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October 16, 2012

Come next February, it will be four years since I learned who my birth family is.  From the beginning, we recognized we were in unchartered territory, and we said as much to one another.  That’s where the title of this blog comes from, and the book that I am writing.  I morphed the word blueprint–a model, a prototype, a guide–into twinprint.  More than being adopted, or being from the Midwest, or being this or that early defining thing, I have been guided in so much of my life by being a twin.  I don’t feel lost in that part of myself.

Even though the story of adoption search and reunion was new to all of us, and that newness created a honeymoon of excitement and possibility in the beginning, our story is not unusual.  Many other people have been in our position, tracking down birth parents or birth children, reuniting with them, trying to make a go at a relationship with one another.  It may be uncommon that our birth parents are still together, having married less than a year after my sister and I were born, but it’s not unheard of.  And other people who were adopted have also found, as my sister and I did, a full biological sibling (or two or three) that they never knew about, or even imagined.  There are twins out there, too, adopted together as infants, some who have embarked on a search for birth families, others who have not.

Along the way, I have heard, and read, stories from people involved in adoption reunions who say how hard it is after the initial excitement wanes.  So many Hollywood-esque reunions fizzle as time goes on.  I recently met someone who hadn’t seen or talked to her birth mother in the fifteen years since they happily found one another, for no other reason than, well, they just hadn’t.  One after another, those years disappeared in a blink.

I don’t like being ordinary, not in that way, in any case.  I wanted my birth family and my adopted family to come together in some kind of extraordinary manner–though I had no idea what this new kind of family would look like or what its role would be in relation to the families we already had.  Unchartered territory.  No blueprint.  Still, I believed that if we remained open to the process, if we let love and good will and kindness and patience guide us, we all had it in us to be more than a statistic.

Nearly four years in, I’m not so sure anymore that we can avoid the reality of the statistic.  This business of adoption reunion is just that hard.  The honeymoon is officially over, and we’ve settled into an uneasy quiet, caught in the busyness of our separate lives, focused on the people in front of us (old family) who need us more (than new family).  We have no plans to meet up again any time soon.  That’s not a terrible thing; it just is as it is.

As someone who has been married well over a decade, I knew the starry-eyed bliss wasn’t going to last forever, at least not at its initial intensity.  I didn’t necessarily mourn the end, though, because I also knew from experience that something else would take over, something unimaginable in the beginning but just as good, even better.  We’d grow into something deeper, more profound, based on love and shared experiences, both good and bad, and based on security.

We have love, we have a handful of shared experiences, but we don’t have one of the crucial ingredients that keep most families going no matter what.  We don’t have security.  We don’t have: “No matter what happens, I’m not going anywhere”–maybe because we came into this world already leaving one another.  Moreover, I think we’ve all realized that we do have a choice after all: to go or to come, to be present or to disappear.  Those choices make a statement about where we are in the process, about what we are willing, or not willing, to do.  Sometimes the reasons for silence are absolutely legitimate, necessary, healthy.  But if one person is going while the other is coming, if one person is present while the other disappears, then the imbalance  inevitably wounds.  And once you get stuck in such a cycle, it’s hard to get out of it, to build trust, to feel secure, to be a family.

In mid-June, my birth father sent around a video that had gone viral on the internet.  The video, titled “Murmuration,” was shot by two young British filmmakers who late last fall took a canoe out on the River Shannon in Ireland.  While the women were on the boat, they witnessed a murmuration, thousands of starlings turning and twisting in a unified dance that is breathtaking to watch.

In mid-June, my birth family and my adoptive family were not in unison.  Unlike the starlings, our dance was more mosh than ballet.  Shortly after we received the video, our birth mother sent an e-mail to my sister that my sister shared with me.  Our birth mother wrote, “for ‘heaven’s sake’ if the birds can fly so well together in unison, certainly [we] can merge, separate and remerge from time to time also, without damage to anyone.”  My sister and I both nodded.  We smiled at her determined spirit–one of the characteristics that we love in her.  Yes.  Yes.  But how?

Scientists understand why starling flocks move as they do, but they don’t yet know how the birds are physiologically wired to do so.  Like many of the most beautiful and complex phenomena in nature, it remains a mystery.

As fall takes hold here in Pennsylvania, the birds gather in chattering clumps in the tops of glowing trees.  I watch and wait for them to guide us, to show us how it’s done.  But in a blink they are in motion, swooping, dipping, drawing giant black commas against the blue-gray sky.  In a blink, they are gone.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2012 2:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Don't We Look Alike? and commented:
    “Twinprints” discusses reunion after the honeymoon period.

  2. October 16, 2012 2:42 pm

    I forget, when I get it emailed to me, that your blog has such great images as well as great writing. I love the twin dresses!

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