Lightening up things for your weekend, today I am finishing up the story of my first visit to meet my birth family.
We left off at the end of day 1, the initial meeting. (if you missed it, you can read my first post here).The next morning my Mom and I had some free time to ourselves so we walked over to a local diner and ate breakfast. We shared more details of our individual days and deconstructed where she saw similarities and differences. Shortly after we got back, my Birth Grandmother, let's call her G and her husband, R, came with her 3 grandsons, and my cousins. They are the sons of my Birth Father's younger sister and they are all middle school and early high school age. Additionally, I also had the pleasure of meeting the boys' father who suffers from Huntington's disease, which necessitates the boys living with G and R. It was snowing back home, and almost 95 degrees where we were, so we decided to go swimming at the pool in the complex.
Since it was day two we were all feeling much more comfortable with each other and the conversation came free and easy. It got to know my cousins and had a great time playing ball in the pool with them and racing them from one side to the other. I also took time to talk to each of the adults individually and ask them similar questions about what my father was like when he was younger, about his time in the military, about his wife that passed away. As an ethnographer I find that talking to enough people about a common event, a more complete picture starts to emerge. We all tend to remember things slightly differently and with different focuses, and with all things there are always more sides to every story. So, talking to them about these things gave me a more complete impression of my background history and the type of family that I ultimately come from.
After swimming, we all toweled off and went back to the little vacation home my Mom and I were staying at and made barbecue and had a mini-party. We talked some more and then retired back inside where I played Pokémon with the boys and my Mom practically grilled G and R for as much information she could get, just in case we didn't have this opportunity again.
By the time they left I was exhausted, but probably happier and more at peace than I have ever been. It was amazing how quickly I clicked with everyone. There was a definite feeling of coming home. As an anthropologist I of course had to sit and analyze it from a nature vs. nurture point of view, trying to identify all the places that I was influence by my parents (adopted) and where I was influenced by my genetics.
Our last half day, G and R came to hang out with us before taking us to the airport. By this time my head was so full of information it was swimming and I had to break out a notebook so that I could take notes. It was at breakfast I made some of the most amazing discoveries of the weekend. I finally remembered to ask who in the family had curly hair since everyone in my family and The Husband's family all have straight hair with the sole exception of my middle child who looks like the second coming of Shirley Temple, or the real-life re-creation of Fancy Nancy. Turns out, G, or Raindrop's great grandmother, straightened her hair so much she lost some of her curl, but when she was little her hair was SUPER curly. Hooray for recessive genes. Excited I asked if she had any pictures I could take back to show my little Raindrop. Laughing she said, "Oh no, I hated my hair so much growing up that one day while my mom was out I snuck in and burned all my school pictures and I would never let anyone take any pictures of me." I made a mental note not to share that particular detail with my daughter since we have worked so hard to get her to love her hair.
The ultimate revelation for me was when we started talking about how sick I was with each of my pregnancies and she told me that was the reason she only had two children was that she was terribly sick too. (Wow, that would have been awfully nice to know while I was going through it!!) Then she told me that after she had her two children she was unable to stomach any type of scent or perfume except Shalimar. I laughed and said that was so funny because I had the same thing happen to me, only I can only stomach the Warm Vanilla Sugar from Bed Bath and Beyond. This became one of my favorite moments from the weekend because she stared at me for a full 5 seconds before laughing and asking me if I knew what scent Shalimar was? Apparently it is vanilla based. WOAH!!!! How weird was that?!? Turns out that while I am quite literally the spitting image of my Birth Mother (thanks to pictures my Birth Father's family had and the joys of social media stalking), my personality is chipped very clearly off the block of my Birth Grandmother. We are both spitfire and gumption, we are both left-handed (as far as I know the only one's in the family) and we both suffer from save-the-world-itis. Meeting her was understand myself so much better.
Some other things I learned that weekend; chemical sensitivity runs in the family, as do food allergies. We also all have a tendency to perform in the higher spectrum academically and all suffer from the same too-many-irons-in-the-fire problems. I also learned that becoming inflamed over politics, talking people's ears off and a general level of intensity that can be a bit much for your average person is not just a me thing, it is a family thing.
In one short visit I learned more about myself than in the previous 30+ years of living. Even my Mom made the comment on the plane home that she understood me so much more after seeing me with my birth family. It felt effortless to fit in and I felt totally comfortable around them. I couldn't wait to visit again.