Dispatches From My Half-Hearted Search for My Parents

On curiosity, risk aversion, and nature vs. nurture, among other things

Harris Sockel
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readMay 3, 2023


me @ 13 in a photo booth at the Jersey shore

“I’m just curious,” I said on a Google Hangout a few weeks ago, “and I don’t know if that’s a good enough reason?” The calendar event read “we’re adopted lol.” I’d set it up after a mutual friend connected us (“You’re both adopted!”) so it was sort of like a blind date, but a friend date, one where the icebreaker is the fact that neither of us have met our biological parents.

For context: I rarely meet other adopted people. I think I’ve met… three in my life? Maybe more but they were incognito. Two percent of Americans are adopted and we look just like everyone else. We’re experts at pretending to belong (that’s rule #1 in the Adoptee Handbook) so you can’t see us and we can’t really see each other.

The first adopted person I ever knew was my Aunt Fern. Her nose was smaller and rounder than any of the noses around our family’s Rosh Hashanah dinner table, and her hair was a few shades lighter but no one seemed to notice. She was quiet and observant. She laughed at everyone’s jokes. “Aunt Fern was adopted,” my mom leaned over and whispered to me once. I was six. Fern just sat there eating gefilte fish like it was her birthright.