I have this beautiful photo of grafted Dogwood trees in full bloom and it's been inspiring me for some time to write about family trees.
But every time I try to share my thoughts on this, I'm nervous. The subject of family trees is not exactly greeted with enthusiasm in the adoption community. For some families with adopted children, it seems the tree is viewed as a painful illustration of the loss of a family; just a stump with a child's name scratched onto it and no branches at all. When kids bring home the dreaded family tree assignment, some adoptive parents demand that the school rescind the assignment so their child can be spared the embarrassment, humiliation and pain. Seriously, I can't fully wrap my mind around that thinking because, to me, family trees have always been totally about FAMILY and not about DNA.
My parents divorced then remarried when I was very young so I grew up with two moms and two dads and an interesting assortment of step aunts, uncles, cousins and even siblings who shared little to no DNA with me. Family was what it was and even though it was all mixed up, it was mine and I loved them all and they loved me too. In addition to step parent families, adoption touched almost every generation of my family too. My grandpa, for example, was adopted as an infant in the early 1900's.
Since the age of 16, I've made a hobby out of researching and recording the names and stories of the people who nurtured the generations before me. I've loved looking at 100+ year old old census records and reading old town newspapers and watching my family's life unfold in ten year snapshots. Boys took over the family farm and girls grew up and married the neighbor boy. Cousins went off to war. Some came back -- some didn't. Babies were born about every two years but it was very common to lose children (and parents) back then too. Families would grieve and then rebuild and move forward into the next decade and life went on. I just wish there were more photos and more stories to remember the older generations. But I do have little treasures from their lives: A set of silver flatware (some pieces quite old!), a faded quilt, a small piece of furniture and numerous old discolored photos and newspaper clippings.
When I got married, I extensively researched my husband's tree then merged it with my own and now it belongs to our kids (all three of whom are adopted to some degree). It's a tree with many grafted branches but it's a tree that represents all of the people who love us and all of the people who ever loved those people. Here's a small piece of it: <click here>
We have a very unique and beautiful tree that would look sad and incomplete if we pruned off all of those glorious grafted branches. Which color is the "real" color and which color was grafted? It's impossible to tell. My heart can't remember which of my three kids I gave birth to either!
I struggled with this blog post because I didn't want to get a bunch of negative feedback about it. It's easy to post photos of my cute kids every week but harder to open ourselves up to criticism and talk about really personal issues in our family. And what is more personal than FAMILY itself?
A few days ago, I found this blog: http://relativechoices.blogs.nytimes.com/ It's a NY Times blog about adoption and I've spent the whole week reading it from top to bottom. Most of the contributors have very compelling stories and they all really made me think.
I've enjoyed the comments most of all because most of the people who are commenting are NOT people you'd normally find in the online adoption community. In other words, they're not people who have such a heavy bias (pro or con) about adoption that they spend a disproportionate amount of their time on blogs and forums that deal exclusively with that subject (you know, like ME). These are opinions and perspectives that I've never heard before from random people who seem to have just stumbled across the blog and have some connection to adoption. Very enlightening and very civil (for the most part)! My favorite post was Blood Ties and Acts of Love. I hope everyone will find the time to go there and read through all of it - including the comments.
I'll be printing out the entire thing for my kids to read when they're older.