I found out I was adopted when I was about the age of a preschooler. According to my mom, I had a friend whose mom was pregnant, and I had learned all about how “babies live in their mommy’s tummies.” My mom sat me down and explained that even though some other lady had carried me around in her stomach, she and my dad were my parents. Apparently, this idea that some other lady was the one that carried me around intrigued me, because I began to see women on the tv and around town and would ask my mom if that was the lady she had told me about (Aretha Franklin was even discussed at one point).
As I grew up, I dreamed that my biological family was royalty or somehow famous. I dreamed of the day that they’d find me, saying it was all a mistake, and wanting to integrate me into their wonderful lives. I think that’s probably a very common fantasy for children of adoption, reinforced by stories like Anastasia and The Princess Diaries, that there’s a possibility of a secret royal family. One of my favorite books in late elementary school was called The Face on the Milk Carton, a story about a girl who finds out she wasn’t the adopted granddaughter that her parents believed her to be, but a girl who was kidnapped. She eventually goes on to meet and get to know her biological family in the following books in the series, but that was the first time I really thought about the fact that there might be people out in the world who actually looked similarly to myself.
At 18, when I finally saw a picture of my biological mother and read her first words to me, I became fixated on my hands. My hands apparently looked like her hands when I was an infant, and I constantly wondered what other similarities we might have. In her photo, she was wearing a facial expression incredibly similar to one I make on a regular basis. Until that moment, I had dreamed about finding someone who I looked like, and there I was, staring at a lady who shared the same half-smile I made all the time. That was a moment of clarity that I think will always stick with me. I can still close my eyes and visualize the entire thing. It happened in a matter of moments, but it feels like it could go on forever.
From 18 to 23, I used the birth information I got from the state of Alaska to search for my birth mother at least once every six months. I don’t think there’s a single database used for finding people that I didn’t use. I even toyed around with the idea of hiring a private investigator, but what 23-year-old can really afford that? Four months before I turned 24, when I finally found some of my biological family, I thought I would find some sort of inner peace. A rest. Something that felt like the search was over. I emailed back and forth with my birth mom, got to know the family a bit better, but there was so much left unanswered. When I went to Alaska last year, I thought I might get to do a little more research into my history, but things didn’t work out quite as planned.
This week, it all comes to a head. This week, I meet them. I meet my mother, her family, and some of my aunts and uncles. This is what I’ve been wondering about and searching for for almost 22 years. But the last few days have been almost overwhelming. I’m caught between excitement and nervousness. I’ve wanted this for so long, but I don’t want to build up all these ideas in my head. I feel like I already know some of them pretty well, thanks to the magic of social media, but there’s just something about meeting people face to face for the first time. There’s a fine line between expecting too little and expecting too much. I keep trying not to get overwhelmed, but this is just something I’ve made up scenarios in my head about for years, so it’s incredibly difficult to clear out those expectations.
As my flight creeps closer and closer, I’m trying to prepare myself for “just another trip”. It’s just another adventure. I’ve had tons of these in the last year or so. I’ve gone places and seen things I wouldn’t have believed possible two years ago. And if it’s one thing I’ve learned from this family so far, they love each other fiercely. That’s the start to something good.
listening to: Portugal. The Man