A Domestic Heritage Trip
A child doesn’t have to be adopted internationally to need to find her roots.
My Long Island-raised daughter and I have always talked about her birth city of San Antonio, Texas. Though she speaks with a New York accent, she is proud of her Tex-Mex background.
By the time she was 10, her curiosity had blossomed fully. We know very little about her birth—she was escorted to New York from Texas at five days old—so I was curious about her birth city as well. With the clear understanding that we would visit to learn about her roots and not to actively search for her birthparents, we planned a short trip to San Antonio.
In San Antonio, we did the usual tourist things—visiting the Alamo, strolling the Riverwalk—all the while learning about Texas history and exploring the city’s thriving Mexican culture. Emily relished the Tex-Mex food (the spicier the better), and bought a cowboy hat that she wore throughout our stay. We had never been to a city with such a large Hispanic population. Emily’s was just one of many Hispanic faces. It was hard to keep track of her as she ran from activity to activity.
Being so close to her birthfamily, it was impossible not to think of them. A few blocks from our hotel stood the county courthouse where Emily’s adoption had been finalized. Somewhere, buried in a file room in that building, lay the information about Em’s origins—so close, yet still unavailable to us due to the closed nature of adoptions at that time.
Three days into our trip, at Emily’s request, we visited the adoption agency. When we got there, Emily went into a quiet mode. Finally, she asked one question: “Was I ever in this room?” The answer told us something about the first five days of her life: Yes, she had been there on the way from foster care to the airport. Another thought played in my head: Her birthmom had been in that room once, too. I felt closer to her than ever before.
In the past, I’d been told that the information available to us was limited. Now, with adoptions more open than before, the agency staff offered to review the record for answers to any of Emily’s questions and even to try to find her birthfamily.
Since the visit, Emily has had a new calm about her. She has yet to formulate her questions for the agency. Knowing that she can ask has, for now, reduced much of her need to know.
Being part of the majority culture, even for a few days, was a powerful experience for Emily. She still talks about moving to Texas as an adult and kids me about how hard it was to find her among all those Hispanic faces. Pride in her city and heritage has been important to her sense of self. We hope to return to Texas soon.
Leslie Kizner and her daughter live in Long Island, New York.
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