Faces of America

There is a fascinating program I’ve been watching on PBS called Faces of America.  Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr explores the family history of a number of well-known Americans like Meryl Streep, Eva Longoria, and Dr. Mehmet Oz. It’s a fascinating journey into the past with many surprises for both the viewer as well as the individual whose past is being explored.  Imagine finding out that you are related to the emperor Charlemagne or that you are descended from royalty! 

While I enjoy watching, the truth is that I feel somewhat gypped. I know we can’t all have the vast array of resources that are available to Mr. Gates, but most of us have stories that have been passed down from our parents and grandparents, photographs of people who bear a resemblance to us or someone else in our family, and even heirlooms that have been handed down from generation to generation.

Picture yourself as an adoptee with none of those things. Adoptees sometimes have a sense of being dropped into this world without an idea of where they came from. It can be unsettling.

I am more fortunate than many in that I have been able to learn much of my family geneology.  It’s really nothing more than names on a piece of paper or photographs that I struggle to find any resemblance to myself in.  The names and faces are my family – and yet not.

Years ago, before I found my birth family, I hungered for a family tree of my own and so I put together a tree of my adoptive family. Those names, those face, those stories I knew! They were a part of me!

It would seem that I have two family trees and when I was adopted the trees were grafted together permanantly. 

My words today to adoptive parents and birth-parents are to ask that you honor both sides of your child’s family tree and allow that new tree to blossom and flourish with the rich heritage of both sides. I promise you that the fruit that is produced by this new tree will unlike that which could come from one side alone. It will be unique and wonderful.  Like me!

  1. Linda –

    Your post is beautiful. I teach LifeBook classes for foster/adoptive parents and in fact I have one next week. Would you be ok if I shared this post with them? I can speak to the need to weave for their children the tapestry of both birth and adoptive parents, but hearing a personal story provides more richness and depth than what I can offer.
    thanks for sharing

  2. Linda, I love the imagery of the two trees. I sense a possible magazine article. Go for it! Anything woven together is stronger, has more textural beauty. It causes me to think of Eccles 4:12:

    Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

    Two families and God–what could be stronger?

  3. Great post Linda. It’s so true that while we love our families we hunger for knowledge of our own histories. I think it can be difficult for people to understand that this desire for infomation and connection is not a rejection of our adoptive families.

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