And so the Christmas holiday comes to an end, which means my (approximate) day of birth soon follows. Another year separates me from you. Since I was a child I have written letters to a woman who is so much a part of me but who I have never known.
It is not an exaggeration when I say that not a day goes by where I’m not reminded of you or I don’t think about you. I wonder if you think about me around this time of year. I wonder if my hands are beginning to look like yours did 24 years ago. I wonder if I got them from you, or if I got my funny earlobes from you. Or maybe I got my monkey feet from you. It’s an overwhelming and painful reality that I’ll never know.
I don’t know where you are this holiday or if you even celebrate, but you are a part of me and so I think of you today, wondering if you think of me also. Merry Christmas, mom. You are with me always.
Today we held a baby shower in honor of my sister Mary, who is expecting a baby boy in December. The morning was spent with family and friends, celebrating a new life that will be joining the family. I am so excited to be an aunt! My sister is going to be an amazing mom and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of who she’s become.
What I didn’t expect was to come home at the end of the day and feel so heavy. I didn’t even know that I was feeling so heavy until it was 1am and I was alone watching tv, going through the pictures I took throughout the baby shower and I broke down. I saw my sister’s glowing face in every photo. I saw her friends who were also pregnant, and talked with them about the joy and excitement of meeting their little ones and watching them grow up together. I witnessed the blessing of community and support for a woman who is about to bring a new life into the world.
At the end of the day, all I could think about was my birth mother.
I will never stop wondering if during her pregnancy she was ever excited about bringing me into the world. Did she have any kind of support system? Or did my birth only bring grief? Today I felt my nephew moving around and kicking for the first time and it was the most incredible feeling. I can’t help but wonder what my mother felt when I was kicking and rolling about inside of her.
At one point during the shower I thought about how strange it is that bodies have the ability to grow another human. How fascinating is that? Isn’t it crazy that a human can grow inside of another human? The thought that I grew inside of someone else is so foreign to me, almost like it couldn’t possibly be true. When I look at other families, it makes sense because of the resemblance to other members of their family. It’s usually pretty easy to point out which parent one resembles so I don’t even think twice about where they came from or the fact that these two people made a baby and they had the baby and raised it together in one family unit. But when I think of me, I feel very isolated. I have two parents, and I have a sister. But my parents aren’t the humans who made me. The ones who made me are not the ones who raised me. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be raised by the people who birthed me. I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings who resemble me. I’ve been told I’m “overthinking” this concept but I disagree. That comment came from someone who has no idea what it’s like to be in my shoes. I am the only person in the world that I know of, who shares my DNA. If you haven’t walked that journey, then you don’t get to tell me your opinion about it.
As beautiful as it is, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to watch my sister walk through her pregnancy with the medical resources so readily available and support from friends and family at hand. She is very fortunate to be able to go through this journey with these blessings. In 1993, my birth mother most likely had no one. I will never know the woman who birthed me, the first human I ever had any true connection with, and that is the most devastating fact to come to terms with.
Today was a beautiful day, but it was also a bittersweet time for me. It is times like this when I wonder if she thinks of me as often as I do her. The English translation of the French phrase meaning, “I miss you” is quite literally, “You are missing from me.” I feel this deeply about my birth mother as she misses milestones she should’ve been a part of, but today I felt it even more so. I may not know who or where she is, but I hope she’s been fortunate enough to find the support and the help that she needed when she was pregnant with me.
I work at a Children’s hospital and interact with children on a daily basis. I often ask them what their favorite Disney movies and songs are. Most of the answers I get are from the movie Frozen. Others were from Beauty and the Beast, understandably so since the new movie just came out and it is fresh in their minds. I mentioned that my favorite Disney songs come from the movie Tarzan. One in particular is the song Strangers Like Me.
It’s not as much of a popular song, but I’m sure you’ve heard it. You’re probably not as familiar with the lyrics, so I’ll post a few excerpts here:
“Whatever you do, I’ll do it too
Show me everything and tell me how
It all means something
And yet nothing to me
I can see there’s so much to learn
It’s all so close and yet so far
I see myself as people see me
Oh, I just know there’s something bigger out there
I wanna know, can you show me
I wanna know about these
strangers like me
Tell me more, please show me
Something’s familiar about these strangers like me
Ooo, these emotions I never knew
Of some other world far beyond this place
Beyond the trees, above the clouds
I see before me a new horizon.”
This may sound like a random song to be favored among the others. But if you take a closer look at the lyrics, it truly describes how I feel around other “authentic” Indians.
Those first few sentences truly resonate with me–“Whatever you do, I’ll do it too. Show me everything and tell me how. It all means something to me and yet nothing to me.” Being around other Indians is an awkward feeling for me. I so badly want to feel like I fit in with them. I look like them…it makes sense that I should act like them too. The reality is that I will never be fully Indian. I missed growing up in the culture I was born into. I will always look Indian, but I’ll never be fully Indian. I don’t look American, but I am more American than Indian. Can you imagine how confusing this becomes?
“I can see there’s so much to learn. It’s all so close and yet so far. I see myself as people see me. Oh I just know there’s something bigger out there.”
I truly want learning about my culture to come easily to me…but it just won’t happen. I see myself as an American because that’s the culture I was raised in. I’ve had friends say to me, “I always forget that you’re Indian.” To be honest, sometimes I do too. But then I look in the mirror and remember this dark skin is not American. But there is a world out there that beckons for me to come discover it, and find others who are look like me, yet feel like such strangers because I lack the culture, identity, and religion I was born into. They are strangers…strangers like me.
“I wanna know, can you show me? I wanna know about these strangers like me. Tell me more, please show me. Something’s familiar about these strangers like me.” Growing up I wanted to be as American as I could be–I wanted to be a normal, typical, all-American kid. I never quite fit the mold. Now, it feels like I’ve been living the remainder of my life trying desperately to grasp what I can from that life and culture that I lost. I am Indian on the outside, but am American through and through so growing up I never felt like I quite fit in with Indians or Americans. It can become an isolating and lonely endeavor to try and balance this dual identity.
“These emotions I never knew of some other world far beyond this place. Beyond the trees, above the clouds I see before me a new horizon.” It may be too late for me to truly experience my culture the way any other Indian would having grown into it, but it’s not too late for me to try. As awkward as it may be to be in the presence of people who look like me but act so differently, I truly love learning. My heritage and culture is beautiful, intriguing, and mystic. This song makes me feel as though I am not alone. Talking to fellow adoptees has been so encouraging to me as well as I’ve been finding that I am not the only one who goes through this experience. I wouldn’t change that bond for anything.