February 19, 2014

Who Are the Strangers?

When I prepared to make the trip to knock on the door of my natural mom, (unbeknownst to her), to see her for the first time as an adult -- there were those who volunteered to accompany me, including my husband. 

I declined. 

Although my husband went to Virginia with me, he didn’t go to her door with me, nor was he in the room when we had our first conversation as adults. 

I realize all adoptees aren't the same.
And many may feel different about this issue.

For me...reuniting was a sacred moment.

The first moments weren’t something to share, even with my husband. 

(Although I adore my husband, consider the fact that if it weren’t for my natural mom, I wouldn’t even be here on the planet to have a husband, in the first place.)   

Judy and I started out together in 1966 and I wanted our reunion to be the same – unencumbered by anyone else who may want to insert themselves into the moment that was ours, alone.

“But you were meeting with a stranger…” some say. “I would think you would have wanted someone familiar with you, just in case…”



This bothers me.

When people speak of my natural family as “strangers,” it’s extremely disconcerting -- even though I know they mean no harm.

Think about the fact that back in 1966 when I went to foster care for a brief time, I was placed with…strangers.

Then when I left foster care, two other strangers came to pick me up and take me home from the Children’s Home Society.

This isn’t my first rodeo with “strangers.”

Yes, the two strangers became my adoptive parents, but for all intents and purposes – at first they were the strangers.   

Why does no one ever refer to anyone's adoptive family as strangers?

I don't ask this with any malice or sarcasm. 

It is truly a question I grapple with -- this label of "strangers" as well as the tone of caution.

When people warn of approaching "strangers" who happen to be natural family as if contacting them is dangerous, it makes me feel like a perpetual child. Sort of like, "Ohhhh...don't take candy from strangers! Strangers are bad!!"

When people refer to others as strangers, I don't take the characterization as positive.

I made it through the journey of being cared for by those who were strangers at first, in 1966.  

Then, I became an adult and in 1993 I was fully capable of knocking on the door of someone who I was actually NOT meeting for the first time.  

The person on the other side of the door had already spent almost a year with me. I was just too young to remember it.   And because I was too young to remember, society branded her a stranger.

Perhaps I am grasping at straws here.
Perhaps I am the one who's coo coo. 
(Confession: Yes, I am shamelessly looking for validation here...) 

As I am now preparing for possible paternal reunion, this issue is once again on my front burner. 

I wonder, am I the only adoptee that has ever felt this way about this line of thinking?

It feels dismissive to me, this whole "stranger" thing. 

Especially since everybody who is my close friend was once a stranger.

The fact that some refer to a woman who carried me in her own body for nine months as a stranger is just really, well... STRANGE, to me.

But maybe that's just me. (Shameless second invite for validation...)

Photo Credit: Deanna Doss Shrodes