In A Room Full of Strangers Who All Look Like Me

Apples and Oranges Don’t Look Alike

The holidays haven’t been the same since I met the look-alike strangers who are my birth family.

They’ve been better.

My sister Katie has a Christmas party every year. And even though it’s been twelve years since I first met her and my other four sisters and brother, I still get a kick out of being in a room full of people who resemble me.

Being adopted into a family whom I look nothing like has always left me feeling like I was put together in one factory while the rest of the family was assembled in another. I came from entirely different materials. Yet people expected me to work the way my family worked. I felt like I had been jury-rigged me, but I was still supposed to perform as if I were part of the original whole.

It’s difficult to explain to someone who isn’t adopted what it’s like to go through your entire life without meeting a single person who looks like you. No one ever says that you’ve got “your father’s eyes” or “your mother’s hair”. People don’t tell your parents that you’re a “chip off the old block”. Stangers never look at you while you’re standing next to your mother and say, “The apple sure didn’t fall far from the tree.”

I always felt more like an orange among my family of apples. And no matter how many characteristics I may share with my adoptive family, I’ll never be an apple. Therefore, I can never fairly or accurately compare myself to them.

Twins Don’t Always Look Alike

Being a twin gave me a better-than-average chance that I would notice someone who looked exactly like me. But my twin sister and I are fraternal twins and are as different as two siblings can be. I am fair; she is dark. My hair is straight; hers is wavy. I have friends who actually resemble me more than my twin sister does.

Strangers don’t often suspect that my twin was adopted by our Italian parents. Unlike my sister, no one ever assumes I am my parents’ biological child. I couldn’t look more un-Italian. When I was placed into my large, Italian family, I must have looked like an albino puppy in a litter of black Labradors.

Maybe that’s why it was especially gratifying for me to meet my biological family. For the first time, I felt like I “fit in” at a family gathering. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I had finally met some folks from my country—people I had been subconsciously searching for without really knowing why.

Instant Connections

I immediately connected with my birth family when we first met, even though we were total strangers. I had lived 32 years of my life without them, but they looked uncannily familiar to me. It didn’t feel as though I was meeting them for the first time. Rather, I felt like we were resuming a meeting that was interrupted long ago.

The shape of my sister Katie’s eyes were so much like my own. I felt as if I should be the one looking through them.

My sister Marian’s mannerisms were so much like mine that, if I didn’t know she was my sister, I still could have picked her out of a crowd of a thousand people.

My brother Michael looks more like my twin sister than I do, even though he has a different father.

I couldn’t stop staring at my sister Edie when I first met her. There was an indescribable blending of her features that made me feel as if we were sculpted from the very same stone. I learned which side of the family I inherited my left handedness from when my sisters Marian and Julie both reached for their forks.

Looking Beyond the Distance of Time

Being so much alike, it seems somehow unnatural that my siblings and I spent so many years apart. If it weren’t for my son, who was diagnosed with a heart condition when he was 14 years old, I never would have even met them.

Finding my birth family didn’t make me love my adoptive family less, in the same way that giving birth to my second child didn’t diminish my love for my first.

A different and separate love emerged from somewhere inside me. It was a love I didn’t even know I possessed until I retrieved it.