This guest post is by L.B. Johnson, an adoptee, birthmother and author.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I’m not sure where the phrase came from, but in looking at our children, those we love, it stands to reason.
When we hold them for the first time, we move with such caution, speaking in hushed tones, recognizing something within us that had always slumbered, sightly alive, just waiting to be born.
I didn’t meet the baby I gave up for adoption as a teen until she was in college herself.
I was in college when I got pregnant.
With my Mom dying of cancer and the sibling I was adopted with in the Navy, I was easy prey for someone who could speak all the words of love and commitment without knowing their meaning.
He dumped me as soon as I told him the news.
It was an open adoption. I always knew where she was, who her Mom and Dad were.
I had OK’d every detail of the small, home town adoption arranged through a local attorney.
But I’d made a promise not to try and contact them or see her until she could make that decision for herself and if the decisions was not to acknowledge me, I would respect that.
They in turn said they would support whatever made her happy. I was 18 years old.
I was also adopted as a baby myself, prompting the only decision as to the unplanned pregnancy I could make.
I moved from the State, finding it easier to keep my promise from a distance.
I’d like to say the span of years passed quickly, but the reality was more protracted.
With her parent’s blessing, and through the group that placed her, she called me when she turned 18.
When we did meet, several things struck me, especially in that I had not seen her since birth. She looked exactly like me.
Not just the face, the coloring, the unusual almond shaped eyes . We had the same hairstyle and the same color shirt.
We ordered the same item on the menu, had the same habits, the same mannerisms, the same laugh.
Yet she is who she is, the loving heart, the talent, the drive, from the two wonderful people who raised my child, her true parents.
Genes or environment — what makes a person who they are?
Who’s to say. It’s both, it’s neither, it’s something we can only watch in wonder.
But whether they are like us, or simply their own person, we see something in them.
We see a journey, ours, theirs. We’re the rim and they’re the spoke, spreading out, seeking ground, moving away, yet always close to us.
We’re both a part of a journey that is worth every bit of the wear, every mile.
Such thoughts came to me when I was out in a section of field marked with crime scene tape.
I work in an investigative unit in a federal agency and when we are called to such places, the sight is often not a pleasant one, but it is where my duty lies, within that quiet, questing about the scene, gathering, watching.
It’s harder in that sometimes children are involved.
Underneath my gear, I felt the trace of my wallet in my back pocket and in it a well worn, tear stained photo of a beautiful, fair haired girl with blue eyes — my daughter.
It’s why I do what I do. It’s why, when I look in to the trusting eyes of a child, I see, not myself, but the foretaste of responsibility, the fierce need to keep them safe, no matter what.
And so it was I reflected on such things, that last day out in the field, looking up at branches shattered by forces bigger than themselves, hanging in the air as if part of the earth was thrust upward, a spectral tracing to a loss more profound than simply lost years.
Somewhere that night a family would grieve. Somewhere that night, through no effort of mine but a heart laid wide open, my child lay safe.
I looked up at broken trees to a heaven unbroken and simply said thanks.
L.B. Johnson was adopted as an infant by a retired Air Force Officer and his wife. After a brief career as a pilot, she went back to school to earn a doctorate in a Criminal Justice Field and hung up her wings for good. She is the author of “Saving Grace – a Story of Adoption” and other books.
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