Again and Again

We’re working on a second book — about which we can’t reveal too much yet — except to say we’ve been conducting many, many interviews for it. We interview adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents alike, and are constantly stunned and deeply touched by the stories people choose to share with us.

One of the themes that has emerged is that many young adoptees who felt rejected by their birth families harbored a great fear of being rejected by the adoptive family, as well, no matter how loved they may have been.

One adoptee in particular, James, told us about one of his birthdays when he was a young boy growing up in a house of four other adopted children. His account so moved us, we asked for his permission to share it with you all.

I can still remember the night before I turned ten. I was restless and my legs wouldn’t stay still. My mind was running in circles, too, and I couldn’t sleep so I turned on the light next to my bed, reached for my sketchbook and pencil, and began to draw. I still have the drawing I did that night. It’s somewhere in a box of things my mother saved. Anyway, it was a picture of me, my two sisters and two brothers. I was standing in the middle, wearing a birthday crown. Around my neck was a string from which hung a sign. FOR SALE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS ME, it read.


When I was finished, I turned off my lamp. I remember that for some reason I felt better and was able to go to sleep after that. The next morning when I woke up, I noticed  wet streaks across the drawing. And I couldn’t remember crying. That’s when I saw the note next to the picture. In my mother’s careful handwriting, this is what it said:


Cut from the Same Cloth

This piece originally appeared over at the excellent Bookish Libraria

John Stamos and Danielle von Zerneck, courtesy of General Hospital

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.

Kathy, 18 years old, in Indialantic, FL and Danielle, 18 years old, in Los Angeles, CA

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.


the legs of a stranger

A short piece, written for Frisky. com

481972_342189362547438_300774006_nI was 12 when I found out. My stepsister hurled it at me during a fight: “At least I’m not adopted,” she retorted after I called her a four-eyed idiot. My real mother died when I was six, and the fact that I now had a stepmother didn’t mean I was adopted.

“You really are a blockhead,” I laughed “if you think I’m going to fall for that one.”

However, I soon learned the four-eyed idiot was right. I was indeed adopted. I had been given up as an infant. And worse, no one had ever told me.

“I thought your mother told you,” my father responded when I asked him if it was true.

The news left me feeling vulnerable and reminded me of a time when I was four, shopping with my mother at JC Penney’s. She was looking for a dress.I ducked under a waterfall of polka dots and paisleys and hid in the center of the circular rack – only to become frightened and reemerged, grabbing on to the familiarity of my mother’s legs — except they weren’t her legs; they were the legs of a stranger, but for a few seconds I was betrayed by a false sense of reality.  Here I was again, hugging onto the legs of a stranger—completely unaware —  and deceived for nearly 12 years by the same false sense of reality.

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