I’ve been thinking about family resemblances since Thursday evening when I visited the Tucson Adoption Reunion Support group. One of the adoptees there believes he has found his mother, although she has denied that it’s her. He’s seen pictures of her and some of his cousins, and I have to say there is a strong resemblance. (Where he will go from here, I don’t know… He’s exhausted his search avenues and is fairly sure he’s found the right woman. Just wait and hope she comes around? Some in the group asked me if I’d ever heard of a mother totally forgetting about birthing and giving up a child? I haven’t, although I did meet a mother who couldn’t remember the birth date or place, if she’d had a boy or girl, just that she had given up a child. The mind is a powerful thing.)
I realized, as I have many times since I reunited with my son and got involved in adoption support groups, how important it is for adoptees to finally lay eyes on someone who looks like them. It’s rare that they will resemble anyone in their adoptive family, except in some vague way like coloring, although they may pick up mannerisms or voice inflections.
I’ve met adoptees who were eager to have children, to finally have a family member who looked like them. A child who would mirror their image. I don’t think this is at all narcissistic. I believe it is a normal human desire.
Those of us who were raised in our family of origin don’t think about this. We see our features mirrored in our mothers, fathers, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents. We got our smile from this one, our eyes from another, dimples or cleft chin from here or there.
Imagine if you didn’t have that resemblance, that recognition.
People always said I look like my mother and I have seen that over the years. As I grow older, I see myself as looking more like my father (not just the wrinkles that we now share!). Even though my granddaughter is almost the spittin’ image of her mother, I see my grandmother in there, when I look at pictures from her youth. My cousin has a son who looks very much like mine. We are all a blend of our family, both immediate and extended.
When I met my mother’s family — the people we didn’t know existed until 16 years ago — I was stunned! How much she and her siblings looked alike, the mannerisms, inflections and little idiosyncrasies that were identical, even though they hadn’t been together for most of their lives. I saw my mother in my Auntie Em, and experienced a kinder, gentler version, as well as an understanding, that ultimately saved my sanity.
Today, we had Easter brunch with my father and his wife, her son and his wife, and my sister. Lately, whenever I see my dad, I feel as if I am gazing in a mirror. I’m not sure what it is: our eyes, our smiles? Maybe nothing at all, except that I have been looking at him for almost 61 years. There is recognition, a belonging, a connection — and that is important.
That there are adoptees out there who haven’t had that, might never know and feel that belonging, makes me sad.
This is not to negate the adoptive families who have raised children that were not their own with love and who did their best. I only ask for understanding that that may not be enough. And for understanding when they feel compelled to find who and where they came from, their roots, and to see someone who looks and acts like them.
It’s more important than you think. This is also why I implore all of you, whether you have a personal connection to adoption or not, to support bills that come to your state to open sealed records.
Every citizen of the U.S., in fact every person on the planet, deserves to know their truth. It’s a right that those of us raised by the people who conceived and birthed us already have.