Kinship

Last summer, almost 2 years exactly after we met in person for the first time, my first mother and I spent a few days together where I live. It was the third time we had met in person since reconnecting, but the first time she had come to me.

When we first met, we’d been in contact for three months, mostly by letter. Yes, antiquated snail mail through the USPS. It’s odd, in this age of instant communication, but it weirdly works well for both of us. We had exchanged photos, of ourselves and families. There were no resemblances in the photos. I was disappointed, but mildly, as I held out hope that we looked alike in person.

We didn’t.

My friend C who sometimes sees things no one else does thinks that we have the same hands and feet. I don’t see it, and neither does my first mother, but I trust that C sees something. I see nothing. I was disappointed. That visit, last summer, I told her that. I wanted to see where certain things about me originated, and I didn’t, and it made me sad. She thought that maybe I’d look like her, too, and I didn’t. After two years, we could finally be outwardly disappointed in something about our reconnection. It took that long to feel safe enough for that, and this, in and of itself, is one of the losses that come from adoption.

She brought me photos, though, of my biological father’s side of the family. I look like them. One of my cousins could definitely pass as my sister. But I’ve had very limited contact with them, and no relationship is going to happen on that side. At least not so far.

My first mother and I have talked, over the years, about things we have in common. The first, and easiest, is that my absolute complete and utter lack of any athletic ability comes from her. A truly sarcastic thanks for that, really (her sister told her she should apologize for that). But it was an easy point of first connection, and one in stark contrast to my mother, who is one of those natural athletes and could never understand why I just didn’t get it. Not even bowling!

Mostly, we think alike, my first mother and I. When we talk, despite some broad differences in phrasing and word choice (and accent, sheesh) the structure of her thoughts are clear to me. The way that she chooses to tell a story — where she starts, what she includes, what she forgets that is important enough to insert even out of order, how she concludes — this is how I think. I used to try to describe this lack of synchronicity in thought patterns to my mother. I would listen to my parents or my brother or my grandparents and extended family describe something or tell a story or think out loud, and I just knew that I wouldn’t have put things together that way. The patterns of how I would think through something was just … different. And that’s still the only way I can describe it.

When I met my first mother, this was the kinship I felt with her. We don’t look alike, but we think alike. After more than three years, I think (pun unintended) that I find this kind of mirroring possibly more important than the visual mirroring I expected. Our similarities there have allowed us the space to develop a relationship without either of us pushing too hard to “fix” something we can’t fix — three decades of not knowing one another.

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