This piece originally appeared over at the excellent Bookish Libraria.
I’ll admit it; I’m vain. Upon discovering that I had a full-blooded sister, whom I had never met, my very first thought was, does she look like me? As an adopted child, I had spent my entire life wishing I looked like someone in my family, wishing I had my mother’s eyes or my father’s thick hair, wishing that –for once– someone would say you look just like your mother (or father, or brother, or cousin…). Five years ago, that wish came true. At the age of 44, I reunited with my birth mother, who eventually married my birth father and went on to have two more children: my brother and my sister. I had grown up with only brothers, and was completely enthralled with the idea of having a sister, who –quite possibly– would look just like me.
As it turned out, I had known my sister for decades. Watched her on TV in the 1980s. Scheduled my college classes around the soap opera on which she appeared daily. For two years, she played the role of Lou Swenson, the love interest of John Stamos’s character, on the wildly popular General Hospital. And for two years, I had no idea she was my sister. Now, on this side of the adoption reunion, I can’t believe I didn’t see it: we don’t just look like one another, we also share the same laugh, the same intonation of voice, the same sideways tilt of the head when we speak in earnest. And after spending time with her, I have also realized the semblance resonating on a much deeper level. I saw it when she spoke about politics, about literature, about her daughters; I saw a passion, a fire in her belly, a glimpse of what made her tick– and understood it immediately. We, though strangers, had been cut from the same cloth– and I felt the same thing that other biological siblings must feel– an unspoken connection.
But is that all it takes to be siblings? Shared features, shared mannerisms, shared passions? Can a sharing of chromosomes supersede years of playing catch in the backyard and fighting over who gets to ride in the front seat? I had assumed that our genetic bond was the only requisite to being sisters, but I was wrong; we will never have the shared memories of childhood, which are the links in the chain that fasten us to our families. Yet, what remains is my greatest hope: that we may come to realize that sisterhood is not a destination, but a journey to be shared and enjoyed. And maybe someday, we too will come to form our own memories in common and redeem what could have been our past.