Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm Irish?

The first person that I ever met that I was biologically related to, was my birth father, Tim.

Shortly after we met, he looked at me hard, and said, "Wow, I can really see the Irish in you."

I politely told him that I am not Irish.

He said, "I'm Irish."

I told him what I was, French and English.

Again he said, "I'm Irish."

It finally dawned on me, Holy Crap, I'm Irish!  I was 20 at the time, and I sure could have used that information 10 years earlier.

I grew up about 40 minutes south of Boston.  It seemed that, with the exception of a handful of kids, everyone was Irish and Catholic.  Or Irish and Italian and Catholic.  I was none of those things.   I always hated St. Patrick's day.

My biggest problem?  Those big green buttons kids would wear on that stupid day of green,  "KISS ME,  I'M IRISH!"  At first, I loved those buttons and wanted one,  but when I told my best friend this, she smugly asked, "Are you even Irish?  I mean at all?"

I told her that I was pretty sure my mother is a little bit Irish. She, knowing my adopted status, pressed me and asked,  "Yeah, but are you?" She clearly did not subscribe to the 'everyone's Irish on St. Patty's day' policy.

She knew the truth.  I shared my extremely limited, non-identifing, adoption info on my birth parents, with her.  They were both of English and French descent (and Protestant to boot).  She was letting me know that I was not qualifed to wear the "KISS ME…" button.

It really wasn't about my wanting be Irish.  I didn't think I would get a pot of gold or suddenly be blessed with the luck of the Irish.  It was about belonging to a larger group.  I knew I totally belonged in my family.  The problem was their ancestors weren't actually my ancestors.  Their story wasn't actually my story, but I really wanted it to be.

When I finally met birth family, I found out a few things.  Like being Irish.  Like both sides of my birth mother's family are Mayflower descendants.  As much as I wanted to, I didn't feel connected to those ancestors either.  It didn't really feel like my story.

I have always been interested in the history of my adoptive family.  My cousin Gary (who we recently lost, far too soon) was a genealogy wizard.  He told me that we are descendants of both Presidents Adams and Samuel Adams.  That's cool.  But also not exactly my story.  My interest is not so much genealogy but stories.  I love to know about my parents and their parents and so on.  The genetics are not mine to claim, but, the people are.  You know, this man and woman fell in love and had this child, who fell in love with this person and had a child who turned out to be my grandmother, who loved and raised my mother, who fell in love with my father who in turn became my parents, who loved and raised me, so that I could grow up and love Kurt and become the parents of our four children and so on.

It took me a while to figure out that that was my story.  All of it.  Being adopted is part of my story.  Not being part of my family's genealogy didn't matter.  They are still my people.  I am part of their story, like they are part of mine.  My birth family is also a part of my story.  They were able to fill in the missing pieces for me.  All the details make up a pretty interesting story.  A good story. Mine to tell.  Mine to pass on to my kids.

Turns out I don't need that "KISS ME, I'M IRISH!" button to be part of a group (plus I can't find it anywhere).  But if you run into me next March 17th, feel free to pucker up and give me my due.


  1. Allison, I love this post and love it that I am the total opposite…I have yearned for my biological ancestors as long as I can remember. I can honor and respect my feelings about my adoption and also honor yours about your own story. We are both wonderfully different. I hope I can understand how my adopted daughter feels and that she can feel free to let me know exactly how she feels. It will be ok either way, because it will be HER story!

  2. Julie, I agree with you, we are wonderfully different. So important, because many people believe that adoptees all have similar stories or experiences but as we know that is just not true! I hope we still having these conversations as our adopted children grow and share their stories. My brother and I (both adopted) also have differing views on adoption and reunion. The more adoptees I know, the more I want to know and hear their stories. Thank you for always sharing so candidly. I appreciate you.

  3. This is such perfect timing - I love the way you have explained how we are a part of BOTH families. I am just beginning the process of getting to know my birth mother - 25+ years after my adoption - and, later in the year, her family. I have been finding it hard to figure out how to talk about wanting so much to know and love this knew branch of my (birth) family, without taking away from the love I have for my already family. Now I know - they are my people. All of them. Thank you, Alison. x

    1. Thank you for this comment! I love how you called your adoptive family your 'already family'. It is a lot to figure out and it's not always easy but you really can't have too many people.


  4. Neat blog, I'm Irish my Dads Mother was Irish. Kind of nice to know this. I found out on Ancestry.com.
    Have a great day, Jean

    1. No wonder my Irish dinner turned out so well!

  5. Greetings! I'm a Hapa (Chinese/White) children's writer and just came out with my debut novel, Bird, through Simon and Schuster - it's about a girl named Jewel, a mixed race girl (Jamaican/Mexican/White) who befriends John, a transracial adoptee (black with white parents) - and who live in rural Iowa. Race, culture, and identity play a large part of the book, and I figured I'd drop a note and let you know about this resource for the transracial adoption/mixed race community. It's being published in 8 countries worldwide and just came out on audio book, with Amandla Stenberg as the narrator (who played Rue in the Hunger Games Movie - and who herself is biracial).

    If you'd like a copy of the book to review on your blog, I'd be happy to send you one. Or you can read the first chapter here: http://crystalchanwrites.com/2013/11/the-bird-page-1/

    Either way, thank you for all the work you do. I’m glad your voice is out there.

  6. Hi Crystal! Your book sounds amazing! I would love to read and review. Send me an email at anoyce@comcast.net and I will give you my address.