of-four, who is single, said: ‘Melissa and I were very close growing up, we were inseparable.
‘Our mum loved bingo and used to take us with her.
I’ve always had fond memories of us playing bingo together.
Sisters Melissa, 43 and Amanda Paterson, 44, pictured, grew up together in Colchester, Essex, before drifting apart.
They were reacquainted when they started talking in a bingo chatroom in February 2020, 15 years after growing apart following their parents’ divorce
‘But our parents got divorced and I think we both took it pretty hard. I left home quite early on and I just took my own path.
Melissa took her own path too.’
While Melissa, who is currently not working because of the pandemic, stayed in their hometown of Colchester with her partner Carl, 48, a painter and decorator, and their two children, Amanda moved away.
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They drifted apart and, for 15 years, had no contact at all.
‘I would think about Melissa all the time,’ explained Amanda. ‘But the more time that went by, the less I felt like I could reach out to her.
The sisters were close growing up, pictured when Amanda was six and Melissa five, but when Amanda moved away from Colchester in the early 2000s, they grew apart
‘She had her own life, I had kids and I had heard through the family grapevine that I knew she’d had children.
‘I didn’t want to interrupt her life and I was also scared of the possibility of rejection. We’re both quite stubborn, so we both just kind of dug our heels in.
‘It became longer and longer since we’d spoken and reached a point where I wasn’t sure if she would even want me in her life.’
Eventually accepting that she may never see her sister again, Amanda was astonished when, in February 2020, she realised the true identity of a woman she was talking to in a bingo chatroom.
Amanda, 16, and Melissa, 15.
They both joined the same bingo chatroom and got to talking under pseudonyms before realising they were each other’s estranged sisters
‘We both happened to be in a Mecca Bingo chatroom,’ explained Amanda. ‘There’s quite a nice community and I like chatting to other people I’m playing with online.
‘I was quite isolated just before lockdown, because my daughter had chickenpox, so I was just reaching out for a bit of adult conversation.
‘I noticed someone in the chatroom say they were from Colchester, my hometown, so I struck up a conversation with her.
‘We were chatting about the area and whether we knew any of the same people.
When she mentioned the school she went to, I was stunned, as it was my old school.
‘I started to get a hunch, I can’t explain it, it was just a feeling. I asked what her age was and realised she was the same age as Melissa.’
Amanda, left, said she thought about contacting Melissa several times throughout the years but was afraid her sister would reject her.
Melissa, left, said the pair often reminisced about their childhood now that they have reunited
When Amanda revealed it was the same year as her sister was in, intuition told her this so-called stranger was in fact her sister.
‘I just knew it was her,’ she said.
‘She was telling me that she had children and they were all the same age that I knew Melissa’s children would be. There were too many coincidences.’
Convinced she was right, Popo Florist Amanda typed out, ‘Hi sis.’.
“She said: ‘Melissa typed back, “Amanda?’ and I burst into tears.
‘Neither of us had social media, so the site manager arranged for us to swap numbers – something we couldn’t do in the chatroom due to their rules – and we rang each other immediately.
Amanda said the sisters’ first phone call in 15 years lasted two hours – adding that they’ve not stopped talking since.
Pictured, after reuniting
The two sisters were like two peas in a pod growing up, pictured when Amanda was four and Melissa three.
They loved to accompany their mother at bingo, which is what drew them to the same online bingo hall
‘That first phone call lasted hours and we haven’t stopped talking since.’
The pair were due to meet face to face for the first time in 15 years in March 2020 but, due to the pandemic, the reunion was postponed.
Instead, over the May Bank Holiday weekend this year, the long-lost sisters joined each other with their