Recently, there was a story on 20/20 regarding adoption. Pam Slaton helps individuals find their birth families. It’s her passion and her job. You can read more about one of the highlighted stories on the 20/20 broadcast here. I was touched by the different stories. You see, I have always known my roots. I grew up in a very traditional Michigan environment, the youngest of three children. We water skied in the summer and plowed the snow in the winter. As wood cracked and popped in the fireplace, we had holiday dinners with extended family. One of my first jobs was cleaning Grandpa’s house. Grandma died while I was young, and so while my relationship with her was cut short, my memories of her are warm and loving. We visited my other grandparents in Florida every Spring Break and was a pen pal with Grandma throughout the year. When I look at pictures, I can see the family resemblance between my dad and aunt, my mom and her dad. Though I don’t feel like I look like others in my family, I can’t deny some resemblances. I know my roots.
When Callie was born and placed in our arms, she did not look like us. Her rich mocha skin and thick black hair stood in strong contrast to my blond hair and blue eyes. I knew that no matter how tan my skin appeared, it would never reach the depth of smooth color she possessed. We met her birth mother, spent time together, and took pictures. Though it didn’t seem to bother her, at a very young age Callie pointed out differences in our appearances. At Costco she saw a diaper box with a little girl who “look like me!” She was two. Addressing some of the inevitable issues of multi-racial adoptions is for another post, however, it’s important to note that Callie knew she had different physical characteristics than the rest of her family. Maybe even more strikingly different than our looks are the upbringings of both sets of her parents. Had Latice parented Callie, she would have had a very different lifestyle. Latice chose us because she felt we had what she had wanted for her children. Education. Faith. Future. Callie was born into a very different world that mine. Yet she was strategically placed into our arms by her birth mother. She hand selected what would become Callie’s world. The beauty of that remains remarkable to me.
We have always told Callie her story, but I’ve often wondered how long that will be sufficient. At what point will the story and pictures not be enough? We lost contact with Callie’s birth mother soon after placement. Contrast that with our son’s birth mother, Lindsey, whom we see frequently. She adores our kids and Callie is quite attached to her. One night at dinner, after discussing a planned outing with Lindsey, Callie mentioned her birth mother, Latice. I asked her if she wanted to meet her one day. Callie shyly answered, “Yeah.” I told her we would have to wait until she was older and then we’d legally be able to search for her. “Like when I’m a teenager. That will be a good time to do it.” I told her that I’d do whatever we needed to be done to assist her in her search for Latice…if that’s what she wanted. She said she’d want me to be there with her. Callie is six.
My six year old wonders about her biological roots, and all I can do is encourage her and share with her what I know. I want her to know her roots, just like I’ve always known mine. I have found that as I share with her what I do know and support her in her desires to know more, our love and bond as mother and daughter grow stronger.
Until the day comes when we are able to search for her biological roots, we do all we can to grow deeper roots of our own as a family. Roots kept me grounded. There were times when the storm got too strong and I could have blown right over, been uprooted and felt completely lost. But roots held me firm. My roots are more than my biological line. My particular roots are based on God, love, loyalty, hope, faith, and forgiveness. When my children are adults and look back at their childhood, the goal is that the roots we grew together will be so deep that if their biological roots remain unknown, or if the wind just gets too strong, their roots of acceptance, love, and family will keep them firm in the ground.
Is the knowledge of biological roots essential? It is probably debatable. However, we all need roots to keep us strong and resilient. It is my belief that with each hug, kiss, and wiped tear our own family roots grow deeper into the earth.