The face in the mirror this morning was not mine, perhaps it was that of my grandparents, all I never met, having only old and faded pictures that vaguely resemble the mirror’s face.
It might be my parents, both dead before I found them only yearbook pictures and just possible a vague similarity to the face that i see in the mirror each day.
I tried to ask the mirror who it was hiding in the glass, but like most mirrors it was silent, a sad reflection of its ilk, so the old man peering out will continue to be someone that I have never met.
I spent too much time looking backward, looking into the past, looking into the mirror to frame a dream history of my desires and fears. He called one morning, left a message, “Mother died, more details will follow.” A mother his by birth, mine by legal act. I should have felt stunned anger, I said quietly to myself he’s cocky, has issues, and went about momentary mourning. That is the psyche of the adoptee who was never family, always an adjunct. Later my antediluvian dreams gave way under a torrent of deoxyribonucleic acid rain. She who I imagined in the mirror took name, took shape from and old yearbook, offered a history, a family, a heritage. When I knelt at her grave she told me her story in hushed tones, or was it the breeze in the pines on the hill overlooking the Kanawha? I bid her farewell that day, placed a pebble on her headstone, stroked the cold marble and mourned an untouched mother.
My history is like an ill- sewn quilt, odd pieces of parents stitched loosely together, always ready to come apart, fade or be thrown away.
Perhaps my history is more like a beloved old pair of jeans, holes appear and are patched, patches wear out and are replaced, or the hole is just left, as if it were somehow a fashion statement.
There is little normal when you are adopted, loved perhaps, but always on the edge of being an outsider, and when that is repeated, the distance grows exponentially, until you find a birth parent or two and the holes are patched with dreams of what might have been.
I carry my past in a monk’s bag that rests on my shoulder.
In it you will find my history, or bits of it, names I have been given, given up, memories of childhood, pictures of my parents who I never knew, aged in my mind from the photos in yearbooks, all that I have of them..
I still have room in my bag, perhaps more room than time.
How many times have we heard someone intone the never ending expression: “in the best interests of the child.”
Never, I imagine, has anyone asked the child what he or she thought was in their best interest, for children, we assume, cannot know what is in their interest.
A child would gladly tell you but an adult would often disagree, anchored to the memory of their parents always deciding what was in their best interest whether or not they agreed, and assuming that is how things always ought to be.
Children have an innate sense of their ancestry. I was a child of the city it’s streets my paths, always under the watchful eye of my warden – mother.
Dirt was to be avoided at all possible cost, so I never dug my hands into the fertile soil of my village in the heart of Lithuania, or tasted the readying harvest that dirt would remember.
I never stole a nip of poitin only the Manischewitz which, in our home, masqueraded as wine fit for drinking. It is only now in my second childhood that the ancestry very deep in my DNA has finally found purchase in my mind and soul.