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Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Place to Call Home

Literal: Everyone's homeland is like Kashmir to them. (All people have a natural attachment to their homeland).

Not too long ago, but before my father passed, we were all home for Christmas. My mom, Audrey and I were in the living room with two of my nieces watching a movie. My sister entered the room and told my mom, "Uncle Shane called me and asked for all of our pictures and information on Ken's family, too." Uncle Shane is my grandfathers brother, my moms uncle. My mom told Dawn that he is getting all of the family information together because he is working on a genealogy project. I told my mom, "He hasn't called me." She said, "You won't be in it, Angie," very matter-of-factly. She sounded almost annoyed. Audrey, who never takes my side against Grammy, and also wouldn't that night, quickly glanced at me with a look of pity. She knew that was going to hurt. My moms face showed no acknowledgement of how that must have hurt me. I took a moment to collect myself before speaking. As soon as they realize I am upset they tune me out. It has been conditioned in my family from childhood. I wanted to make sure I had all of this clear. I asked her, "So when the babies grow up," (I call my nieces and nephew, collectively, "the babies", although none of them are even toddlers any more), "So when the babies grow up and have grandchildren of their own who look into their family trees, they will find no mention of the Aunt Gigi and cousin Audrey they had heard stories about? We won't even be there with an asterisk or something?" My mothers face now looked indignant. How dare I try to make her feel bad? Yeah. How dare I?

I went to bed. There is never a less compassionate room than that one. My family determined a long time ago that I am too emotional and to allow me time to "get over it" was the best option in all cases. I cried myself to sleep that night. The fact that I could, in my mid 30s, still bawl about feeling like an outsider in my family is the best way I can think of to explain the disconnect and its pain which come from having been adopted. I have explained my own understanding of my detachment issues (see blog, No, Thanks), which are not all derived from having been adopted, but that is the core of it, for sure.

I feel the need to promote here the fact that my mother loves me. She said what she did matter-of-factly because, to her, it was a matter of fact. She has been a gift in my life that without I would have committed suicide as a teenager. She listened to me cry almost daily back then about my self hatred, and issues of my inability to connect. She was just never able to understand it. Some people are more empathetic than others. She would show me more love than most in my life, but I was never really understood.

Anyway... I was always desperate for something to identify with as a child. I imagine a lot of people may feel fine with identifying their homeland as being America, although it is a land of immigrants, because they have their own family histories and regions to identify with. Having been adopted, though, I feel detached from that. I always had grand ideas of where I must have come from. I bet that is pretty common for adoptees.

When I saw The Godfather, I determined that I wanted to be Italian. That revelation has always kind of scared me. They were mobsters, for Christ's sake. WTF Angie? But lately I have been watching the PBS documentary series called The Italian Americans and it all finally made sense to me. Italians are known for being incredibly close families. As a child, the family seemed to all fit in. They may have had differences of opinion, but they were all a part of a family unit where they would never be denied their role or feel alienated from (I had not seen The Godfather II for quite some time. Poor Fredo). They pulled together and took care of one another and supported one another, no matter what. When Connie was being abused by her husband, her brother went and beat the shit out of him. That is how it should be in a family. I longed for a connection like the ones the Coreleone's had.

From the first time I saw The Godfather I wanted to be Italian. I talked about it. I would speak the word with the long "I." I was adorable. My mom even got me a sweatshirt for Christmas in 8th grade that said "Italia." I was so desperate for something to feel a connection to. I had none, though. I knew that having a sweatshirt and a desire didn't really give me a tie to anything.

When I found my natural mother, she had very little to give me. She didn't want to answer my many questions about her, thus my, history. She was very closed about everything. Her mother, however, was open about some things, including her nationality. It really was beautiful. Not only was she Italian, but she was born in Italy. She came over on a boat at 14 months old. And her last name ended in a vowel. Can you stand it?!? I was Italian. My grandmothers maiden name was Frustaci. I have confidently identified as Italian ever since, even though I really only have knowledge of 1/4 of my ancestry.

I have tried to do some search into my ancestry. I have found very little. Their boat came from southern Italy and their immigration documents say they lived in a place called Calabria. Through the PBS documentary I learned that the Southern Italians are considered the lesser Italians. I could care less. Of course, I didn't have to suffer from the discrimination that they had to, either. I am just glad to have found a place to connect with. I am hoping to find more information about all of my ancestry one day and have opportunities to visit those places. I don't have any desire to find my relatives or anything, I would just like to walk through its streets and learn its history and breathe its air. Since Audrey took me to an OSU football game for my 40th birthday, I would now put that at the top of my bucket list.

#AfghanProverbs #PashtoProverbs #Adoption #Italy #Calabria #Detachment #Ancestry #Frustaci #ItalianAmericans #PBS

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