My teen years comprised what I consider typical ‘90s trademarks - grunge music, hip hop, gangsta rap, ska, flannel shirts, teen angst, the introduction of the Internet, Playstation, skateboarding, the development of “Reality TV,” and Napster. These years are spent developing a sense of self and coming into your own, as well as experiencing the usual maturation process - growth spurts, changes to your body and features, and the blossoming of your personality.
Fully grown, I’m about 6-7 inches taller than my parents, and exhibit more Italian features, while they exhibit more English, Welsh, German, French, and Scottish traits. These differences always made me feel as though I stood out among the rest of my family. For instance, when we take family pictures, I’m always placed in the back center, due to my height, with the rest of the family cascading down to my left and right. During my early to mid-teen years, whenever my Mom would inquire if I had any interest in meeting my biological Mother and/or family, my response was always, “If I could see them through a one-way mirror, like those used in police interrogation rooms. Like I could see them, but they couldn’t see me.”
My real curiosity at that time was about what they looked like; I wasn’t as curious about where I got specific mannerisms, habits, or about getting to know them. This would change around the age of 20, during my first really serious relationship. For some reason, this relationship opened my eyes more than any friendship ever had, to characteristics that she shared with family members. Between her and her siblings, I could identify mannerisms and facets of their personalities, distinctly linking them to each individual parent. On January 30, 1999, after spending a few hours with my Grandparents, I was telling my girlfriend about how my biological Grandparents lived just around the corner. It had been a while since I’d been by their house and I wasn’t exactly sure where it was, so we stopped into a coffee shop at the town square. I grabbed a phone book, looked up their name, and asked an employee the easiest way to get there. As it turned out, we were only 2 blocks away. We drove to the street and slowed down looking for a house number. Somebody was outside shoveling snow, so I put my window down and told him what house I was looking for. As luck would have it, he lived next door to my biological Grandparents.
My girlfriend and I sat in my truck out in the road for a few minutes, just talking & thinking out loud, as I recalled stories of being driven by there when I was young. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I pulled into the driveway in a spur of the moment decision. We looked at each other for a second, she asked, “Are you really doing this?” and I replied, “Yes.” We got out, walked to the door, rang the bell and waited what seemed like several minutes. A woman who turned out to be my biological Grandmother answered the door, asking if she could help us. I told her, “I’m looking for [name]. I was put up for adoption 21 years ago, and I was told this is where my mother’s parents live.” She asked me to repeat what I had said, and if I remembered my birth name, which I gave her. Judging by the look on her face, she knew this was really happening. She called my biological Grandfather to the door, saying, “’s boy is here!!” They invited us in and immediately started asking questions.
They sat us in the living room and offered us something to eat and drink, asked our names, how we met, etc. We just couldn’t stop looking at each other, trying to grasp the enormity of the moment - none of us in that room could have imagined in the morning that our night would have turned into this. They told us many family stories and showed us lots of pictures, including the first I had ever seen of my birth mother, as well as of my half-sisters who I was just learning about. Additionally, I was given a little history of the events leading up to my adoption from their side of things.
My girlfriend and I spent a few hours there, but before we left, exchanged email addresses and phone numbers with them so we could keep in touch. All I knew was that my biological Grandmother wanted to wait to tell my birth mother about the events of what had just happened, so I didn’t really know what to expect going forward. That night, I called my Mom to tell her what I’d done. While totally shocked, she was very understanding, supportive, and happy for me. In all, there was a lot to take in for the night, and one I will never forget.
On the monthly anniversary of the day we met, my biological Grandparents would send me a card in the mail, as well as on holidays and my birthday. They only lived an hour from my home, so I was able to visit them somewhat frequently. Less than 2 months after meeting, my parents had them to the house for dinner.
My parents couldn’t get over the resemblance I shared with my biological Grandfather, as well as the similarities in the way we ate. I emailed my biological Grandparents fairly regularly after meeting them, still wondering when the news would be revealed to my birth Mother.
On March 3, 1999, I finally woke up to emails from her and my half-sisters. Page after page, paragraph after paragraph telling me all about themselves, and asking all about me. Finding common traits, likes/dislikes, talents, styles - question upon question, trying to get the most information possible since we had years of getting to know each other to make up for. As it turned out, some of them had known about me, and others hadn’t.
My parents and I were planning to travel out of state for Easter, to my sister’s house. Coincidentally, my birth Mother and her family lived only about an hour north of my sister. We made a plan to stop there on Good Friday on the way down. On April 2, 1999, we pulled up to their house in the late morning, both excited and nervous. This was it. We got out of the car, and as we walked up the sidewalk, the front door opened. It was my birth Mother standing in the doorway.
We looked each other in the eye for a few moments and then hugged. It then became a procession of my 4 half-sisters out the door, one after another, until everyone was outside hugging, talking, and acquainting themselves with each other. We went to lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon talking, taking pictures, asking/answering questions, and handing out gifts. Plans were made for them to come to my sister’s house the next day, so she could meet everyone. I remember trying to sleep that night when my eyes just filled with tears, realizing that I had finally been given the opportunity to look the woman who gave birth to me in the eyes.