Growing up, when I was asked about my family, my answer was pretty short. “It’s just me and my mom and my grandparents,” I’d often tell people. That kind of simplicity seems like a conversation ender, but people always had questions. “What about your dad?” Never part of the picture, and, no, it’s not a sore subject. “Aunts, uncles, cousins?” Nope, my mom was an only child. My family tree was more like a family houseplant, and that was OK with me.
As I got older and people around me asked bolder questions, I’d relent and offer that my mom wasn’t actually an only child. She had a little brother, but they went to separate homes after coming to the United States. See, my mom was adopted from Colombia. Her brown skin and my painfully pale skin never quite computed to people, hence the barrage of questions throughout the years. It wasn’t that I didn’t talk about it for any particular reason. It just wasn’t something I put much thought into. My family was my family, and that was that.
Throughout the years, I realized my family seemed to fluctuate a little more than most. People came through marriage and birth and went through divorce and death, and these were the facts of life. By the time I turned 20, I had lost both of my grandparents, two out of the three other members of the family I was born into.
While our family would thankfully grow again with my mother’s second marriage, which also outfitted me with siblings for the first time in my life, I found myself thinking about the other-other-other side of my family. It’s a funny feeling not knowing what other family members you might have out there. I often find myself wondering what I might find in Colombia, or anywhere else in the world where there could be people who would make up my family.
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