When I was small, my grandma would pinch my nose. Not hard. Not in a mean way. Just her thing. She would tell me what a “Button of a nose” I had and smile. It is an endearing memory. My grandma was a great cook. She is the reason I eat toast, because she would make me the BEST cinnamon toast for breakfast during sleepovers. Comfort.
I clearly remember her pinching my nose, calling it a button and my small girl brain thinking, “I wonder if my nose looks like anyone else’s?”
I have kind of a unique nose. Not really pointy from the front, but kind of pointy looking from my profile side. I also have a sticky-outy chin. And blue eyes. Blonde hair. And thumbs that curve. I remember someone telling me I had “monkey hands” because my thumbs curve. This is NOT an endearing memory. I have cool hands, just sayin’.
When you are an adoptee, you wonder about a lot of things. For me, I wondered about my looks – a lot. Growing up, I felt out of place. Kids would ask me why I did not look like my parents. Or why my dad was bald, as if I knew this answer….. Or why I was tall and my parents were short. I always would just say, “I’m adopted.” Then, this would lead to other questions, such as, “Do you know who your ‘real’ family was?” As if the short parents were not real. “Why did your mom give you away?” Good question, kid, good question. And my favorite, “Do you think your mom was famous?” Actually, yes, yes I did. I used to fantasize my birth mother was Carol Burnett. It was the chin thing. But most often, my “I’m adopted” response was met with a blank stare and “oh,” because the asker didn’t know what to say and felt uncomfortable, looking away.
I am about 9 here. Note my nose and chin. I looked like no one growing up.
When I found my birth family on February 1, 2017, I said a Prayer of hope that I would look like someone, anyone in my family. Secretly hoping it would be my lifelong loved birth mother, as I had longed for her, hoped for her and loved her my whole life.
As soon as I heard her last name, and names of my brothers, I started scanning Facebook. (I am so thankful for Facebook) Then I found her. She was still alive! I saw her face for the first time and KNEW who I looked like. (Out of respect for her privacy, I will not show a face picture of her or share her name, but trust me, we look alike)
On September 20, 2017, my husband and I flew to where she lives to meet her. As we drove the 2 hours from the nearest airport to her town, my heart raced and I hoped and prayed and patted my heart and told myself, “keep breathing.” I just wanted to look into her eyes and say “thank you.” During our 7 hour visit, I was able to do just that. Her eyes are brown, but not dark brown, more of a hazel brown and I seared those eyes into my memory. She told me my height and my blue eyes came from my birth father.
During the visit, we sat next to each other. I asked to take a picture of our hands together, because I had secretly compared our hands while we had been talking.
This is what I saw:
This picture is not staged. We just set our hands next to each other and I snapped a hand-selfie. When I looked at the picture hours later, I started to cry.
There we were. Two women, who had been apart 51 years, 10 months and 11 days, and our hands were identical. Not just similar in looks, but identical in the way we placed our hands. Pinky out, thumb extended. I love this picture and cherish the memory. This moment was God sent. It filled me with Spirit and love.
Even though our reunion has not been perfect and things I wish were different, I know where I came from. I know how I came to be. I know my story. I know my origins. I know my people. I know my roots. I can look into faces of my birth family and see my nose and my chin. Seeing myself in others has brought me a sense of peace and self acceptance I have chased for my whole life. I feel more whole and authentic.
And, my hands are her hands.