The Long Journey Home



A week ago Sunday, BSP and I got into our casual clothes; packed the car with rubber boots, warm socks, and a couple of small pieces of my art, and after a stop for coffee and bagels, told Leslie (our GPS lady), that we wanted to drive North to Parry Sound.  A couple of hours later, we crossed the bridge into Wasauksing First Nation.






It was a beautiful, sunny day. Blue and white above and below, and a promise made by that wide and welcoming sky.  

I was full of hope as we drove across that bridge; but I was also nervous, excited, and a bit scared.





We drove for a few minutes more, and found that all signs pointed to home.

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Here is where the talking starts.

We got out of the car, and I was greeted by my cousins. By. My. Cousins.

Listen:

We all have our kinfolk, and we Black folks have our skinfolk; but I have never, in my whole life, been able to say: "these people are my blood relatives". My cousins.

When I opened the car door and got out, my cousins greeted me with open arms.

After those initial greetings, my cousin C. invited BSP, me and my other cousin, S., to sit in her backyard (it was sunny and warm); and we talked. And talked. And talked.

They told me about my mother. They told me about our family. Our uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents and great grandparents. They gave me welcome gifts - a journal with a bird on it and a dream catcher. They gave me mementos of my mother: her photo albums, some papers, and her purse.

I was able to touch something my mother held.

C. had saved her purse in a box and I have left it there for now, but every day, I take it out. I stroke the soft, warm leather, I trace the beads with my finger. I let the fringe spill over my hand like a waterfall.  

Flung over her shoulder, or worn across her chest, her fingers dug inside this purse, carelessly scrabbled to find something; her hands brushed against its leather as she pulled things out of or put things in it. At times, she must have held it quietly on her lap. The velvety leather that I hold in my hands, was once held by hers, too.

When I close my eyes and hold it, it's almost as if I am holding her.

Almost.

Another gift they gave me was the knowledge that I had never been far out of mind – at least for my cousin C. S. was also part of the "find Mary-Lou" committee, but as she is younger than I am, she had no memories of me. 
 
So I was touched beyond measure when C. handed me my mother's memorial card, and on the back it said that my mother was survived by, among other people, me.

Another "selah" here – a pause to meditate.


Later, after a delicious lunch prepared by my cousins, they took us to my grandmother B.'s house; the house where my mother and I lived when I was a baby.

More than 50 years later, there isn't much left of it. 

The ground floor was a single room where I'm told a stove used to be in the middle of the floor; and then upstairs, another single room where we slept, the two of us curled on a mattress together. 

It was too dangerous to go inside, but as I looked and looked and looked, I imagined.

This is the house my mother brought me to – home from the hospital, home on visits. This is where my cousin C. held me as a baby, or perhaps played with me to entertain me, or to stop me from crying.

~ selah ~



There is this prevalent idea in the popular imagination that adoptees have "a hole in their heart". Since meeting my family, several people have suggested that I must feel "whole" now, or that my "heart must be healed".

I can't speak for all adoptees but, in speaking with other adoptees, what I have found, is that adoptees who grew up in warm, loving families; adoptees who felt safe, nurtured, and cherished, never felt the loss nor lack of their "other families"; and rarely felt a need to look for them.

But the rest of us, who had different homes, dreamed.

We had fantasies of being a secret prince or princess*, or being the secret love child of a famous actress, who would come, claim us, and whisk us away to a different life.

Maybe our mother was inexplicably trapped, and once she escaped she would move heaven and earth to find us, and we would be reunited in a rain of happy tears.

Or perhaps we were the ones who been stolen - kidnapped from our rightful parents - and they would eventually find us, dote upon us, and cherish us as their most precious and valued possession for the rest of our lives.

For myself, although I had been told why I was put up for adoption; I didn't believe what I had been told. 

My adoptive parents had a very specific agenda they wanted to forward with me, and in pursuit of that agenda, they said terrible things about my birth mother and father – all cultivated to make me never want to see them again. 

I knew this, so I disbelieved my adoptive parents; and my child's mind came up with many other reasons and scenarios as to why I was no longer with my mother. So many theories: tried on like costumes and loved thin until the holes were too obvious to miss; but some half-believed anyway, until they were finally put away in adulthood. 

So many theories that eventually, I forgot what I had been told, and just "didn't know".




When I asked the question of my cousins, they told me a similar tale to the one my adoptive parents had told me long ago. They had mixed up some details - purposely or accidentally, I don't know, but the bare, raw bones of it was the same bloodied fist to my heart.

This is a hurt I must learn to navigate with time, and with love and understanding for my mother; who was a person like the rest of us, who did what she believed she had to, with the tools and circumstances she had.

~selah~




There is much to meditate on, much to "process" as we're so fond of saying these days; so much that I feel in my heart and in the blood of my body, but am unable to articulate just yet.

There were painful moments, yes, but there were sweet ones too: seeing a picture of my mother at age 37 and recognizing that the legs I was so vain about in my youth I had inherited from her; seeing a picture of her in a bathing suit, and recognizing that I had inherited her body shape too! When I laughingly claimed that body, BSP laughed also, and concurred - her body, was my body, my body, is hers.

There was another shock of recognition: seeing a picture of my half sister at about age 18 and knowing that it was virtually indistinguishable from any picture of me at the same age. Neither my cousins nor BSP knew me then, so they didn't see the similarities, but without prompting, as soon as she saw that picture, a friend I've known for more than 30 years gasped out loud and said "Oh my God, she looks exactly like you!" We even had the same haircut, styled the same way. :)



Sitting Bull and his family. MY family. (!)

 
And there were some fun and mind boggling moments: learning that we are Ojibway, learning a bit about all of the lines and Nations we encompass; and finding out that through my grandmother we are descended from Sitting Bull (yes, *that* Sitting Bull); and through my grandfather's line, Chief after Chief after Chief, for generations. 

BSP said later, "You really ARE an 'Indian Princess*", and we laughed at the old cliché. 

And there was a different kind of sweetness in those moments when I found myself laughing and joking with my cousins as if we had known each other all our lives.

We haven't of course, and there is still SO MUCH MORE to learn about my family as a whole; and much time and trust required on both sides in order for us to learn each other and learn to love one another as families do.

Eventually, there will be a visit to our Chief; and a visit to my mother's grave on our reserve, and so much more.
 
But for right now, my only goal is to explain how all of this feels
I can't even explain it to myself!
I don't know what it's doing in my brain, but, oddly, my body feels healthier – ever since I met my cousins, I feel physically better. My blood rushes and sings through my body, and my body itself feels strong, and capable, and younger! Could I have found a fountain of youth? It makes me smile to think of it. In fact, I can't stop smiling.
I feel happier.

Something happened to me 13 years ago, and as a result of it, I lost my "joy". I have been happy, of course, since then, but I never felt "joyful" again.

It's been so long since I felt this feeling, that I can't quite identify it; but I think, maybe, this is "joy". I found it, or perhaps, at long last, like my family; it found me.
I have found my people. 
I have found home.

Kit Lang

30 comments:

  1. Such a wonderful story, so heart felt. I wish you much joy and love on this journey.

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  2. Wow, what a life story after all. Amazing that history has come back to be told you.

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  3. Wow! This is so amazingly beautiful! ***hugs***

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  4. Oh Kit. What a moving story. You write so well. I'm glad you found joy.

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  5. Oh dear Kit...thank you for sharing the story as it continues to open and unfold for you. Many blessings in discovering past information, as I, too, learned just about 15 years ago...adopted by my father, always lived with my mother but did not know "truth" stories...Yes, we create stories....I was deeply and dearly loved by my father....finding my 6 half siblings was and is a treasured experience.
    Youor story is filled with so much beauty, so much history...oh and to see, feel the energy of the house where you lived as a small one, what a true blessing.
    Kristin

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  6. Kit:
    Here'e to home...wishing you well.

    Michele

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  7. A wonderful life story! I am certain it will inspire you and show up in your art. I wish you a stronger and more joyful future in your regained family connections.

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    1. Thank you Arja. I'm sure a happier family life will inspire and influence my art. :)

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. What a beautiful experience! After you visit all the other sites you mentioned, you should write a book.....illustrated, of course!

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  9. Thank you for sharing - I felt like I was there with you. I appreciate your vulnerability.

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    1. You're very welcome. Thank you for stopping by.

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  10. Oh Kit, how very special. I am so pleased for you.
    And remember, you aren't suddenly an Indian Princess, you always have been.
    Big Hugs,
    Sandy in the UK

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  11. Such loving energy you share here, Kit. Inspiring, inclusive, eternal, joyful gratitude that moves through & beyond words. Blessings to you and the families in this new 'life' you're discovering!

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  12. What a magical experience Kit! Thank you so much for sharing it, I'm itching for more :-) I think when we share our stories they are transformational and healing for the teller and the listener. We find ways to relate and have empathy and compassion for each other and it's healing for all. I'm looking forward to seeing the creation that comes forth as you process your story internally. (((hugs))) Judy

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    1. I'm looking forward to it too, ((Judy)). Thank you so much!

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  13. What a blessing! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Suzanne. :)

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  14. Very deeply moving, Kit. Thank you.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your story, and bringing us along on the trip. I wish you much joy in the journey.

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  16. Kit, thank you for sharing your beautiful and moving experience with us. It is wonderful to feel the love of cousins and know that they have needed you and you will enrich their lives just as they have enriched yours.

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  17. kit..........i feel blessed by your deep sharing of this beginning journey. i celebrate for you this stepping into your heritage and reclaiming family. may this restore your joyfulness!!

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  18. Joy comes in unexpected packages sometimes. Thanks for unwrapping and sharing your gift with us.

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  19. Oh my goodness, Kit! I am amazed at this turn in your life -- I don't know how long it's been since I checked in with you. I'm so happy that you're feeling well, and have a whole new set of ideas to explore. Exciting times!

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