I was adopted when I was just a toddler and knew nothing about my ancestry except what my mother told me.
I grew up believing that my mom was 100% Irish, her parents having come over to the states on a ship. We celebrated every day as if there were leprechauns and fairies in our yard and paid mind to all the good luck omens. My sisters and I were all kissed with freckles and red tints in our hair. If I knew anything at all about myself, I was Irish!
I knew my birth father had some Yugoslavian heritage, but he was adopted too. As a kid I would pretend that we must have lived close to Transylvania, which explained my extra fang teeth and fed my fantasies.
As the years went on, I came to realize that so much of what I was told was fabricated. I started to question everything I ever knew. I even felt uncomfortable sharing memories of my past or details of my family; now feeling like I might only be spreading false truths. It became easier just to say, “I don’t know; I was adopted.”
In the evenings, my husband and I would laugh for hours alternating different accents and dialects to make light of this fact. If you don’t know where you are from, you might as well have fun being from everywhere. If you were to judge my ancestry by the Accents used most often, I’m Russian, Irish, English, French, Australian and Jamaican. Like all Americans, a beautifully melded, mixture of the world around us.
I confronted my mom about the lies one time; jokingly told her that I didn’t even know if I was Irish. I will never forget what she said.
“As it turns out, we are mostly German.”
Which is pretty funny now that I think of it; my mom having such an aversion to Germany that she wouldn’t allow any of the kids to speak German in the house. In retrospect, that is probably because it forced her to face truths she already knew about lies she had long been spreading.
“As it turns out….”
About two months ago, I met my grandma at my father’s funeral. (In the future this father bit might get a little muddled. You see, I have three dads; yet sometimes, it feels like I have none at all.)
Meeting my grandma was akin to the birth of my own children. She was mine, she was me, she was everything I had searched my whole life for. An instant connection and a chance to learn things that had long plagued my thoughts.
As it turns out, I’m Serbian. I don’t know much about Serbia; just “The Shot Heard Around The World” and the terrible genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maybe that is where I get my fighter spirit from. I also know the Balkans have some of the most underrated beauty in all of the world and I have never met a person from there whose soul didn’t rival that beauty.
I’m comforted to have a people, a family, a connection to my heritage. I’m glad that someone is willing to hold out their hand and guide me to truths, away from paths where I have been mislead.
But don’t think for one second that I will ever stop celebrating St. Patty’s Day!