When my plane touched down in Newfoundland, Canada in 1991, I was welcomed by a hundred people from the tiny fishing village where my birth mother was raised. Hundreds of eyes stared when I reached the stairway leading to the airport exit. Hand in hand with my birth mother, I looked over their recognizable faces. So many of their features were familiar, yet we were strangers. They were fascinated, awestruck and shocked at the family resemblance. I was a lost member of the tribe, home at last.
To finally touch the ground of your ancestors is healing. To stand before the graves of your great grandparents completes the circle of life. To learn fly fishing from your grandfather whose prominent nose you inherited, and look into the laughing brown eyes of your grandmother is a priceless joy.
My blood heritage turned a transparent, haphazardly sketched self-portrait into a bold, permanent masterpiece.
This morning, I read a piece by blogger Deanna Doss Shrodes. Adoptee Restoration: Adoptees: Why Can’t You Just Be Okay With the Unknown?.
In this heartfelt post, Deanna talks about answering yearly medical questions when you are an adoptee. In discussing the frustration of not knowing your medical background, Deana writes, “You don’t know what it’s like to not have something until you’ve been without it. My friend Laura Dennis says it’s like trying to explain what it’s like to starve to a person who has always had food. ”
That statement reminded me of my first visit to Newfoundland and of standing on the foundation of the first house my ancestors built on the rock. The house was taken long ago by the harsh wind and salt air of the bluff. I stood at the center of the rough stone foundation, built by a relative from Wales who’d braved an Atlantic crossing as cabin boy. The stones were barely visible beneath the dirt, yet it was mine to know. I am home. I am found, I thought, sending thanks to a universe that allowed me to find the physical foundation of my identity.
Months after that trip, I traveled to a different part of Canada to meet more family and attend a wedding. At that wedding I shared with a cousin, the experience of standing on the foundation. I believed that since he was raised by the family and spent many summers in the seaside community, he would have stood amid the blueberry bushes and experienced the overwhelming power of our shared history and belonging. The history was his to know during all the years I’d yearned to find it. Our foundation was within a few short steps for the non-adopted cousin.
To my surprise, he did not know about the house or the man who built it. He had been wrapped in a lifetime of knowing and took for granted the history that gave him life.
A heritage that is open and available is easy to ignore.
The non-adopted often ask why we search? Why we need to know? As Deanna Doss Shrodes blogged, explaining is ” like trying to explain what it’s like to starve to a person who has always had food.”
Blessings for enough information,