Sunday, March 14, 2010

Family Resemblance

My friend, Julia, who also has an adopted child, was remarking how biological parents love to discuss the many ways in which their children resemble them. I've noticed how much, indeed, it does come up. And for an adopted child (and adoptive parents), every time those likenesses are mentioned in casual conversation, it can expose a big gaping hole - where did I come from and who came before. It can be lonely-making, I would think, most everyone else knowing their history, both recent and far in the past, and the adopted kid often knowing very little about their biological genealogy.

But here's the thing. Mihiretu kind of looks like us. I know, I know, he's black, we're white. But when we received the first photograph of him, it was shocking how many people remarked that he looked like a Capron. There are some similar features. Like Lana, he has a high forehead and wide-set eyes, a classic Ethiopian trait. I've long said, even before we considered adopting from that country, that Lana is an Ethiopian in the negative. And his body, in it's length and narrowness, with it's bird bones, is rather Lavoie, my side of the family. And, probably most of all, the spark of heat and curiosity shining in his eyes as he smiles, I believe he shares with us.

But even more than appearance, Mihiretu acts like a Capron. Caprons, and now this is Ben's side, are dynamos. They are physically gifted, a master at virtually any sport they try. They have incredible energy, which can be aimed in either constructive or destructive directions. Ben, for the brief period he used alcohol and drugs in his teens, wrecked two cars and fell out of a three-story window. Then, at seventeen, he got sober and has channeled that chi into building an impressive career, and, if I do say so myself, an excellent family. Mihiretu, like Mae and Ben and Ben's sister and dad, are cut of the same cloth. You know they're either going to do very well or crash and burn spectacularly. (Lana is a Lavoie. She, like me, couldn't be more happy puttering around the house, organizing small items and creating little pieces of art. We are quieter. We need less exercise. We like clothes.)

And Mihiretu, like Ben, is all about bikes. Ben works in the bike industry and he rides religiously. He wins U.S. Cup and World Cup races. Like Ben, when Mihiretu rides, the bike is an extension of his body. He can direct it with nuance and precision. Ben is convinced he's going to be the first black man to win the Tour de France. With his Ethiopian light frame and endurance genes, Ben for a teacher and all the bikes he could ever need, it seems like the perfect equation.

And while Mihiretu fits with us, we are also fitting to him. Because of him, we had a life-changing journey to Ethiopia. We eat Ethiopian food and read books about the country. We talk about Ethiopia a great deal - how they do things, what time it might be there now, etc. And we are, by necessity, more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants with him around, less controlled, more spontaneous. Definitely more noisy.

I'm finding that families, not just ours, resemble each other, whether or not they share the same blood. When I first met the aforementioned Julia it took me awhile to guess her daughter was adopted. Ella is of mixed race so it probably should have been obvious. But she shared the same fire I could see in her mom and dad. They were an unmistakable trio.

It's adoption legend that the right family always find the right child and vice versa . And there's no doubt that Mihiretu matches us in some elemental way. Thinking that this is all destined is comforting. In my rare moments of feeling like this all has been a gigantic mistake, I'll remember Ben's mom saying that Ben was exactly like this at three. And he turned into someone I like so I'm hoping the chances are good that Mihiretu will also funnel that very special combination of Mihiretu spice and Capron mojo into a fine and very compelling adult.


  1. you know, the very first time I logged onto your blog and saw that photo up there it took my breath away how much Mihiretu fits right in. Serious, take away skin color and there would be NO QUESTION that those three are biologically related. It's kind of amazing - especially his resemblance to Lana!

  2. We have two bio children and are waiting for a referral for an infant girl. My husband and I are always commenting on how some physical or personality trait from our kids comes from either him or from me and I've thought about how that will impact our daughter. I hadn't thought about rather than stopping those comments just continuing with comparisons of how our daughter is like us. Thanks for sharing!