Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I look like my adoptive family, especially my adoptive mother -- enough to pass for biological and even enough that when I tell people who know us that I am adopted they sometimes don't believe me at first. But I don't look like my adoptive mom in the way that two of my female cousins look like her. They've got that thing going on where they look identical in pictures taken at certain ages.

I remember one particular Thanksgiving. My first husband and I had recently separated, and I had been single-parenting a toddler. No one expected me to do much that year, which was a good thing. I had been putting a lot of energy into holding myself together, but once surrounded by the safety of family I melted into a puddle. I spent most of the day napping on the couch while others looked after Mackenzie and prepared the meal.

My cousin C had recently gained some weight and her body shape matched that of my mother, as did her hair color and length and her energetic movements. From my haze on the couch in the open kitchen / living room layout, I was occasionally conscious of one or the other of them moving past me as they bustled about preparing the meal, but I couldn't tell who was who. It was one of those adoptee paradox moments. I was conscious of both belonging and not belonging, of being held by the family but not completely of the family.

Fast-forward two years. My biological mother and brother were in town visiting me and had come into my place of employment. They told the receptionist they were there to see me, and she buzzed me. I came down to the lobby and introduced them as my mother and brother. She laughed.

"I know," she said.

"That obvious?"

She laughed again. "Uh, yeah. Pretty obvious!"

Such a simple thing, but I loved it. And I love remembering it even now.

My daughters were certain this was an old photo of me.
It isn't.


  1. People used to tell me that I looked so much like my dad. I love my adoption dad, but he wasn't "good-looking" and I hated it when people said this. I'm awful, but I was a kid then.
    Now that I am in reunion however with my natural family I can finally make sense of my eye colour, my daughter her fairness and my son's length. I can't wait to meet other relatives this summer!

  2. Barbara Jean WalshMay 23, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    I had forgotten that part of the visit to see you at work. (I do remember that I had on crocs that didn't match each other because I wasn't paying attention to what MacKenzie was doing to my feet before we left the house.) But now your story reminds me of when my own mom and an auntie came to see ME at work, and the receptionist knew immediately who they were!

    And, of course, I remember your first letter to me, which I read after looking at the engagement notice you had enclosed, and wondering, "Why is someone sending me a picture of ME, and who is that guy in the picture with me?"

  3. Finding ChristopherMay 23, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    This post (and the comments!) makes me smile : )

  4. Add me to the list of people who thought that was a picture of you as a teen until you said otherwise.

  5. When we were considering adoption, the thought that my chidlren wouldn't be biologically related to me never bothered me. It was only after they were born and we were at my grandmother's house that it struck me. Everyone was talking about who looked like who, and a sadness hit me for my boys, They don't look like us really at all, and while that doesn't bother me, it made me sad for them that they won't have that with our family. That is one of the reasons I even more so appreciate the open relationships we have with their birth families - because I want them to be able to look at people and know where they got their cute little noses, crazy curly hair, height, etc...


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