If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. – Michael Crichton
I was mopping the floor today which is hardly my favorite thing to do. Thoughts about my family history started flooding in. A few weeks ago I went to meet my paternal half-sister. We spent a wonderful weekend together getting to know each other; she shared numerous stories about her family. Our family. Some I laughed at and others brought tears to my eyes. I love hearing these stories and learning about my natural family from both sides. It means the world to me to see pictures and to know the histories of the families.
It suddenly dawned on me that the history is not mine.
This ‘new’ family history has nothing to do with me except it belongs to people I am actually related to. The history, however, is not mine. None of it.
One of my adoptive cousins is very into genealogy. She has done an amazing job of tracing the family tree and had given a copy to my adopted dad. About a year before my dad died some relatives came to visit, and during the visit, my dad gave them his copy of the family genealogy. Our family. My family.
I was devastated.
He didn’t realize that this was going to bother me – obviously. But I still have to wonder how it didn’t enter his mind, at all, that this was MY family history. Mine! How could he not have known that I would want a copy?
I KNOW that it’s not MY family. But it IS my family.
It’s the only family I’ve ever known.
I was proud to be a fifth generation Californian. My parents never said that; I took that on myself. The dad’s family had been in California forever. I knew it was highly unlikely that I actually was but I still liked to think it. As my parents would always say, “If you had been ours…” Yeah, if I had really been theirs this would have been my history. But I wasn’t.
He honestly didn’t think I would want the family history? Or that I needed it? How could he not know? Ever the perfect daughter who would never risk upsetting him I said nothing. I let it go.
Except I didn’t really let it go. I’m still in tears over it – several years later it still cuts me to the core, reminding me that I was alone in a family that wasn’t mine.
I’m not sure why it never dawned on me until today that even in reunion I still don’t have a family history.
Growing up adopted you are stuck out on a deserted island – alone.
Even when you are surrounded by people – you are alone.
Unless you’re adopted it’s hard to explain.
My family history on my first mother’s side isn’t even close to mine because there is none to be had. It’s a mystery really. The family I will never, ever know. My half-sister from my mom, the one wonderful gift my mom gave me, was a young girl when our mom died. My birthmom had a very strained relationship with her family.
The history that I have discovered was unknown to anyone – a huge secret taken to the graves of those who participated. It’s unpleasant and shady. I will never know if my mom knew, I have a feeling she had no idea. Some family history is better left alone, but it’s these stories that I love.
I’m still getting to know my birth fathers side of the family. I love the history of this family. Roots deep in Arkansas. Moonshiners. Hard working salt of the earth trouble making people. I love that. There are stories I have heard that make me love this family and I feel their history in my bones – I cling to it.
Yet, it’s not mine. Not really.
I will never sit at Thanksgiving and laugh at the family stories.
I won’t share in the inside jokes, nor will I relate to the stories of my grandmother, Louise, that everyone loved so much. Mary Louise is how I know her. Information gleaned from Ancestry. This woman, my Grandmother, would have loved me – so they say. I have no doubt that is true but it hurts that I will never know for sure.
My adopted parents are gone. There is no one left that remembers my childhood, my younger life. Fortunately, I have a few cousins and some aunts that I can reminisce with about our adopted family. Their relationship with my grandparents and each other was different than mine. They all saw each other all the time while for me it was once or twice a year, but I am so glad to have them in my life.
They love me and I them.
It’s hard to know if they ever realized that I felt so alone in the family – like I didn’t belong. Did they ever know that I heard a family member say I wasn’t blood and so that made me different? How do you belong after hearing that?
While one family history is not mine, it belongs to me. The other belongs to me, but is not mine.
It’s one more thing about being adopted that I didn’t realize bothered me. Funny the things that come to mind.
I’m a second generation Californian that’s good enough. I’m making my own family history.
I’d love to hear your thoughts or experience with your family history.