“What’s it like, being adopted?”
Not a ton of people have asked me this question, but maybe more than you’d think , and it’s really never bothered me because the answer, for me, was easy. “I don’t know,” I’d always tell people. “What’s it like not being adopted?”
I guess this is kind of a non-answer, but the fact is there didn’t seem to be much else I could say. How do you know what something’s like, when you have no concept of the alternative? My parents told me I was adopted as soon as I could understand words, maybe sooner. I’m sure I had no idea what they were talking about, and by the time I did understand, it was old news. I’m adopted, other people are not. Soon we would adopt a new baby. Good. I’d always wanted a sister.
Fast forward to 2008, when I gave birth to my first son. My second came along in 2009. As they’ve grown, I’ve found myself sort of fixated on the question of whether or not They Are Like Me. “Did I used to do that?” I ask my mother, frequently. “Do you think he looks like me? Look at him squinting, does that remind you of how I used to squint all the time?” And so on.
I ask my mother these things all the time, and yet it does not escape my attention that she didn’t have the luxury of wondering the same kinds of things. If I looked like her or acted like her, it would be entirely coincidental. She had her DNA and my dad had his, and never the twain shall meet. They didn’t get to blame each other for passing along bad traits, or congratulate each other for the good ones; they could only take me for what I was, and go with it. Which is exactly what they did. The fact that I never noticed it is a testament to their success.
And so on Mother’s Day – even though I’m not really into Mother’s Day – I’d like to give some thanks.
To my own mother: For never once making me feel even the slightest bit guilty for all my six million questions.
For giving me my fabulous debate skills by allowing me to argue everything, all the time.
For not being mad at me when I said, “I am pretty sure Stevie Nicks is my biological mother and so from now on I’d like to call her ‘Mom,’ and I will call you ‘Mrs. Murzyn.’ Okay?”
For sending Get Well cards to people she believed were mentally ill.
For saying, “Of course you’re curious about your biological mother, it’s natural and no, it doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.”
For allowing me to hang a nude photo of David Hasselhoff on her bedroom wall as a joke, and then leaving it there for people to see, and then laughing when I did meet my biological mother and found a framed photo of David Hasselhoff in her living room.
For never trying to make me be anything other than what I was like.
For making me feel not like I’d been given away, but like I’d been sought out.
To my mother-in-law: For raising a kid who really likes and respects his mother and has the capacity to like and respect his wife.
For liking me, or else spending years doing a superior job of acting like she likes me.
For being an excellent example of a mother of all boys, and for never making me feel like I’m doing it wrong.
To my biological mother: For being brave enough to say, “She will have a better life if I let someone else take her.”
For the years of sadness that I now know she lived through.
For the renegade DNA that made me the way I am.
And, back to my own mother for one more thing: For making me belong. Because I’ve come to realize that being adopted is always kind of knowing that you actually don’t belong, whether to a gene pool or a nationality or a race. My mother showed me that “belonging” is a very subjective concept, and that if you do it right, anyone can belong wherever they happen to be.
Thank you all. And happy Mother’s Day.