Saturday, November 20, 2010

"The Quirk of the Smile..."

Last night I met a woman who was a friend of next-door-neighbor. The two of them were chatting in the hallway of a venue of an event we were all attending, and I introduced myself; I said, "Hi, I'm Andrea." She said, "Hi, I'm Marissa. I work at the preschool. You have a child who used to attend the preschool, don't you?" I said "Yes," and asked how she knew that.
Here's the clincher:
She said, "I have seen pictures of him at the school, and I recognize him in the features of your face."

She couldn't have said anything more profoundly gratifying to me. No one could have.
Adoptees want to look like their family. And we don't get to until/unless we have our own children.
I'm so grateful I have my son.

In the words of the venerable Nancy Verrier:
Growing up in a family where they are not reflected back is a tremendously difficult experience [for adoptees]. A great deal of an adopted child's energy is used in trying to figure out how to be in the adoptive family. It is important to an adoptee to have the opportunity of experiencing that reflection: the tilt of the head, the quirk of the smile, the pace of the gait, not to mention the more obvious aspects of physical similarities or of talents, aptitudes, and interests.


Von said...

What a beautiful moment for you, she could not have chosen to say anything more wonderful!
I remember years ago when first in reunion being with my daughter amongst cousins for the first time, there were so many likenesses and similarities it was stunning for us both.

George Jarrett said...

Great post.

In the short time that I got to know your family, it seemed to me that you belonged together. You had a family relationship that I looked up to, even envied. Maybe it was the result of your trying really hard to fit, as you wrote in your blog, but from an outsider's perspective, it seemed like you did fit.

Also it's great how much the two of you look alike in the picture.

Andrea said...

Thanks, George.
Yes, we do belong together in many ways. However, when I was a pre-reunion adoptee, I always longed to find people who looked like me despite the fact that I "fit" in my family--I had blond hair like my mom, brown eyes like my dad, we were all similarly complected, etc.
When I found my birthparents and half-siblings, I was finally able to see, and possibly more importantly, to "feel" where I had come from: My birthmom and I use the same inflections in our speech; My half-sister and I totally "get" each other about lots of things; my birthfather claims I look exactly like everyone in his family; etc.
Most importantly, I am now able to put my finger (literally and figuratively) on the people to whom I'm genetically related.
Moreover, as a parent, I feel even more grounded on the planet, and less like an alien being (many adoptees feel like aliens, since we have no sense of actually being born into their family and therefore into our world) because every day I can gaze upon and snuggle tight the wiggly bundle of my DNA that exists outside of my body in my son.
For many non-adoptees, the importance of this is really hard to grasp, because for them, it is and always has been a given. But for people like me, it is a gift, one that has been hard-earned and long in coming.

I really appreciate you reading my blog and commenting so thoughtfully.


Andrea said...

Von, I totally agree--it was such a delightful thing to hear. I'd love to hear more about your story, too!

Leslie M-B said...

How wonderful!

I know the phenomenon. Pete is (not-so-secretly) delighted that Lucas looks so much like him. In fact, Lucas looks like a clone of young Pete--as if none of my genes made it into him. I suppose it's only fair, since I have a plethora of blood relatives, and Pete has never met any of his.

coruscate said...

That's funny, because I see a little of you in every kind hearted person I meet.

daisy said...

Hi Andrea,
what a charming photo of you and your son, and what a lovely smile you have!

Interestingly (though perhaps only to another adoptee), one of the first things my birthmother and I did after meeting was a sort of comparison of elementary school photos - it was immediately apparent that I had inherited the same tragic overbite she had suffered with all through grade school. We were even taunted with the same mean nickname. But I suppose "Bucky Beaver" really can't be improved upon - it's a classic.

The Verrier quote is spot on. And your follow up comment regarding your ostensible "matching" with your adoptive parents - I might have written it about myself.

Anyway - wanted to let you know that there are a couple of NYC Adoptee Meetups happening in December and January, if you are interested/able to get into the city. Failing that, I actually periodically travel to Yardley, PA for my job. Perhaps we could meet up at some point closer to where you are?


Andrea said...

Daisy: Since I haven't yet been able to make it to any NY meetups, please let me know in advance of the next time you'll be in Yardley. I'd love to meet you for cup of tea or lunch or something.

JBH said...

YES! I totally know how you feel! Great post.

Oh, and so funny how you talk about "the smile". That was one thing that people always said about me: "You look just like your mother, you have the same smile"...even though I'm the adoptee!