I had an advantage over most kids, my grandmother was an everyday part of my life growing up. My parents bought a home in 1966 that had an in-law apartment and my mother's parents moved in. My grandfather passed away a few years later but my grandmother remained with us. I have been thinking about my grandmother a lot this week, her birthday was January 6th. She died in 1985 at the age of 90 but I never fail to think of her on her birthday. Her grandchildren are now all in their 40s, 50s and 60s and I think we would all agree that she had a profound impact on all of our lives. She stood 4' 10", wore her hair in a French twist everyday, always wore a dress and adored the color lavender. She never had a driver's license and was an amazing cook. She wore a gold charm bracelet with all of our names and birthdays engraved on either a boy or girl silhouette. She answered to both Mimi and Gram and not just to her grandchildren, every kid in our neighborhood and and our entire church family called her Gram.
When my mother died almost 3 years ago, I inherited (well...actually I just took it) Mimi's 'treasure box'. It is a hand painted box filled with old photographs, letters, post cards and newspaper clippings. There are family photographs dating back to the 1800s, a lock of hair from my mother's first haircut in 1929 and a handkerchief that was tucked into the garters of dozens of brides in our family (some more than once). The most bizarre ( and I think totally cool) thing in the treasure box is a container with a piece of my grandparent's wedding cake, there is a note with it that reads "Mother and Father's wedding cake March 18, 1914".
These family treasures mean the world to me. To see photographs of my grandmother and her parents and even her grandparents is a real thrill for me and the connection I feel to the people in the photographs is undeniable. And maybe it's also kind of weird as well. When I look at the photographs and remember the stories I know about the people in them, I am aware that, biologically, they are not my relatives and ancestors. Yet I do consider them my ancestors and a link to a past that affects me. I can't help but look at the faces of my great grandparents and know that they loved and nurtured my beloved Mimi, and that she in turn nurtured and loved my dear mother, who impacted me and still affects me in countless ways. I feel the same way about my father's family, they are my people, and have impacted my life more than biology ever could.
I wonder how my four kids will feel about all of this after I am gone. Will the pictures and the stories of my relatives and ancestors mean less to them because there is no biological tie to them? Will my grandmother's treasure box connect them to a past that they will feel a part of? Will these links to the past feel different to my sons than my daughters? How will being an adopted kid of an adopted kid affect them? I am hopeful that the legacy of being an child (biological or adopted) of an adoptive family will broaden their definition of what a family is and how we all influence each other. I cherish the ties that have bound me to my family, the family I grew up in, along with the relatives that became mine through adoption and the family that Kurt and I have together.
I know many people believe that 'blood is thicker than water' but I disagree. For me blood is not thicker than water, but love truly is.