I do not hail from a normal family. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before.
I don’t mean that I come from some dysfunctional freaky family. My family members themselves are not abnormal (well, some of them are, but I'd rather not get into that); mostly it is the makeup of my family that is unlike what you might expect. On my mother’s side I have 38 adopted siblings, though I rarely refer to them as such. When my little sister Monica came with me to an OB appointment when I was pregnant with The Big Boy, my doctor, after being introduced to Monica, said something about how different we look. Monica and I answered her at the same time. I said, “We have different dads.” Monica said, “I’m adopted.” We were both telling the truth.
Of course, I do actually look like some of my siblings. On my dad’s side, I have three half-siblings. True to form, I do not refer to them as ‘half-siblings.’ I just don’t see the point in making that distinction most of the time. Instead, I try to, with a straight face, answer “forty-one” when people ask me how many brothers and sisters I have.
You see why no one is ever quite sure when to take me seriously.
Gaining the majority of one’s siblings through the process of adoption is not, shall we say, without it’s, um, difficulties. For one thing, it is hard to look at my mother’s family photo now without humming “One of these things is not like the other” when you come upon my face in the picture. And, for obvious reasons, some of my mother’s children have gone through various phases in which there is a little bit of ambivalence (boy, am I being tactful here) toward the birth child. It isn’t, I try to remind myself, that they don’t love me (though it certainly seems that way at times). Instead, it is more the concept of there being a birth child in the family that sticks in their craw. Because remember, actually being our mother’s birth child is what these children want, and it is what was ripped from them due to the circumstances of their earlier childhood.
I generally try to keep my big mouth shut in public about adoption issues because, after all, what the heck do I know? I’m neither adopted, nor do I have any adopted children. So I try to stick to cooking...
But after nearly twenty years of being a sibling in my mother’s family, I have become somewhat accustomed to the way things are. Because it is what it is, right? So when yet another birthday comes and goes with only something like three out of 41 siblings noticing, I myself hardly take notice any longer. Honestly, in a family this large, there seems to be a birthday every week, and it’s not like I’m that great about remembering everyone’s birthdays either.
So I’m sure you can imagine my shock and utter delight when Yolie walked into mom’s house on Thanksgiving, singing “Happy Birthday,” and bearing, wait for it, the carrot cake that I had just been whining about a day or so prior. And not just any carrot cake, mind you, but a beautiful three-layer carrot cake sitting proudly on Yolie’s crystal cake stand, made from the same recipe that my grandmother always uses.
Normally it is my (self-appointed) job to make fun of whoever sheds sentimental tears during a holiday celebration. This year it was me doing the sniffling.
Thank you, Yolie.