October 8, 2009

What's In A Name?

Growing up, I hated my name. It was a little on the unusual side, and the last thing I wanted was to "stick out". I just wanted to be like everyone else. But I wasn't, 'cause I was adopted.

It wasn't until I became an adult and found my first family, and then grieved losing my first family, my first identity, my first life, that I finally came to embrace my name and actually learn to like it. And, although I grew up a smiling, "loyal" daughter (my "Best Mom in the World" cards were quite prolific), I truly wasn't able to embrace my family until I searched, and grieved being adopted.

I remember the first time I saw my original birth certificate. I was a young, 20-something "in the fog" adoptee, (early 90's) sitting alone on a big concrete bench in a cold Bureau of Vital Stats office. As I opened it up, it felt like I was moving in slow motion. After all the hoops I had to jump through, it was finally in my hand, and I almost felt like a criminal holding my own record of birth. Like reading a stranger's birth certificate, literally. Who was "Baby Girl Lowe" anyway? Me? Oh my gosh. The first thought that hit me was that I was somehow related to Rob Lowe. Double oh my gosh. lol

It turns out that (no, not related to Rob Lowe) Lowe was my first mother's step-father's name, whose she had taken when her mother re-married. My maternal grandfather's last name was really Terrell, and grandmother's maiden name was Price. It took many years for me to actually FEEL a part of these names. But thank God it happened. I have a precious genealogy book made by the Price family that goes back to the 1600's! It is truly amazing to see the lineage I come from. More than words can describe. I'm human.

As a little girl I loved to play school. I would have my little grade books and named all my students, keeping excellent records of assignments, grades, and lessons. One of the students in my pretend class would always have the last name of McGee. I had no idea why I felt so drawn to that name, but I did. As I've researched my family names now, I ran across my great-great-great (not sure exactly how many greats, but close) grandmother whose name was Pleasants McGee. Is that not a wonderful name, or what! She had 10 children. For some reason I just feel close to her, and I've never met her or any of her family that I know of. Except me. Shivers.

I've heard wonderful stories (from both sides of my first family) of my Great- Grandparents. I have pictures. An old black & white photo of Susan Terrell when she was just 16, and whose jaw-line I share. Her son, Buster, was my first mother's father who died before our reunion. He worked as a chef for many years at our hometown country club. How I wish I could have sampled his gourmet creations. I learned about the Terrell side of my heritage mostly from my Great Uncle Eddie, who was a retired Post Master, and such a sweet man.

Thank God for him, and my first Mother's siblings and their families, Ron, Patty, and Rick, who were the best Aunt and Uncles I could have ever found.

I truly feel part of them. Uncle Ron lived in San Francisco when we were first reunited, but his beautifully penned letters welcomed me into the family so warmly, and articulately described my first Mother and her personality, love, and passion. It was from those letters I was able to "know" her and her life, and realize just how much of myself I was finding. I'll never forget the difficulty with which I devoured them; having to set them aside periodically, simply because of the emotion and revelation they brought. Even so, I still feel a profound reaching and longing inside, because she is not here.

Even better than pictures & stories, I got to embrace my Great-Grandmother Grace, before she passed away. What a beautiful, sweet lady. A treasure and heritage that I will never take for granted; it is so rare for an adoptee to have this many years of reunion. I am in awe.

My husband and I spent one memorable New Year's Eve ballroom dancing with my grandmother Carolyn (Price). Her mother was Victoria Smalley. A "praying woman" of whom I am so thankful.

And then there are my grandparents on my first father's side, Papa Sid (from whom I got my Jewish heritage) & Grandma Mary. They passed away just a few years ago. I will never forget my grandmother Mary's reaction when I told her I was having a baby. She threw her head back in a huge smile and shouted "Finally!" The last time I saw her, her health had deteriorated quickly but she had pictures of her newest great-grandson on her wall, whom she never got to see in person. She passed away just a few weeks before I got to bring him home from the NICU. Tears.

That same year I had to bury my adoptive grandmother, Evelyn (Nanny), who helped raise me and from whom I got my middle name. She only got to see my son one time.
My adoptive family comes from a long line of "Shepards" (family name). When going through this journey of search and discovery, God seemed to be reminding me that He has always been my Shepard, my Comforter. He restores my soul.

What a sad summer that was. But full of hope and joy, also, with becoming a new Mother to my miracle preemie. It all seems like a blur now, those first anxious months in the hospital. And the relationships and mourning I had to put on hold in order for me and my son to survive. Just now revisiting that fateful year and these bitter-sweet memories.

As I get older names are so much sweeter to me. All these precious names. Family names. We named our son Andrew Bryan. Andrew is my sweet brother's middle name (one I am reunited with) and after my wonderful husband, Brian.

So many connections and reconnections I am thankful for. These pictures are some of the many beautiful cousins in my life. Some I grew up with and am still close to, and others I didn't meet until adulthood, but have become so very special to me.

My adoptive Great-Uncle Olan walked me part-way down the aisle at my wedding, almost 20 years ago. To me, it represented my childhood, and how special those relationships with my adoptive family are. Then my first father walked me the second-half, to the altar. We were recently reunited, and I'm so thankful I was on his arm that special day; representing my new-found identity and treasured connections lost and found. We are so much alike in our mannerisms, looks, stature, and personality. Amazing. Thank you, Dad, for being in my wedding. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Uncle Olan was a barber here in my home-town. As a child I would spend time in the Anchor Barber Shop on Harvard Ave., not knowing his fellow barber friend who owned a shop around the corner on Peoria Ave., was actually my birth great-grandfather, Ernie Terrell. Not until I became an adult and reunited with my entire first family did any of us know.

My china cabinet graces my First Mother's beautiful china with tiny, delicate purple violets, right along side my adoptive Mother's heirloom china, and some beautiful dishes from Grandma Mary and my adoptive Aunts Kay & Hazel, who were so special to me growing up.

These beloved heirlooms, from both my families through adoption and birth, all mingled together in my home and heart, represent the blend of bitter-sweet heritage which is "me."
Names who mean so much, some close in childhood, some in adulthood, and some I grieve not ever knowing. My own family. My own name(s).

I'm not related to Dr. Seuss (that I know of), but even his name holds a special place in my heart. A few years ago I took an art journaling class and the assignment was to read his book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go" and write a new version of the poem about your own life journey. Then draw a picture to match. I had never connected to my artsy side before, or the deep emotions over my relinquishment, adoption, and reunion. It was truly amazing to experience myself delve into hours and hours (that seemed like minutes) as I let these locked up words and emotions flow onto the paper in colors I didn't understand. It was so true that creativity does help you "tap" into emotions and experiences that are more easily avoided or stuffed. What came out was a picture of many eyes, all blue, like mine. They represented the family, ancestors and identity that surround me all around, yet I was separated from for so long. And the poem went like this:

"Oh, The Places You’ll Go...A Journey Through the Eyes of An Adoptee"

You’ll wake up one day
And find yourself floating on rivers of golden tears...
In deep scars of black and purple, too,
Streaming from your hidden view
Amidst eyes of blue.

Encircling your heart is crimson red,
Blood of the fathers you never knew
Heart enshrined...
Finally you’ll find the "real" you

Safely hidden in the prison of blue,
Your only chance now is to ride the hues
Grief unlocks the colors of life...
You’ll find your "purple" deep inside,
After the ride.

So, close your eyes and feel the depth;
You’ll find you’re not alone...
Surrounded by the throng ~ the unseen tears...
Hold on.

I must visit the eyes of my forefathers...the pain of my unknown
Connect with the blood with whom I found life;
Love through the tears of my own.

by Peach


Mama King said...

Thank you for contributing to the carnival. I am also an adult adoptee and can not imagine looking at my original birth certificate. I really enjoyed reading your piece.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Peach..just beautiful. Your interpretation of Dr. Suess' poem really touched my heart and soul.

jimm said...

This brought a few tears to my eyes. Beautiful post!

melanie recoy said...

Wow. I loved reading that.
And your adaption ( I said adoption not adoption LOL) of Dr. Suess.

a Tonggu Momma said...

"Finally you’ll find the 'real' you." I pray this for my daughter. With so little information, I fear it won't happen for her, but at least returning to the town of her finding is something that is possible.

pickel said...

THis is truly an amazing post about names and family. I do wish I had my son's original birth certificates...all of ours have our names on them.

Real Housewives of Oklahoma said...

Wow!! Wow! Wow!! I absolutely love these types of stories. What a blessing each one of these people are in your life.

I'm so happy you were able to find and reconnect with your "first" family.

Thank you for linking this post up today with us for MckLinky Monday on The RHOK.

~Mrs. Albright

Baloney said...

Photos are such a treasure.
I have to admit that every time I read your blog it makes me sad. Our youngest is adopted and I hope he never feels like we aren't his family.

*Peach* said...

I feel like my adoptive family is very much my family, as well as the family I originated from. It wasn't until I allowed myself permission to walk that journey that I was able to truly become whole. I love my families tremendously.
A book I wish my family had read was "Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish" by Sherrie Eldridge, and "Coming Home to Self" by Nancy Verrier.

Beth Zimmerman said...

My first time here, Peach! I found you through the RHOK. Thanks for linking this up today. I enjoyed walking with you on your journey of discovery to find your family, your heritage, and yourself!

6 Happy Hearts said...

Beautiful pictures & story. This is a treasure for your family! I know it's the stories I treasure most.
Thanks for linking up with the RHOK today!

ShaRhonda said...

What a legacy.....what a story...what a treasure! Thank you for sharing and linking up! You are an amazing gift. Each of those people touched your life, but I can only imagine the story they can tell on you- if all the world could blog! (oh wait, we wouldn't want that) Mrs. Hart