Peeps are Whiteys
always hated my nose. It is short with a wide bridge that plateaus
off the tip landing with a thud. There is nothing elegant or sculpted
about it, unlike my mom's nose, which could have been the prototype
plastic surgeons used for rhinoplasty in the '80s. My nose has no
structure or shape that gives it any dignity. It is just shapeless,
with perfectly round nostrils like a baby's. When I was a kid, I
marveled at how my index finger fit into my nostrils, while my friends
had to forcefully cram their fingers inside.
never angry that I didn't inherit my mom's nose because it was impossible.
We don't share the same DNA. I was adopted and never knew my heritage.
I know DNA doesn't really mean much. Not everyone relates to their
family, but at least you know where the manic depression, extra-long
second toe or hairy arms are from. You have someone to thank and
to blame for your assets and deficiencies. A cord of disheveled
genetic code that makes you
looked different than my family, my skin a shade darker, my eyes
and hair a milk chocolate brown. My parents are both fair-skinned
and light-eyed, and my adopted sister also has blonde hair and blue
eyes. When we were all together, I sometimes felt like the Sesame
Street skit where they show three circles and one square singing,
"One of these things is not like the other." It didn't
matter to me because my parents loved and adored my sister and me.
We were constantly told how special we were because they chose us
to be theirs. They rejoiced in how lucky they were to be our parents.
Adoption was something to be proud of. My sister and I always knew
we were adopted and were mercifully spared the sit-down at age thirteen
to be told, "We aren't your real parents." My mom gloated
in skipping the nine months of bloating, weight gain and moodiness
most moms endure. I grew up in a free-spirited house with a jokester
Polish/Jew lawyer dad and an Irish/French beauty queen mom. They
were loving, fun and, best of all, mine. I never cared that the
kids in my first grade teased me that I was an "Indian".
Approaching me with one arm up, palm facing out, they greeted me
with "How" and then hopped around on one foot patting
their mouths "Awwwaaaawwwaa." I taunted them back with
the fact that I was more loved than them because I had two sets
of parents, even if I only knew one pair.
I left the cozy, liberal blanket of the Bay Area to attend college
in upstate New York, people were interested in my foreign looks
and asked what my nationality was. I lied most of the time and said
whatever came to mind, "Italian!" "Greek!" "Moroccan!"
Sometimes, when feeling spirited, I would just answer, "I don't
know, I was adopted." My unusual name helped spur their interest.
"What kind of name is Meika?" they would ask, fruitlessly
searching for clues to my identity. While at college, I dated a
guy who was half black and half Italian. He convinced me that I
too might be mulatto. It was true, we did look somewhat alike and
I was intrigued with this notion that I might be something -- a
real something with a long line of history. I started to attend
the African American Coalition meetings at school. These were my
peeps! That summer I went home and told my parents my discovery.
They assured me I was of middle European descent. Disappointed,
I quit the coalition and tucked away my ethnic curiosity like an
exotic souvenir from a distant aunt's travels.
had many people tell me what they think my origins are. Indian,
Middle Eastern, Spanish, Puerto Rican. I had a guy come up to me
once, randomly, and ask if I was from Genoa. When I replied that
I didn't know, he assured me I was Genovese and that everyone there
looks just like me. Maybe the Genovese are my peeps! I have also
had friends call me in a frenzy convinced they had seen my biological
mother somewhere: a stewardess on a Greek airline, a retail worker
in a mall along highway 80, an actress from a TV movie. Many times
it felt like my friends were more curious about my background than
I. I had a friend whose mom was adopted and she found her biological
mother. It turns out they both smoked Winston cigarettes, drove
Cadillacs and bred Chow Chow dogs. DNA might matter. But I loved
my parents, my family, my home. I had no complaints about a terrible
childhood with alcoholic parents who made me eat string beans for
dinner while they ate meat loaf. The truth is my biological parents
did the right thing giving me up and I was dealt a royal flush by
ending up with my family.
feels at some point that they wish their parents weren't their parents
-- moments of utter embarrassment caused by a parent's clueless
lack of composure. My husband's father picked him up from his preppy
high school in a beat up VW square back with the Batman insignia
stenciled on both doors. My moments of complete red-faced disaster
were rampant. Everyone in my family is a show-off while I am more
reserved. They will gladly sing in restaurants, call out to you
from across the room or approach a celebrity and introduce themselves.
There is nothing low-pro about my parents. When they came to visit
me at college one year, they arrived in their very California red
nylon sweatsuits, which I could have forgiven if they didn't insist
on following me around with a video camera while introducing themselves
to my friends. But, I comforted myself with the notion that these
aren't really my peeps. I mean they are, but we are genetically
different and that variance kept me sane through my early adulthood.
Being adopted gave me the great luxury of engaging in my family's
quirky traditions but also removing myself when they were just too
eccentric. I had the power to edit what I wanted to accept and make
mine, and filter what I wanted to disregard, such as going to the
bathroom with the door open or talking out loud in the movie theater.
sister and I bypassed foster care and orphanages by being adopted
privately. My mom found my sister through an electrician. It was
1965 and she had a guy come over to fix a malfunctioning outlet.
He was gushing about this baby that he and his wife had just adopted.
My mom inquired further and he mentioned that they had adopted the
baby through his wife's OB-GYN who had a handful of pregnant woman
who didn't want to keep their babies. It turns out that my mom used
the same OB-GYN. This wasn't some small town with one doctor; this
was San Francisco and the chances of sharing the same gyno as your
electrician's wife were slim to none. My mom phoned her doctor and
in June 1966 my sister was born.
PAGE 1 2
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|