I found myself nodding in agreement this morning reading The Declassified Adoptee. Amanda writes about what it means to have an acquaintance notice the resemblance she and her children share, and what it is like to finally have someone who looks like her.
I can definitely relate. Catherine’s birth was a watershed moment for me in that regard. I didn’t simply count fingers and toes, but I looked for all of my features in her. The shape of her eyes. The curls of her big toes. Thank GOD she didn’t get my ears.
All parents look for themselves in their kids, I know. But for me, it was new territory. And like Amanda, I was hurt every time someone pointed out that Catherine looked like Basil.
Truthfully, she is a mix of us both, but how I NEEDED her to be like ME.
I was no mere container, thank you very much. Forget that Albany won’t acknowledge my true origins: I really exist, and here is a bundle of eating, sleeping, pooping joy to prove it.
My mom got it. She spent time putting together albums and framed pictures of infant me and Catherine side by side, and listened to me vent every time some well-meaning person noted the chubby cheeks and nobby chin that are, admittedly, Basil’s contribution to our masterwork.
Like Amanda, all these new clues to myself didn’t answer questions for me as much as raise more. Several years ago, I finally admitted out loud that I needed to know, and so I continue to search for Patricia Clark (her) and, by extension, Jennifer Elaine Clark (me).
Catherine, then too young to fully grasp this journey but caught up in the excitement of it all, wanted to know if someday she would meet her real grandma. We had a talk about that, how Grandma would always be her real Grandma, but how there is another woman out there — somewhere — who is her Grandma, too.
“You can tell where you fit in,” I told her. “You can see who you look like and sound like. As you get older, you’ll know where your talents and thought-processes are rooted. I can only look to you to see bits of myself.”
Resemblances, in fact, are a pet project of mine — an occupational hazard along the lines of copy-editing restaurant menus, store signs and all other written words. I am endlessly fascinated by how people look, act and sound alike.
Yesterday, I met the daughter of a colleague and spoke to her at some length, but it was tough to follow the conversation because I kept thinking: “Gosh, she looks just like her mother.” “That is EXACTLY her father’s expression.” And on and on.
As time goes by, I see more and more of myself in Catherine. She has my figure — I joke that now I know what I look like walking away from people.
And one day, I had a moment of clarity noticing her sitting at the computer, head in her left hand, one leg tucked under her, lost in concentration.
“Does she always do that?” I asked Basil.
“Yes,” he said. “You two are a lot alike.”
Six simple words that brought tears to my eyes.
Recently, I saw a Jazzercise friend I’d not seen in a while. She is a hairdresser and gushed on and on about my short, choppy hairstyle which is quickly turning snow-white, and is therefore the source of more wondering for me.
“I’m glad you’re not coloring it,” she said. “It looks great. People pay a lot for that look.”
And I thought: Why yes, I’ve paid quite a bit for it.