I am in the bathroom, putting away hairbands, picking hair out of brushes and generally attempting to bring order to what seems chaos in front of me. My phone otherwise mute, dings with the telltale sign of a message. Positive it is from a friend I am expecting that evening I turn it on and navigate to the messages app. My face lights up as I realize it is from my daughters’ great grandparent instead. We chit chat a bit and then she signs off with a string of red hearts. I put the phone down but my mood has shifted going from ambivalence about the day to something that borders on happy.
Amid the pieces I put away I notice barrettes that were a gift one Valentine’s day from their Gigi and Grandpa. I walk down and stumble on now naked baby dolls that were sent one February to my daughters as they anticipated a baby sister. Their presence is a living, breathing thing in our home lining our closets, lying on carpeted floors, adorning fine blond hair and joining us as memories when we eat chile rellenos at our local Mexican joint. They peek at us from photos in matching red shirts. They come up in conversations about various ways to say I-Love-You.
Late in the night as I lie next to Laddu waiting, watching as she eases into sleep, my thoughts go back to a book I read this week. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin, a simple tale of an adoptee seeking out her birth parents. I say simple though there is nothing simple about it because of the way the story flows bubbling and moving along with rarely a hiccup in the writing style. The story handles complicated feelings head on with a sensitivity that surprised me. Most storylines dealing with adoption often stumble getting some part of the triad wrong. This one felt stark and realistic.
“So if it wasn’t her miraculous conception, her looks, her brains, or her athletic ability, I wondered why I was jealous, sometimes even wishing to be her. I wasn’t sure, but had the feeling it had something to do with the way Charlotte felt on the inside. She genuinely seemed to like who she was—or at least had the luxury of giving it no thought whatsoever, all of which translated to massive popularity. Everyone knew her and loved her regardless of clique—the jocks, geeks, burnouts, and hoosiers—while I felt downright invisible most of the time.”
It also hit a little too close to home. Adopted child followed by a biological sibling. I held my breath as I read, some parts resonating more than others. When the protagonist, also an adoptee wonders why her sibling is so put together, I wondered along with her. As she navigates her convoluted relationship with her birth mother and later birth father, I was with her in spirit sensing the awkward, tentative nature of the journey she was embarking on. Somewhere as she asked questions I am mentally gearing for my children to ask someday, I realize we are farther along the journey than most families.
Their origins are interwoven in our home, physically by being part of their wardrobe, on their person, in pictures and in conversations. The aching, gaping holes are partially filled by effort from both sides in claiming them, owning them and celebrating them. While they may not wonder where they get their specific traits from, they will always wonder about things none of us have any control over.
In the end I can only hope that they, like Kirby the protagonist of Where We Belong feel at home.
“It’s the feeling of belonging. Right here where I am. In this house. With my parents and Charlotte. The people who know all my stories, from the beginning. The people who know me.”