Kindred spirits

Earlier this week I had the great fortune of "meeting" (virtually) a new friend and having a powerful conversation about trans racial adoption, and search and reunion.  She is a beautiful, intelligent and thoughtful Ethiopian adoptee who is helping to give adoptees a voice,  by sharing her experiences with all of us. This is her voice:

Far Away, Always in My Heart

I assumed that once I (re)met my biological family in 2011, I would feel more complete and sure of whom I was becoming.  Some hard questions were answered. And a lot of new ones are on my mind now.

I was 6 years old in 1994 when my twin sister and I arrived in the US from Ethiopia. We had memories, and family, parents, siblings, cousins. For years, I had this soft image of my mother, a kind, loving and giving individual who would just about give up anything in the world for her children to be happy and safe.  That was the love that kept me strong. That was the love that allowed me to embrace my (first) (Ethiopian) family when I returned in 2011.

See, the thing was that distance never changed how much I love her.  Although her face slowly started to disappear as I lost my native language, that tender feeling in my heart for her was always alive and burning. No one could ever tell me that I was not loved nor well taken care of before I came to the US.  Because you see, my past says otherwise.  I came from a poor family, but we all were rich in the sense of culture, unity, and love.

Embracing my mother upon arrival in Ethiopia, and looking into her tired eyes, I saw years of pain, emptiness, regret, and much heart ache.  Although in that moment she was happy to see me, the sadness really never left her eyes.   In front of me I saw a strong and resilient woman, one who had grown very weary of her circumstances but yet was still hopeful.  It’s quite profound that hope and faith during times of destitution and despair are what give certain people purpose and meaning.

So where do we go from here? I really don’t know. We can’t change the past. I’m trying to figure out the future, without a common language but with lots of love.

Thank you for your vulnerability, Aselefech. We are kindred spirits - you are admired.

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My new sister; NaNa

Ang and NaNa
Ang and NaNa

I have five sisters and two brothers in my immediate family with whom I have shared everything, toys, clothes, germs, love and more. I guess you'd say we had the typical sibling relationships for a large family.

I have always known that I had a birth sister who is three years older than me. The adoption documents my parents were given at the time of my adoption stated that "Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson..." Over the years I have read those words hundreds of times, curious about this girl who shared my genes. As the years passed, and things around me changed, friends came and went, sports seasons flew by, presidents served their terms, high school graduation, college graduation, jobs and marriage, those written words forever stayed the same,

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

"Angela has a three year old sister named Carolyn Johnson, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee..."

I read these words over and over again, year after year, completely forgetting that she wouldn't be three years old anymore as each year passed, and as I changed each year, perhaps she did too. Perhaps she got married, and maybe her last name has changed...

Last July, I met my 6th sister, Carolyn, however she was not 3 years old, she was 29. And people weren't calling her "Carolyn," but instead, "Na-Na." Her last name was no longer Johnson, but rather, Young, and she has two beautiful daughters. The only remaining truth, was her residence in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that had not changed, but the words of how i knew my long lost sister had already been emblazoned in my head.

I wish I knew how she's spent her 29 years, I wish I knew how she got her nickname, I wish I was there the day her last name was changed. I wish I was there when she had her children, and became a mother. I missed out on 29 years, but am so thankful that I can now spend my Sunday evenings getting answers to those questions, during our weekly Skype date.

Though we do not share the same last name, and nor do we share the same worldview or culture, we do share the same genes and thus are bound by blood. Now that our worlds have collided we can begin to learn all about each other. I have learned how to pronounce "NaNa," (NAY-nay) and am beginning to feel more comfortable using her nickname (even though her proper name, Carolyn, seems more natural for me). I understand that our upbringing has been completely different, and that the cultural norms vary greatly for both of us. The meeting and befriending of my birth sisters has been a jumble of emotions, ranging from fear of the unknown (what will she look like? What will she sound like?) to excitement (can't believe that's her!). I've felt the emotional pangs of worry (will she want to get to know me?), and embarrassment (her southern accent is so thick! What is she saying? What does that word mean?) however I have no qualms about my emotions, as there is no script written for how these relationships succeed, so I'll presume our relationship is just where it should be, jumble of emotions and all.

Of the nearly 7 billion people who walk this Earth, there is only one whom I enjoy devoting my Sunday evenings to; my new sister, Na-Na (& her daughters).


Chattanooga, Tennessee: Here We Come!

Wow! I really apologize for the lack of posts, but developments have been happening a break-neck pace.  My family and I have booked a flight to Chattanooga in a couple of weeks, as it seems that I have located my birth father!!

How did this happen?

Bryan and I were spending some time searching for my birth mother and her side of the family on the internet one night and were just about ready to turn in for the night, when Bryan said "Why don't we just Google my birth father's first name?   We hadn't googled him at all, because I didn't feel that we would get anywhere, since I don't have any other information about him. I don't have his last name or birth date. Nothing. Well, we Googled it, and found out that there are only 5 other people in the country with his name!  We focused in quickly on the one man who lived in Chattanooga Tennessee (where I was born). We found out that he was in his 50's - which would be an appropriate age.  This search also turned up his last name. Alas, we had a first and last name for a man who definitely fit the profile. We googled this information and immediately found a Facebook fan page for a man whose name matched. We clicked on the page and up popped a photo that gave us the chills!  The resemblance was undeniable.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing, as I have never seen a picture of anyone that I look like. This was almost too much to bear. We scrolled through the numerous fan photos and grew more and more silent with awe with each click. This was him!! Everything was starting to fit together!!

We started reading the posts and trying to figure out what this "fan page" was for. Someone had created this page for him out of love. It seems that everyone in Chattanooga knows and loves him - he is a positive fixture in the Chattanooga scene. He goes around hand delivering flowers to the locals in the bars, and from what people have written on his page - he seems to be a super respectful guy who doesn't always want money, but he just want's a smile. He had over 2,300 fans on this page, and you could just feel the warmth and love that the city has for this man.

One post said: " YAY! Who doesn't love _(I'm omiting his name for privacy reasons at this time)_____??! He's one of my favorite people ever! So happy to see that he's still brightening people's days and warming their hearts!"

So, after debating what our next move should be, Bryan and I decided to email some of the folks who seemed to know quite a bit about this man (from his fan page). So, we emailed four people. I couldn't believe my eyes when I had two email responses within the hour! For the next two days I spoke with these kind people from Chattanooga, who helped me way more than I imagined. These good Samaritans approached whom I thought to be my birth father the next day, and asked him a couple questions.  They emailed me back with what they found out from him, and they agreed that a connection was undeniable.

No one in my family could believe what was happening. We'd spent over a year searching for the birth mother's side of the family, because we thought that we had more information to go on, but then in less than a week, everything unravels on my birth father side, with whom I only had a first name to go off of.  Sometimes you try to make something work SO hard and for so long, when there's an easier way just over the horizon. Isn't it funny how that works?

So, we have booked a flight for the first weekend in June! My parents, sister, her fiancée, Bryan and I are all going for the weekend.   This is just the trip of the lifetime for me. I have dreamed of this trip for as long as I can remember.

So, that's everything for now! Many more posts to come.