What is legitimate anyway? Is it how one is seen in the eyes of the law? Is it whether or not there is a bloodline? Or is there a fine line , somewhere in the middle, that leaves the adoptee somewhere in limbo?
Today, after a day of running errands and happily going about my Saturday I was met with a stark reminder of this question as soon as I returned home. There, sitting on the countertop, was a large manilla envelope which held a genealogy chart of my mother’s family. While excitedly reading through it, seeing all the names of my mother’s parents and siblings and my cousins I came upon the page which listed my mother and her ancestors. There, under her name and the name of her first husband were my sister, her husband and their children. Turning the page to see the information about myself and my brother I was met with what felt like a slap to the heart. No where were the two of us and our children listed. No Deborah, no James, no spouses named Charles and Gail and certainly no children named Erin, Joshua and Courtney. Why is that I asked? How could we have been left out when we were certainly my mother’s children and grandchildren. Was this somehow an oversight? I guessed it could have been but I knew deep down that it wasn’t.
I began to look at it more closely, and then my husband looked through it as well. Upon further examination one more person was missing, a cousin who was also adopted when my Uncle married his mother. So what does this all mean…in the big picture does it really matter? Sadly I can not say that it doesn’t because it matters a lot. I am heartbroken, insulted and suddenly filled with the reminder, that I rarely, but occasionally, felt like I wasn’t good enough to truly be recognized and acknowledged. And once again the evidence was there before me.
After looking into this situation I was told one of my Uncle’s had done this genealogy chart and had given it to his sister. My Aunt, in turn, had given it to my niece when she was getting into genealogy research. What it represents to me is the question of how some of us were viewed. Were we not included in the family tree because we did not share the bloodline like all the others? To ask that question leads me to ask, what is the purpose of a family tree? Is it not to show all the generations of children and their families and how families intertwine? Isn’t a family tree a graphic organizer used to show a family’s beginning at the base of a strong trunk, growing outward with willowy branches, creating new generations while staying rooted in the commonality of name, history and yes, even blood? Shouldn’t all members of a family be included?
In royal lineage children were left out and not recognized if they were not born between a man and a woman who were married. If the King had children outside the marriage the “bastards” were hidden away, brought up by others and not recognized as children of his bloodline.
Most modern adoptions taking place in the 1920’-1970’s, brought children into a family of married adults. They were given the family name and were considered legal children of the adoptive parents and no longer “bastards.” In the eyes of the law, adoptive children were to be seen as legitimate children of this new family. But somewhere, somehow, this never really became fact. You see, you can change a child’s birth name, you can bring them into a family, love them and nurture them as your own, but the stigma of adoption still lies somewhere buried. We do not have the same rights as the legitimately born. We can not have access to our own original birth certificate, family history and information. We are still often referred to as the adopted child by some, bastards by a few and yes, sometimes, we are left out of family trees.
My husband, in his thoughtfulness, tried to look at reasons why we were not included. Perhaps it was just ignorance he said. Maybe the person who did the research thought that it had to be bloodlines. Yes, maybe, I guess. But that doesn’t take away the sting.
We were my mother’s children. My cousin is my Uncle’s son. I know deep down inside that if my mother were alive today she would be saddened to see that all her children and grandchildren were not listed, for she taught me that a family is created by love, not just blood.