I’m asked to look back three generations , look up my family tree and look around in awe at all that is beautiful and ripe for the taking. And the truth is, the hard scrabble at the foot of my tree…the compacted earth that is shaded all day, where no softness can take hold…the knobby roots that creak out to the open air….is where I am.
My late discovery of my adoption happened in my young 20s. It’s complicated. The kind of complicated that might take 6 hours of babbling with questions of disbelief and quarts of coffee. At the same time, it is relatively simple. I like simple. Seems to be a nice trend in housekeeping and tending the things we humans keep around. So, to uncomplicate what is complicated, I will go with simple.
I lived the first 20 years believing I was half Japanese and half Irish. I hadn’t spent more than a couple of visits with my grandparents on my dad’s side. And I hadn’t met anyone on my mom’s side. I didn’t even know their names. I loved the idea of knowing, but it was difficult getting my parents to talk about family and the generations that came before us. I ended up figuring it just wasn’t a glamorous story. Turns out, it was not a story they wanted to touch. I set out to start my own.
Turns out, I am still half Japanese. And the other half is……..well, an optimist would say the other half is whatever I want it to be. It’s safe to say my other half is big and white. The pessimist in me would just like to know, so that I can rule out all the nutty ideas I have about how many ethnicities tend to have freckled skin and how those odds increase my chance of melanoma. Not that I mind being half Irish, mind you. But it would be nice to know. If you are the one in 5 persons who is adopted (yes, that’s true) then, you are likely to be aware of your ethnic background. I wouldn’t mind knowing if my family tree leans into Europe. Why do I like metal work? Why do I want to learn to weld? Why do I love windmills? Transferware dishes? Sheep? Stinky cheese? Art? Books? Reading? Why am I so attracted to all the things that were not a part of my growing up experience? Where do they come from? And why can’t I know? All these families, gathering and sharing and celebrating milestones. Everyone can look at the summer graduation bbq and pick their aunt that wears the same colored skirts. The uncle that can put up a woodshed just like his nephew can. The oddity that can be found in the family tree. Oh! That explains it! The talent that keeps showing up. Those Johnsons, they were all so good at playing guitar!
Maybe somewhere up the line, someone in my family tree will look down the trunk and see me at the hard parts and say….you are just like her…let me tell you about her….