Wrong Fam, Fam
There was a point in my life when I spent more time watching adoptee reunion footage than I care to admit. I mean, I was hooked. I was equally as fascinated by the adoptee’s response to seeing their biological family for the first time as I was by the biological family’s response to their long-lost kin. Now, whenever someone mentions adoptee reunions, I see a montage of “Welcome home” banners and hands being clasped over agape mouths.
The funny thing is, as much media as there is out there of the reunions with (seemingly) happy endings, I’d venture to say that the messy and/or unresolved reunions are more common. But, since they don’t play into the hyper-romanticized reunion dreams adoptees tend to carry around, they are stories that don’t get shared as widely. I think they should be.
Growing up, I was bombarded with questions as soon as people discovered my adoptee status:
“So, do you know your biological mom?”
“But, you want to know her, right?”
“What about the rest of your family?”
“Wait, so you don’t know any of them?”
“Well, have you looked?”
“But, I’m sure you want to, right?”
“So… when are you going to do it then?”
As a kid, I didn’t notice the way these questions made my shoulders round and feet shuffle, but before I learned to tell folks to simply fuck off, I’d advert my eyes and respond with, “Yeah, I mean, I will once… everything in my life is… settled.” I don’t think I even knew what “being settled” meant, but I did notice the more I offered this explanation, the more I believed it and the less invasive questions I had to fend off. In actuality, I wished I did have the answers to the questions I was being asked as a young person, but it wouldn’t be until my late 20s that I would begin to aggressively seek them out.
Part of my quest for answers involved joining a group for Black adoptee writers from all over the Minneapolis metro area. The group met once a week in the dead of winter to write and exchange adoptee how-to stories.
At one of the sessions, I met Kathryn*, a woman in her late 50s who was in reunion with her biological family. The two of…