While I’ve focused on some of the more difficult and trying aspects of being adopted, it is important that my last “official” blog in my first adoption series is about all of the good that came from my adoption. And although this post is perhaps a bit shorter than the others, it certainly holds the most meaning.
I arrived in Albany, NY on the evening of September 19, 1989. I was exactly six months old. Since then, on my half birthday, my family always celebrates my “Airplane Day.” Some families call this day their “Adoption Day” or “Gotcha Day,” but since I arrived after a very long flight, “Airplane Day” is what stuck for us.
At Daniel’s and my’s wedding my Dad recounted the moment that he and my mother saw me for the first time when I arrived at the airport. I had heard several tellings of this moment and the night itself throughout the years–how it was stormy, how their excitement turned to nervousness when I refused to sit in my carseat (I had never been in one before) resulting in my mother holding me on her lap in the backseat while my father drove white-knuckled at 20 mph for the entire three hour drive back to Ithaca, how my mother joked about the pouf of my hair that stood straight up and how the first thing she did was lick her hand and try to pat it down…
But when my dad spoke at the wedding, he mentioned that the look on my face when I first saw them was, “Really? These people?”
I know that he did this because I had asked him to keep his speech on the lighter side (I still bawled my eyes out the entire time), and the moment of self-deprecation was good for a laugh, but even if that was what they genuinely thought my facial expression conveyed, all these years later that idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve called my adoptive parents “Mom” and “Dad” for 30 years now. They are the only two people in the world who have earned those titles. I know that some people call their in-laws “Mom” and “Dad” but to be honest, I will never be one of those people.
To me, the names “Mom” and “Dad” are sacred. They are reserved for the ones who love you unconditionally and who have shaped you throughout your life. They are for those whom you couldn’t imagine your life without, those who would sacrifice the world for your well-being.
“Mom” and “Dad” in my mind, have nothing to do with blood.
My Mom and Dad have been my biggest cheerleaders. No matter what was happening, how many mistakes I made, how many times I tried to push them away or test their limits when I was struggling with being adopted or my own mental health–they have always stood by my side and we have overcome everything together, as a family.
While the rest of the world sneered, ridiculed, or perhaps just couldn’t understand and saw me as different, my Mom and Dad never once flinched or waivered in their feeling that I was their daughter.
In fact, years ago, when my Mom was almost diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she admitted that she had a moment of panic because she knew that it could be hereditary–and she worried about me.
Even though we share no blood, there is no mistaking that I am my Mom’s and Dad’s daughter.
I have inherited my Mom’s patience, thoughtfulness, love of teaching, and her emotional intelligence, as well as her knack for interior decorating and handi-crafts. My solid work ethic, stubbornness, drive, and sense of humor all undoubtedly come from my Dad. From both I have instilled the desire to always do the right thing, to be the first to lend a hand to someone in need, and the ability to always trust my gut.
Even beyond my Mom and Dad, I am a clear member of the rest of my family as well.
I grew up in the kitchen with my maternal grandmother, helping her cook Hungarian Goulash and Chicken Paprikash before I could even reach the countertops. As an adult, those are recipes that have become staples in my own arsenal.
My love of music and art, and my talent in both areas were surely a result of the many summers I spent with my cousin, seven years older than me, watching her play trumpet and indulging me in her latest artistic projects.
The saying amongst my Dad’s side of the family is, “the more we pick on you, the more you know we love you” and while I didn’t see them as often, the years of needing to hold my own as the only girl within the cousins on that side combined with the “Randall Sense of Humor” led to me having a thick skin and ready laugh.
My family is my family–adopted or not. It doesn’t matter if you look the same, share genetics, or even speak the same language. Family is about love; it’s all heart. You know that you are among family when your heart is warm and full. Of course there will be difficult times when the warmth might be a bit dim, but that’s the beauty of family, the fire never dies.
I couldn’t imagine the last thirty years of my life without my Mom and Dad or the rest of my family, and I cannot even bear to think of the day, hopefully eons in the future when life finally catches up to us. Because while I was born to other people in another country with a different language, customs, and traditions–my home is here. It’s my Mom and Dad with whom I I have always shared my heart, and home is where the heart is.