Even now months after our return from the 35th anniversary/family reunion/Hawaiian vacation, the memories of those first days and weeks back home are vivid in my mind.
The trip home was uneventful. No mechanical issues or missed connections. The quiet hours in the air wrapped a reflective solitude around me. Already the responsibilities of real-everyday-life jabbed at my mind. And “what’s next?” questions loomed large. But I firmly pushed the intrusional thoughts aside to savor a few more hours in vacation mode.
We hit the ground running once we arrived home. I made a quick trip to the grocery, and within three hours of dropping our suitcases in the laundry room, we were enjoying dinner on the patio with our daughter and her family. We shared the pictures I’d printed on a quick dash into the drugstore. Not all 500+ that recorded almost minute by minute our adventure, but the group photos taken just minutes before we left.
The dilemma of what adventure to describe first and/or what details to share about the new kin overwhelmed us to the point of continual run-on sentences. I knew we weren’t adequately or fairly conveying the stunning scenery or the awesome adventures or the stirring depth of the family connections. How many times can you say amazing and gorgeous and incredible and awesome and not have the words lose their meaning? And why aren’t there better words to describe all that we’d experienced?
Thanks to bio dad’s anti-jetlag regimen and the decent sleep we got on the flight home, we eased back into Indiana time with little issue. A good thing, too, because post-vacation life immediately shifted into overdrive. We came home to one of the busiest seasons of our life due to the major relocation of both of our parents and all the planning, sorting, and decision making big moves like that involve. We dove into a mountain of work which left little time for my mind to dwell on the questions that tried to consume huge chunks of my brain.
Namely, WHAT NOW? What would happen now that we’d met my sister and bio dad and brother just two weeks before that? Would life settle back into the old “norm” OR would things be different now that we’d connected in person? How would finding them impact our lives in the months and years ahead?
Of course, everywhere we went folks asked, “How was Hawaii? How was it to meet your family?” We were only too happy to share the details and the pictures and attempt to convey how incredible it had been. I’m entirely certain I expounded more than the inquirer wanted to know at least a time or two . . . or ten. But talking about the trip was, in a small way, like reliving the magic all over again. And folks were still asking about the “one from Maine who visited”—brother Alan.
I immediately transferred the contents of my raggedy computer bag that I carried with me often, into the new bag I purchased in Hawaii. I loved how it was a tangible way to keep the memories close, especially with the “new family” photo album tucked inside. And now, I toted the new bag everywhere I went. I made a second set of pictures for my purse, in the off chance the Hawaiian bag remained in the van, and I instead carried my purse into a function where I might want to share the pics. Wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared, you know.
I painstakingly condensed the 500+ pictures into a slide show of just 309. Donned in our Hawaii-souvenir t-shirts, we shared the presentation several times with friends and family who, I promise, insisted they DID want to see it. Wearing the red gecko t-shirt we brought back for him, our grandson took quite seriously the task of passing around his pack of Hawaii Volcano National Park postcards to the captive audiences.
Because of the exhausting and sometimes mind-numbing process of the relocation project and preparing the little house my mother-in-law had lived in for a new renter, I weathered the emotional aftermath of the vacation/reunion without falling apart. There was little time to dwell on the life-changing events of the past few months or to sink too deeply into contemplation about what the future held. Even as I (we) longed to just be done with all the sorting and moving, I recognized the blessing of the timing. The enormity of all that had transpired might well have left me an emotional, oozing puddle if not for the deadlines and responsibilities that beckoned us. To say that the revealing of my birth details and the connecting with biological family had been overwhelming, didn’t begin to capture the reality of the scenario. Again, where are the words to describe this kind of experience?
Because I wanted to keep the Hawaii t-shirts “nice”, I didn’t wear mine much. I barely used the insulated lunch tote because it was too special. And when the overstuffed computer bag began to show wear and tear, I almost panicked. As if the memories of this once-in-a-lifetime trip were attached to these material items. At some point, rational thinking prevailed. I could buy more Kona t-shirts and another bag. Hmm, a good reason for planning another trip to the Big Island, maybe.
I thought about my new relatives, all of them, like every day, still in awe of how the pieces had fallen into place. Each time my natural drive to organize and plan kicked in, I couldn’t help but smile at this trait I now knew I shared with both my birthfather and sister. When I found myself slipping into perfectionism mode, I knew who I had to thank. But I’m more of a “people person” than he is, and he doesn’t do holidays of any variety while I have never met a holiday I didn’t love.
It could be I get my fondness for holidays from my birth mom as I hear she always made a really big deal about Christmas. And she liked flowers, another love of mine. I will never forget the look on my maternal brother’s face when, at our second in-person meeting, he announced, “Sitting here talking to you, is like talking to my mother. You look like her and your mannerisms are so similar.” I get chills even now just thinking about it.
All of these likenesses could be taken for granted if I’d spent my growing up years with these people. But since we spent 50+ years not doing life together, these similarities are both fascinating and a bit unnerving at the same time. Chalk up a point for “nature” in the age-old argument of nurture versus nature. I always held that it wasn’t an either or proposition, that both NATURE and NURTURE play a role in who a person becomes. And now I have firsthand evidence to back that up. While the maternal and paternal DNA made significant contributions to who I am today, the “nurture” of my adopted family played a role every bit as significant.
The purse analogy
A couple of weeks after we returned from Hawaii, I transitioned from a cute, lightweight, compact, summer purse to a much larger, heavier-duty model featuring the darker colors and textures of fall. More stuff fit into this handbag—a good thing—but in a vastly different configuration that I feared I wouldn’t be able to find anything. And it was bulkier to carry around, didn’t fit under the van seat at all, and lacked a shoulder strap. Still, I liked it, especially because it felt and looked like fall, one of my favorite seasons. It would take some getting used to, but surely, I would adjust.
One purse wasn’t good and the other bad. They were just different.
A lot like how my biological family was and is different from my adopted family. Nothing wrong with either one, but they are distinctly dissimilar in rather significant ways. My new family does not fit into the family “mold” formed by my life experiences over the last half century. While those differences will take some time to wrap my head around, I’m more than willing it give it a shot.
Now that warm weather has finally made its way to Indiana, I’ve been looking for a “springier” handbag. A larger one like the fall/winter model that served me well for months. I found one yesterday, and I already love it. It’s different than what I would normally go for. Even my husband noticed how atypical it was—and he is not known for his attentiveness to my handbag selections. I have to admit, part of why I love it so much is because it’s new and fresh and different.
Now that it’s finally t-shirt weather, I plan to wear a Hawaii t-shirt at least once a week. May even throw my husband’s into the rotation. With a bit of clear packing tape as reinforcement, the Hawaii computer bag will be good to go for the summer at least. And that lunch tote? It too will accompany me probably every day as I plan to do a lot writing “on the go” in the coming months.
Life began to settle down right about the time Aunt Donna and cousin Honey came to visit in November. You remember Aunt Donna, right? Her DNA results—the kit was a Christmas gift from Honey—pointed directly to my birthfather. Without the two of them, 2017 would not have been the year the doorstep baby found her answers.
Stay tuned for the scoop on their visit.
If you’re just tuning into my adoption search/reunion story, catch the beginning of the story here.