you would not be who you are today.”
Take Me Home: Giving Adoptees the Space to Remember
Take me home, ’cause I don’t remember. Take, take me home.
These are lyrics from the song, Take Me Home, by Phil Collins. I don’t know when this song was initially released but I heard the remastered version recently.
The words go something like this: There’s a fire that’s been burning right outside my door. I can’t see but I feel it, and it helps to keep me warm.
These lyrics strike a deep and heavy chord with me…
There are those who say that the lyrics of this song refer to mental illness and that Collins was inspired to write these lyrics after seeing the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. The song is a story of a man locked away from himself who wants to return home.
While all of this may be true, as an international adoptee, the lyrics noted in my introduction are the focus of this blog post; remembering and feeling home.
Consider these words that were written by an adult adoptee: “Being adopted means that you didn’t have any say and everyone expects you to be someone you are not.”
Now, take those words a little further and consider this quote, also by an adoptee: “Searching and building a relationship with birth family/birth culture doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. It means that I love myself enough to find ME.”
These are two quotes from two different adoptees, both longing and searching for truth-in-identity and their own definition of home. These quotes represent recurring themes within the adoptee experience. Themes that, for far-too-long, have been silenced and diminished by others who have not understood their importance.
The definition of the word remember is, “To bring to one’s mind an awareness of someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past.” All too often, adoptees have been asked, directly or indirectly, to forget what or who has come before their adoptions. In this way, adoptees are sent the damaging message that recalling, recollecting, and remembering is off-limits to them now. Earlier life has been erased and, so too, is the adoptee’s sense of self.
Imagine what that must feel like…
Imagine grieving for those who may still be alive. Perhaps, they are in the world but you no longer have access to them.
Imagine being denied knowledge of your own identity and birth history. Imagine grieving your loss in complete silence and isolation.
Imagine being told that your grief is not acceptable and that you must be grateful for all that you have been given. Imagine being grateful but also feeling that your loss will never be understood, heard, or validated.
Where is home anymore? Nothing feels safe. So you build walls around yourself and you hide behind perfectionism, achievement, and self-sufficiency. You resist what, deep down, you know you need most of all: connection, trust, community, and relationship.
The quote, above, by Dr. David M. Brodzinsky and Dr. Marshall D. Schechter is one that anyone touched by adoption should seriously contemplate. The pain of loss through adoption is “more pervasive, less socially recognized, and more profound,” than any other.
Adoptees must be allowed to remember so that, in the remembering, they can begin to fill those places of loss.
There is a quote from Confessions of an Adoptee that reads, “I’m envious of people who know their roots. They take it for granted, being genetically tied to family, in touch with their culture, knowing their true birthdays, and how they got to where they are. They don’t know how lucky they are to have a complete history.”
The adoptee’s ability to seek and remember what has been lost is essential to healing. Although we may never know our complete history, we must be allowed to explore the unknown parts of who we are: those caverns created by loss. Whether through a reunion with birth family, returning to our homeland, accessing records to our truth, or the simple gesture of talking about what we long to know…pathways to a place of remembering must be forged.
In the remembering, there must also exist a freedom to feel.
Voicing our deepest hurts and knowing that we are safe to do so, grieving — out loud — what has been lost, and empowering ourselves with the identity that feels right and sound for us; these are all powerful and transformational ways to clear what blocks adoptees from living…really living.
These are profound ways of transforming what may feel like a crippling pain into the power needed to soar. Every adoptee living today possesses this power.
You see, as the song Take Me Home suggests to me, there is a fire burning just beyond the border of what adoptees know to be true. The warmth of the fire is our invitation to open the door and begin to remember and feel the earliest parts of our stories.
Selective truth has only served to suppress the adoptee’s voice. We cannot live this way anymore. As a community, we are changing. We are hearing from those adoptees who have lived a journey of silence, distanced from the ability to remember and feel. We are responding to the wisdom that they are sharing and we are, family-by-family, giving younger generations the ability to remember, feel, connect, and be heard.
Adoptees are brilliant souls! They know far more than past society has recognized.
Let’s commit to supporting adoptees, of all ages and walks-of-life, in creating the environment needed to heal and grow strong in voice, and identity. Let’s assist them along the journey to remember and feel everything about who they are and from where they came. Let’s follow their lead and let’s trust that, as they go and as they grow, they will share what is good and right for them.
You see, home is within us. All of it. The dusty parts and the glowing corners, we carry home inside of us. We can no longer lock adoptees out from what they already hold within.
Unlock the door.
Take me home.
Michelle Madrid-Branch is the author of the book, Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, which was named a “Top 5 Inspirational Book” by Dolce Vita Magazine. Real and raw, the book explores the many experiences and emotions of adoptees, adoptive parents, birthparents, foster youth, and foster parents.