My two adult step children visited this past weekend when they were in town for a family wedding. We had just finished a late dinner. After clearing the dishes from the table, it was gift time.
I returned to my seat and watched as they mugged for the camera, modeling the Panama hats my husband brought back from his recent business trip to Ecuador. I basked in the glow of my husband’s joy as he referred to his son as his “mini-me”. His daughter, favoring her mother’s side of the family, was quick to point out she has her dad’s curls. We all pulled out our iPhones, capturing the moment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You’ve got to love this modern technology.
As an adoptee, I grew up wondering who I looked like. Did I have someone’s nose? Where did I get my brown eyes? I would stare at families in a restaurant. I’d look at the son, and compare him to his sister. Then I’d compare him to his parents. Often the children would resemble both parents. My parents didn’t count. I knew I wasn’t related to them.
I always laughed when people would tell me I looked just like my dad. That’s impossible. They were just looking for similarities. I wondered if other adoptees were fascinated by family resemblances the way I was. I couldn’t wait to have children. I needed someone to look like me.
I got my wish. By the time I was twenty-two, I had two babies, a mortgage, and an Irish setter with auburn hair, just like mine. Although my son had hazel eyes like his dad, and my daughter, also with hazel eyes, was a blonde, I saw resemblances. At night, when they were tucked safely in their cribs, (yes, being twelve months apart, they were both in cribs); I’d spread their pictures out on my bed and compare their features to mine. My daughter had a cowlick right in the middle of her forehead, just like I have. And the shape of my son’s face was exactly the same as mine was in my baby pictures. I was happy. Temporarily.
It’s hard to forget you are adopted when doctors always ask for a medical history. My dad died of heart disease and my mom died of cancer. But that doesn’t count, not for me, anyway. I’d really like to know if I might have inherited any diseases. But being adopted in New Jersey, my records are sealed. I’m not allowed to know my family history. My medical history.
My mom succumbed to her battle with cancer eight years after my dad passed away. After I’d sold her house, I had her belongings packed and shipped to my home. It took me a while to open all the boxes. The most difficult box to go through was the one with old photos. I found one picture I’d never seen before. It was a framed black and white of my dad, at seventeen years old. I placed it on my mantel. I stood back, basking in memories, both good and bad. “You look like your dad,” people told me. Were they on to something?