Monday, November 06, 2006

National Adoption Month: Story #2 Resemblance

The Power of Resemblance

My much beloved aunt, dead at 89, lay in an open casket. Family members stood around, gazing at her with tears and smiles of fondness.

Cousin Letty joined me and said, "Oh my God, look at her! Then look at Albert! El mismo! El mismo!"

The same, the same, she was saying. She was remarking on the striking resemblance between my aunt in her coffin and her surviving son, Albert. The same beaky nose, the strong jawline and luxurious iron gray hair. He was the living version of his mother.

And there it was. The power of resemblance. The primitive urge to compare features. It happens all the time. At holiday parties and, more frequently, at funerals. Almost everyone in attendance looks like someone else. A nose here. A set of eyes there. A nose that reminds one of sepia tinted pictures of Indians. All but mine. My frame is not large but small. My facial features are also small, including my nose. My jawline is square and my hair with its annoying tendencies to curl and redden in the sun.

What is it like to grow up in a world where you look like no one and no one looks like you? Bewildering. Isolating. Strange. And again, that word I find so appropriate to describe the state of being adopted: Surreal. All the comparing swirls around you, family members, friends and strangers oblivious to the fact that you can never be included, and you sit and nod and, because it happens so often, maybe don't even realize why you feel so peculariar.

Even at a funeral, the urge to compare physical features is irresitable, the need to connect to others in the wider group basic and profound.

Is there a solution to this particular challenge of being adopted? For some of us: searching and finding our birth families.

When my niece, five years my junior, sent me a picture of herself, there I was...bits and pieces of similar features. The low forehead, the thick hair, something about the eyes. Finally, a connection to another human being! I rushed to the closest mirror. Like something out of a science fiction movie, my features seemed to be reassembling into a new face: mine. Suddenly, I realized I never actually knew what I looked like! I grabbed a box of old photos and dug through them. There I was at three. Five. Ten. Fifteen. I was seeing myself for the very first time in the fourth decade of my life.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mia said...

My dad has Alzheimers and I have experienced this with him. I understand the sadness at the loss of the real person and also relief in not having to deal with the anger as much.

The haircut was heartbreaking. I felt so sad for you sitting in that chair.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Christy said...

Nina, in reading your posts I feel we have so much in common as adoptees and the adoptee experience, and the reunion experience. I would love to be able to get in contact with you.
You post things that are so similar to my experiences it gives me goosebumps. It would be a big help for me possibly to have contact with someone who knows how I feel.

12:26 AM  

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