Sunday, October 23, 2011

Biological Relatedness in my Adoptive Family & What it Meant for us Today

Today is my a-grandmother's 80th birthday (my a-mom's mom).  My mom and some other family members coordinated a huge get-together catered by a hotel where we all stayed yesterday.  By "we all" I mean my grandmother's three kids and spouses, all of their kids and their kids' kids (except for one granddaughter and great-granddaughter who were unable to attend) and some cousins.  My a-dad's brother and his wife, my aunt, were there too as they are friends of the family.  My family was last to arrive at the party; my husband was being super, firefighter, hero man out saving the day somewhere and we left later than we intended to.

Here I stood at this party, an adult with a family of my own who had done some serious work on figuring out who I am.  I also did some serious work embracing that identity.  I looked around, comparing faces, as I have grown so used to doing.

My cousin J and my a-mom look a lot alike.  They have about the same skin tone, the same dark eyes, and the same shiny black hair.  My mom used to wear her hair long and shiny like J does when she was J's age.  Sometimes I wonder if it is their Iroquois roots, the ones they know little about, shining through.

My dad and his brother have the same skin tone, the same nose, the same hair, and the same ears.  They wear similar clothes and glasses.  They both married women who have pale skin and like to wear their black hair in a perm.

The people we have lost in the past two years were there as well, carried in the faces of their relatives.

My cousin J looks like my a-mom but she also looks like her mother who recently passed away.  My uncles look like their father, my grandfather, who died two years ago this past month.  My uncle and my a-dad look just like their father, my grandfather, who passed away maybe 9 months ago.  I loved all of these family members who are no longer with us but yesterday at the party, I felt like they were among us.  I could see them in the faces of every one around me.  That's one awesome thing biology gives to us.

No one ought to feel insulted by me saying something good about biology.  Nature and nurture are not diametrically opposed.  Saying something good about the one should not be seen as an insult to the other.  When I reunited, I was excited to acknowledge that I am someones biological family too.  I carry the genes of my ancestors; you can see them on my face, and according to my aunt, in my hands too.  Where does this leave my a-parents?  You may not see them in my face but I carry their memories and social history; you can hear them in the stories I pass down.

Biology doesn't matter to everyone and that's fine; I am not here to tell them how to think.  But for me, it sure was nice to see my aunt and grandfather's again, even if it was just in the faces of their sons and daughters.

Photo credit: Rawich

13 comments:

damianhadams said...

I know what you mean Amanda. Even though I loved both sides of my family while growing up, and even though both sides treated me equally well, I just never seemed to fit in as well with my Dad's side. We were just less alike. I am sure it is not anything they tried to do, or I tried to do, just a pure statement of fact and not something that anyone should be upset or ashamed about.
I still love my Dad's side and we get along great, it is just that familiarity that is missing.

Lori said...

I think that family, most family, is about being family. I know that I identify with my father and his side of the family, much more than my mother's side. Oddly, I look almost exactly like my mother, except the color of my eyes. I know that I like seeing my cousins and aunts from that side of the family, I just don't have a lot in common with them. It is just what it is.

Assembling Self said...

You said it Amanda. I always describe it to the non-adopted in this manner: Everyone growing up is trying to "find themselves". Imagine trying to do that being adopted.

Haley said...

This was beautiful, thank you for sharing! I love your perspective.

Campbell said...

With my dad being gone I find it so comforting to be amongst his side of the family. Two of my cousins look so much like my dad that initially it was actually semi difficult emotionally seeing them. The first time I saw the one cousin after my dad died it took my breath away. I actually had to apologize for my reaction. I couldn't stop staring and saying "you look so much like my dad."

It's easier now though and it is nice seeing the ones we've lost in other family members.

Rebecca Hawkes said...

"Nature and nurture are not diametrically opposed." Amen.

Rebecca Hawkes said...

Re: your comment note. I was getting those messages, too, about people not be able to comment. I recently switched my comments feature to Disqus after doing extensive research.*

*Translation: My biological brother, who makes his living on the internet, said Disqus was best so I switched. One More Reason why Biological Relationships are Awesome - LOL. (My adoptive brother is awesome in his own way but doesn't even have a facebook account.)

Anyway, I've been very happy with Disqus so far. It was really easy to set up, imported all my old comments, and I haven't heard from anyone who can't comment since setting it up, knock wood.

CullyRay said...

OMG Amanda... this is absolutely beautiful - as in filled with Beauty. love you!

Von said...

I have found it enormously comforting and important to know those biological similarities..we have someone's feet, we don't know who, possibly that feisty and stylish GGGrandmother.The eyebrows come from the GGGrandfather on the other side, a true amalgam of biology.I love it as clearly you do too and I feel so strongly everyone has the right to know what we know...belonging and identity.

oneinchofgrace said...

That was so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Claudia said...

Wonderful post.

Trish said...

Beautiful post Amanda

Me. Us. She. said...

This was so beautiful. My mother and I have the same hands. When I look down at my hands brushing my daughter's hair I marvel at how they have become my mother's - those same hands I held and examined and played with as a kid. It physically pains me sometimes to know that my daughter will not have that experience until/unless we find her biological relatives overseas. It's actually one of those things that keeps me going when it seems too hard and we've waited so many months with no results/no word. I want her to see her hands (or eyes, or whatever) in someone else. I can't exactly put into words why it is so important. I guess it puts ground under our feet?