Years ago, when Cherry Blossoms in Twilight was first published, I had a short conversation with a sales clerk in a department store. As the young lady rang up my purchase, somehow it came up that I had written a memoir of my mother. I told her I now encourage everyone to write their family stories. I will never forget her response.
The girl said she was adopted so she didn’t have any stories of her mother. Her voice had a trace of wistfulness. I was speechless. Then I told her she did have a mother – an adopted mother who had stories, and those stories were now her stories. I don’t think she bought that.
This salesgirl was quite young – early twenties or even late teens. I suspect this is about the time when adopted children begin to really wonder about their roots and consider trying to find their birth parents. A very emotional time. She would be wondering who her birth family was and what her “real” stories were. Brings to mind a tough children’s book I read, The Jade Dragon, where an adopted Chinese girl felt pain at looking so different from her white American parents, enough that she wondered why they hadn’t just left her in China.
I can’t begin to know the emotional issues of adopted children, but I do know they have parents who cared enough to take in a child not born to them. At that point the child has a new family, and her new parents have pasts that affected them and in turn will affect their children, birth and adopted. They will give their children stories of their own to tell.
Adopted children will also have stories particular to adoption. How has it affected them, how have they adapted, how have they questioned, searched, resolved – or not. In a way, they aren’t different from anyone else with a special circumstance – of health issues, divorce, having a special talent that makes us stand out, a secret fear, etc. We all ask why, we all have to figure things out. In our own way, don’t we all have some kind of circumstances particular to us? Yes, we all have our stories.
I did a quick search for memoirs of those who have been adopted and found Jan Fisher’s Searching for Jane: Finding Myself, which tells the story of her struggles as an adoptee. (She was adopted in the 1950s.)