As an adoptee, fitting into a family legacy has always felt out of arm’s reach. Close enough to take in the message but never able to feel the true weight of its inheritance.
I often find himself hesitate to claim my mother’s and father’s family legacies as my own.
AUGUST 6th, 1945
Every year in August, I am especially reminded of the legacy of mother’s family surviving the World War II in Hiroshima. I have been told vivid stories of my grandmother running into bomb shelters, the family house burning down, and a miracle flat tire that saved my grandmother from being at the city center when the atomic bomb detonated. These stories of surviving, carry with them an overbearing weight of pain, loss, and resilience.
For many years, I was convinced that the weight of these stories could only be carried by direct descendants. As I was not by blood, only by name, I strongly opposed claiming any of these tales as part of my own.
As time went on, my reluctance to claim these family stories came to tipping point when I was applying to colleges. For the personal essay section of my common app, my mother was adamant that I should write about my grandmother’s experience. I, on the other hand, strongly opposed the suggestion. Instead, electing to write about how I taught myself to dance in my garage. This, I thought, showcased my unique character traits as an artistic out-of-the-box self-starter. Unfortunately, my mom did not take kindly to this. We argued back in forth but in the end I was stubborn and dancing was going to be the topic. Now looking back, I now realize that I was just not ready to take on the inheritance of my grandmother’s stories. To add, that essay did not win me any acceptance letters.
It is a feeling specific to my journey with my identity as an adoptee.
I think it is best described with the cliché, “being so close and yet so far away.” You enter a family and overtime they become your own. But even with all the love and care I received there lingered this reminder that I was adopted. I hate to do it but you end up asking yourself, “Am I truly part of this family legacy? Where do I fit?”
This year I have felt a swift.
Having left home to go to school and live on my own in New York City has made me realize how my parents greatly influenced my life. It is this realization has allowed me to begin to claim family legacies that once seemed untouchable.
Lets face it. Parents are the ones that frame the way we view the world. From a young age, we watch our parents intently. We try to copy the way they walk, talk, and react. They school us on what is right and wrong. They also tell us stories from their past defining the nature of our family and the values we come to share. All this information frames how we construct ourselves.
If this is true for myself, it also must be true for my mother. Growing up she must have watched my grandmother. Her tendencies and movements. Learned about the good and bad in the world. Listened to the all their family stories.
She like myself was influenced by her parents.
This has changed my relationship with my family legacy.
My grandmother’s experience during the war shaped the way she saw the world. This informed view of the world was not lost when she raised my mother, aunt, and uncle. The lessons from the war intertwined weaving two generations together. As my mother raised my brother and I, we were exposed to these very views that my mother received from her mother. In the end, there are generations and generations tied together by a thread informing the way in this world.