“Home is where the heart is.”
-Pliny the Elder
The yen for authenticity is a universal quest. To paraphrase Meister Eckhardt
Tolle, “we long to know who we REALLY are.” This knowledge comes from within but also from our environment and the people immediately around us, our families.
It’s been said that the road to adoption recovery is a search for authenticity. Adoptees must choose from two family trees, one biological and another through adoption. In writing my memoir The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption, I realized that neither family tree was the answer. My feeling of being “at home in the world” had to come from a source within, a gradual unveiling, a stripping away of masks I’d assumed for a lifetime.
Much of my healing has come from reading. Not just nonfiction books about adoption, but novels. Not surprisingly, adoption runs as a theme through much of literature. One of the best contemporary novels I’ve read about adoption is Emily Giffin’s Where We Belong. In this beautifully told story, a birthmother and birthdaughter meet for the first time when mom is thirty-six and daughter is eighteen.
Marian Caldwell is a television producer fulfilling her dream in New York City. With a jazzy career and picture-perfect relationship, it would appear that her life is just as she wants it to be. But her daughter Kirby Rose’s inconvenient appearance produces the key to a past that Marian thought she had locked away forever. For Kirby, the discovery of both her original mother and father bring about a reevaluation of her adoptive family and her thoughts about the future. In other words, the reunion changes everything.
As Marian and Kirby embark on a quest to find the one thing missing in their lives, each comes to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves. A place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.
Giffin’s characters ring true, from the first knock on the door by Kirby to Marian’s final comment about a life transformed by the reunion: “It is not what I planned — this day, this moment, these unlikely relationships, both old and new. Yet I feel overcome with peace and certainty that, for once, I am exactly where I should be.”