I turned 37 yesterday. I felt 37 yesterday. But in the best way. I felt comfortable in my own skin; in the work I’m doing, in the direction I’m heading, in my weight and appearance, with my brow game, and mostly in being in the presence of my sweet family.
I feel older too.
Over the course of the past year, a few additional wiry, gray streaks have appeared in my dark, Indian hair, but I like them. Every once in a while, Kevin or Rubina jokingly attempt to yank one of these course hairs from my head and I jerk away and squeal, “No! I’m keeping it!”. But, I never tell them why.
I’m so much like my momma. In a zillion ways. She was loud and fun and wild. I’m those things too. She loved to cook. Same here. She appreciated a good compliment; words of affirmation is my primary love language. She could be nasty and cruel when someone or something made her upset and I have mastered this less than desirable quality, as well. She shared with me her ability to be weird, adventurous, and how to serve the people we love.
But we didn’t look alike at all. Only in stature and shoe size. Her skin was white with high sunburn potential, she was bright blue-eyed, thin haired. I am medium brown with the potential only to get darker, brown eyed, and my thick, black, straight hair is what her dreams were made of.
I can see myself in Rubina and it’s more than just the knowledge of shared genetics; more than her being the first biological relative I laid eyes on. There are many ways we mirror each other. It’s my favorite thing about life. As I said, I love a compliment, but my favorite compliment is when a stranger reacts to the resemblance between my daughter and I. Sometimes I worry she looks more like Kevin; I don’t worry because he’s not good looking or I’m afraid she’ll grow a beard. Frankly, everyone should look more like Kevin. I worry because I have a deep need for the mirror she and I share to never crack, break, or fog. These feelings are the internal reeling of an adoptees heart; they are not frequently expressed or intended to burden. They are like secrets I kept hidden until now; the private hopes of someone who has no genetic anchor or rooting.
The reason I hoard my gray, wiry hairs; the reason I don’t pluck them, dye them, or hide them is because I feel the more I age, the more I look like my Indian mother. Sure, there’s a chance we look nothing alike. But, because I am not privy to that information I have the luxury (or curse, depending on how you look at it), of creating my own fantasy. And in my fantasy, we look alike. In my fantasy, meeting her is like looking into a mirror from the past that has eluded me for, well, 37 years now. She’s grayer than me of course, but I’m rapidly gaining on her and, while her skin has aged, it has done so beautifully. So, I obviously cannot spare the loss of even ONE gray hair. Because what if I could meet her one day? IF I could, then every gray hair matters, you see. Each gray strand brings me closer to her; it’s a cleaner mirror I can look into with prime clarity.
Is there peace in this mirror? I don’t know. I’m guessing there is peace, insurmountable loss, tsunami size waves of grief, and comfort. But, I meant what I said, I really don’t know. And I’ll likely never know.
It’s a weird thing to live with.
I love that I was raised by such a sweet mom and such a sweet dad. I love that. I love them.
I’m an adoptee and, therefore, felt obligated to tell you that. I can’t get away from it.
The truth is, my love for my parents who raised me (which has never been in question) has nothing to do with my feelings about my Indian mother.
The truth is, the guilt I carry for feeling anything about my Indian mother is hard to live with.
Isn’t that awful?
My life isn’t awful. My life is good. But the guilt that is a part of every day is kind of awful. It’s completely unnecessary. It’s absurd, unwarranted. My parents didn’t inflict guilt upon me; adoptee guilt just is. Although some adoptees’s families do heap additional guilt on their weary shoulders, the reality is, whether someone else is contributing to it or not, we feel guilty. I tell myself how stupid it is, but my head doesn’t register that reasoning and just goes on swimming in a scummy, guilt infested pond each day of my life.
It’s quite common for adoptees to struggle with their birthday. One of the reasons (which I wrote about on my 35th birthday) is that many of us aren’t certain the day we celebrate is technically our day of birth. It’s natural for one to think about how they came into the world on the day celebrated for their entrance. I’ve been at many birthday parties when a mother and father lovingly retell the story of pregnancy and birth. So, what about adoptees? Our birthday story telling typically revolves solely around an orphanage or an airport hand off.
I have never spent a birthday thinking about my Indian mother the way I did this year. Thoughts of her surprised me and were mildly irritating, to be honest. She crept in like a little creeper. It was a sneak attack and I’m not exactly thrilled about it. It makes me feel bad. It elevates my guilt. It makes me hopeful and I’m tired of being hopeful; it’s exhausting. I don’t want it to go away, though. I mean, I don’t think I do.
When I think about my two mothers, I am deeply grieved and heavy. I miss my momma who raised me and loved me and cared for me so well. I miss her so much I can’t find enough air to breathe the way one should. Losing her has altered me at my core; perhaps in a similar way the separation from my Indian mother at birth altered me at my core. And I miss her too; my Indian mother. Missing her is so much more complex, misunderstood, and confusing. I know how to miss my mom; because I know what I miss. How can you miss someone you were never able to know? It’s bizarre. It’s uncomfortable, scary, and guilt inducing. I feel awful about it.
But I do miss her. And I hope I look like her. And I hope in aging, the gap between us closes.
I love you, Mom(s). Happy Birthday to me.
5 thoughts on “Mothers / Birthdays”
That is beautiful Reshma! xo
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I actually, have a cry every time I think you torchure yourself over this. As an ‘uncle’ a brother to your dad, I remember full well that moment the call came in that you were coming to Portland and those early years before the move to Southern Oregon. So when you are distraught in this way I too feel distraught. No matter what it takes for you to get through this moment, Happy Birthday for we are with you all the way.
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I’m an adoptive mom and doing my very best to learn all about adoptee perspective. As an adoptive mom, I’m curious if your parents ever talked about things with you and, if they didn’t, do you think it would have helped? I initiate conversations about my daughters’ birthparents and, I think, they feel comfortable talking to me about it. I’d appreciate any advice about how to help my daughters work through their emotions surrounding their adoption.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Wow! Thank you for expressing your journey and especially about the difficulty of your birthday. As humans, we need to feel rooted. Birthdays root us. You are a precious soul. I feel your pain through your writing. Thank you for so fearlessly sharing. Your story needs to be told.
A very moving piece.A belated Happy Birth day from India.