There are a few shows I’ve binge watched since the miracle of Netflix began: Orange is the New Black, The Office, and The Walking Dead.
But there is only one show that comes on regular t.v. that I tune in to watch in real-time: Finding Your Roots
Of course, I’m a sucker for any Ken Burns type documentary with sappy music and panning and zoom-outs of black and white photos, but the part I really stick around for is the DNA result. I don’t care who the celebrity is. I just care about that family tree. And I picture my own with a million question marks.
When people ask me why I write, or what made me start writing, I usually don’t have a satisfactory answer. But tonight, I think I have it. My whole life I’ve been searching for my own narrative. My own place in the story of the human experience.
If you know me, we’ve probably talked about this. Or, if you know me a little less, maybe you’ve read about this. I’m a Holzhauser. I emulate all of those characteristics; I’m stubborn, competitive, sarcastic, and a smart-ass. I am proud of my German heritage, whatever that means, and for me, it means growing up close to Hermann and being able to pronounce your last names. It means knowing what happens in October and May and loving meat and potatoes and having cuckoo clocks chiming at my house.
But, of course, my whole life I’ve known I’m not really a Holzhauser. I don’t look like them. Genetically, we are nothing. Am I even German? My mom’s side is Polacek, a Bohemian name. My grandmother wore scarves like any Eastern European immigrant. I am also not her. I’m neither my mom nor my dad. Their stories live through me, but not the way your family’s stories live in you.
I know that’s hard for you to hear. It’s hard for me to remember. Every. Single. Time. But this wanting to know, this knowing that there was another, distinct path my life didn’t take, is what made me start imagining. As a child, it seemed there was another me living in a parallel universe. With people who looked like me. In my mind, they were all blonde.
As it turns out, they really are.
I met my biological mom in 1999. I’ve tried so many times to write about it in a coherent way, in a way that people might be able to read it, but it’s hard. I also met my two half-sisters. I know their names. In fact, we were friends on social media for a while. Until my bio mom unfriended me and the family followed suit. Why? I think because I date women. She never really told me.
From the magic of social media, I’ve found out recently that one of my half-sisters is now a student at Mizzou. She looks like me…if I spent a lot of time in the mirror each morning. She was a high school athlete. From what I’ve seen, we shoot a basketball exactly the same. And though we hung out once when she was 7, she has no idea who I am. I always told myself I’d tell her when she was 18. I haven’t yet.
If you’re curious, I have 5 half-siblings from what I can research. One brother, the rest sisters. As an only child, I can’t even.
You’re probably not adopted. You probably have no idea what I’m feeling. I mean, you’re trying to imagine, but you probably can’t. The same way I can’t imagine growing up with people who share my DNA. Who look like me. Siblings who say, “you’re adopted,” as some strange insult. I never understood why that was bad.
It is because of my adoption, and that curiosity of a life that never was, that I started imagining the life that could’ve been.
Growing up, I suspected EVERYONE of being my relative. I kept and open mind and wild imagination. Both Laverne and Shirley were once, in my mind, my biological mom.
Maybe that is what fueled my interest in people and cultures. In the living and dead. In evolution. We all come from one African mother, anyway. We’re all related somehow.
For my birthday this year, I bought myself a DNA test. I’ve been wanting to and putting it off for years. This test will tell me exactly how white I am. From which regions of Europe my relatives come.
Which I’ve just realized might be the opposite of what I want. Right now, there are possibilities. I could be from anywhere. Somewhere, way back there, we come from the same people. Until the results arrive, I am an Everywoman.
I’ve done some digging with the little information I have. From what I can figure, casually, and through a website, there are a lot of Patriots and Irish in my bloodline. From what I’ve seen, I’m as white-American as a girl can be.
Maybe you’re wondering why it even matters. I know people who are adopted who give zero fucks about their biological history. I know people who aren’t adopted who feel the same way. I know there are others still whose paper trails ends and begins in the 1860’s. And some even, have no papers at all.
I, and two other writers, gave a presentation last night about our anthology. A question was asked, what it meant to be Southern. For me, it means to love and hate the place I come from. To be a part of the landscape of a flooding river and the smell of deer blood in November.
Maybe the cells in my body are the first in my genetics to experience these things. Maybe that’s why I can’t let go. Or maybe my cells hold the memories of everyone before.
Maybe I’m already rooted firmly in place.