My daughter doesn’t talk very much about the fact that she was adopted at birth.
OK. She’s 12, so she doesn’t talk much about anything really. I have to play 20 Questions with her every day just to find out how school is going, if she has any homework or if she has taken any tests recently.
And truthfully, the fact that she was adopted doesn’t come up very often. It’s not something we discuss much. It’s not something she talks to her friends about. It’s just a fact about her, like the fact that she has brown hair, brown eyes and a serious macaroni and cheese addiction. She also is a fabulous artist, a wonderful little writer and has a beautiful singing voice.
Ours also is an open adoption. That means that our family has contact with our daughter’s birth family. Her first mother (I prefer that term to “birthmother”), her half-sister, aunts, uncles and a couple of cousins all are friends with us on Facebook, so they can keep up with what our girl is up to. We knew her grandfather. We also try to get together every year on Good Friday for a huge crawfish boil (because they live down the bayou in Terrebonne Parish and they do it so well!)
So when my daughter came home from school recently and handed me an assignment she had done for her seventh grade writing class, I was moved to tears.
This is what she wrote:
I Am From
I am from a familiar place known as Apple Street, but at the same time from high rise houses somewhere else.
I am from a woman who is no longer required to look after me and one who always will be.
From a writer and a coach.
I am from a worker and a runaway.
From the place I visit and the one that I live.
I am from two places, two families, two homes, two hearts.
And right then and there I knew – she gets it.
My smart, bright and oh-so-perceptive daughter has always known that she was adopted. We have talked about it openly. We never whispered the word behind our hands or acted like it was some big secret. She may not remember the day she legally became ours inside a judge’s chambers – she was only 18 months old that day – but she sees the pink Japanese Magnolia tree that we planted in our back yard, and she knows there is a box filled with mementos, including a stack of notes I asked each member of our family to write to her. And she has been very happy to celebrate the date each year since. Some call it a “Gotcha Day,” but we just call it “Lora Day” and usually mark it with a small dinner for family and close friends.
She knows that she has two families – one that gave her life, her brown hair, her almost black eyes and her above-average height, and one that gave her family traditions and memories and all the material things she has needed and asked for. She knows that her first mother is a woman who has to work very hard to make a living. She calls her first father “a runaway” to express the fact that he had no interest in her. We have no contact with him at all.
But with those few sentences, my daughter showed me that she doesn’t just know the facts, she also understands them. She knows who her first mother is, what she did and why. Her first mother gave her to us to raise, but didn’t just give her away. Both of us are a part of her and what makes her who she is and where she is from. And both love her very much. And she knows that too.
Lori Lyons is a veteran journalist who spent two decades covering sports and news at The Times-Picayune. Now a freelance writer, she continues to cover the local sport scene for The New Orleans Advocate, RiverParishFootball.com and others. Married to Destrehan baseball coach Marty Luquet, she is the step mom of two young adults and the adoptive mom of a tween. She is the author of “Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting,” which details her journey from infertility to motherhood through an open adoption. She continues to tell stories of her family on her blog, The Lyons Din, from underneath the flare in Norco.
I cried when I read your daughter’s writing assignment. This is a beautiful reminder that families are not made only of shared DNA, but shared love and experiences.