A Bump in the Road

by Laura

I am discovering that there is a lot more to building family relationship than just acknowledging that 1) you’re family (duh) and b) blood is thicker than water…or legal paperwork in my case.

In the last week or so, I’ve hit a bump in the road; a bit of a hiccup in the reunion.

Extended Families are more than the sum of their parts. We are our experiences; our cultures; our regions; our demographics; our Traditions. Did our Mothers love movie musicals? did our Fathers love football? Did we have Sunday dinners at Grandma’s House? or order pizza and eat it on paper plates? Were we active in our churches, our parishes? or were we Chreasters (Christmas and Easter only)? Were our holiday menus inviolable homages to past repasts? or opportunities to try something new and exciting?

…and this barely scratches the surface. American-made or imports? rent or own? classic or jazz or quiet? introverts or extroverts? city or farm? union? management? cash? credit? red or white…or God forbid! any lips that touch the demon alcohol won’t touch mine!

And on and on and on. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

The actual bump itself is, in this case, and on the surface, not that big of a deal. But what it highlights, for me, is these sorts of differences. Each one of these needs to be recognised, acknowledged, and sorted through by everyone involved in the reunion process.

‘Tis a puzzlement. (“The King and I”…we were movie musicals).

The deeper issues, the paradigms, the filters, through which we live and think and act in this world also play into all of this (and you’all thought the past election has been hard!). Our very definitions of these things needs to be, somehow, articulated (at least, within our own heads) and dealt with as we move towards a successful blending of two, often diverse, nuclear families. Because this is what we’re seeking to do: blending two sets of often very different, very diverse families of adults, who may never have known each other existed, into…a family? No. A new community. What each family had learnt within itself organically, growing up with each other, and absorbing along the way, now has to be “caught up on” artificially. Somehow. And, doing that, will make us into something different. Something unique. Something…je ne sais quoi. We need to change our definition of “family”; what it looks like, what it may mean to us. Yes. We are Brother and Sister/Sister and Sister…however we may be configured. But we cannot be “nuclear family”. Demanding that we become to each other what we grew up as within our separate families, (especially at MY age! even though we’re pert ne’er strangers!) is to set an impossible expectation. We each have too much baggage, too much history. Our “nuclear” age is too old and too far past. But I hope we can be something Other, Better, and Different.

We’re talking compromise. Grace. Giving and taking. Respect.

We’re talking damn hard stuff. And every adoptee who seeks to really blend with their birth family is going to have to sort this stuff out. One way, or another. So, too, the birth families.

I did a lot of reading and thinking about this from the time I took my DNA test until, well, yesterday, in fact. And I’m still reading, seeking wise counsel, and trying to absorb this stuff.  As my Daddy used to say, when I was in the throes of teen-age angst, “Tell me how you feel; I was never a 14- (15/16/17…) year old Girl!” And I would laugh through my tears, and reply:  “Oh Daddy! You’re not a GIRL!!!”

Then there’s the Famous Frog’s lament, “It isn’t easy being green”…

No. It’s not.

I believe that all of it: the search, the tree-building, the DNA testing, the document requesting, the court orders, the taking a deep breath and having the hard conversations (Hi! I think I’m your Cousin/Mom/Sister/Whatever), the worry and the angst, is worth pursuing. Just be aware that the bumps in the road will come.

Make sure your spare tire is ready for it.