March 26, 2000
A Family Portrait
"Lizzy! Come down! The pictures are here!" A lively, 17 year-old girl jumped down the steps to find her mother in the kitchen with the box of professional photos open. For their anniversary, her parents had received a gift certificate to have family portraits taken. Lizzy picked up a picture and began to analyze her family. For once, they were all clean, smiling, and in the same place. Her mom had stressed that they all wear similar colors so they would all match. Lots of blues and blacks. Her mom was in a blue shirt that lit up her silver-blond hair. Her dad was in jeans and a black dress shirt. He looked like an older clone of her brother, who was in baggy jeans and a black T-shirt. The black made their tan skin shine. One could have sworn that there was something Mediterranean somewhere in their heritage, at least something other then Welsh. And then there was Lizzy, the oddball. Her reddish brown hair had always puzzled her. She had olive skin that contrasted with her familyís collection of pale and tan. Instead of soft blue or green eyes, she had blue-gray. And her height had always been a question too. Her mother was the All-American average height of 5í5"; Lizzyís brother was well on his way to meeting or beating her father, who was 6í0". And, again, there was Lizzy at 5í9". The more she thought about it, she saw how she didnít match her family. Sure, they all looked related, but it was the little differences that were starting to really bother her. Even as a child, the differences were apparent. Both her parents had been skinny and lanky growing up, just like her brother. Lizzy was short and a little pudgy around the middle. Their minds were different too. Her brother was a math whiz, much to the joy of her father. Lizzy, on the other hand, was planning on studying music and theatre in college, something her father didnít understand.
"Mom," Lizzy asked, "how come Iím so tall?"
"Your dadís grandmother was six feet. You probably take after her."
"But Mom, the doctors said Iím done growing."
"Well, maybe she came from a tall family." Lizzy took a breath as she thought of another question.
"Mom," Lizzy said after a pause, "why do I have reddish hair?"
"Good grief, you are full of questions today. I donít know. Dadís family is from Wales, maybe there is some Irish there too."
"But what about your family?" Her mom shifted her weight. "You keep talking about Dadís family. What about yours? Donít you have family?"
Her mother stumbled with the dishes. She never had discussed much of her heritage with her daughter. Her mother let out a long sigh. "MomÖ? Iím sorry. I didnít mean to snap." For some reason, her mother looked nervous.
"I guess this is as good a time as any," her mother started. "I wanted to tell you when you were older, but you keep getting older and I keep thinking you arenít old enough. I guess I didnít think I was ready." Another heavy sigh. "I was adopted when I was a baby."
Lizzy looked at her mother. She didnít know what to say. How could she answer that? Seeing her confused reaction, her mother kept talking.
"I was uneasy about telling you because I wasnít sure if it would make any difference in you life. And it is not something I wanted to world to know. Itís rather personal to me. If I had told you when you were younger, you probably wouldnít have fully understood what I was saying."
Lizzy shifted awkwardly. She wasnít sure how to act now. Should she be shocked or nonchalant? Lizzy leaned more into the counter. Her mother, sensing the strange atmosphere added, "Your Uncle David was adopted too. Your Grandma couldnít have children so she adopted your uncle and me."
"So, Gram isnít my full Grandmother," Lizzy managed to stammer out?
"I never wanted to find my birth mother after my brother found his. It tore my mom apart. I decided that I didnít want to put her through that twice."
Lizzy couldnít blink.
"The only time I wondered was when you were born. You could look like my mother or sister, and I would never know."
Lizzy tried to keep breathing.
"I was placed with the family I was because my birth parents were tall. That way, if I were tall, I would fit in. Maybe thatís why youíre tall. Maybe you look like your grandmother. I wish I could give you more answers, but I canít."
Lizzy just looked at her mother. She suddenly felt very uncomfortable. This was a very intense moment between her mother and her, and she wasnít sure she was ready for it. In a strange way, she felt betrayed. Why hadnít she known earlier? Maybe she wasnít supposed to know. Her mother had just opened a box of questions that she wanted to think about by herself. What was her heritage? What does this mean for her future? Could she have family in other parts of the world? Would that explain her features? Could it predict her aging process? What medical history had she inherited? Breast Cancer? Heart troubles? With all the laws protecting birthmothers, would Lizzy ever be able to find out? She wanted to sit alone in a room and think for a while. But she wouldnít get to just yet; the phone rang. It was Lizzyís friend calling to see if she was ready to go out. After she hung up the phone, Lizzy grabbed her car keys and headed for the door in a daze. Her mother called out quickly, "When you get back, can we talk about this? Maybe I can help with some of your uncertainties." Her mother had a sixth sense when it came to Lizzyís unspoken emotions, not to mention impeccable timing. Lizzy turned around and looked at her mother. She had a look of hope about her.
"Yeah, I would like that."
The two women smiled at each other, and with a spin of their heels, they went back to their lives, trying to make sense, in there own way, of what had just happened.