Things I Want My Son To Know #10 ~ Respect Your Heritage

You have a complicated heritage. Your are adopted so there is a part of your heritage that you may never know much about. We do know that part of the heritage of your birth family is Native American. Since it is what we know, and it is special, hold it close and cherish it. This is a particularly spiritual and compassionate heritage and someday you may want to know more about it. I wish I could tell you more but that is all we know and all we have been able to find out.

But… you have the heritage of your family as well. That is us. Your maternal grandmother is, if anything, a Unitarian (religious preference). More importantly she is descended from early colonists and English missionaries to Hawaii. She was born into the Daughters of the American Revolution, as I understand it, but was drummed out for marrying a Jew (I think they are slightly more liberal now). There are two things important about this, first that she is descended of those revolutionaries in America and second that she experienced discrimination against Jews (something you should never forget). There is a history of her family among my books.

Your maternal grandfather is a Russian/Polish Jew whose grandmother fled Russia with her eight children and no husband and no English as a result of discrimination and poverty. Her story is an amazing one and your great grandmother described their journey to your Uncle Dan who wrote it out. This precious piece of writing is saved for you too (of course).

Your paternal grandfather was Irish through and through, and Catholic by upbringing; there is little we know about his ancestry but despite your father’s stubborness there is a little magic there.

Your paternal grandmother is, I believe, English and German. If this is wrong, I will let your dad post a correction! She is the toughest woman I have ever met and she is the only one in the whole family that is really good at handling and saving money. You could take a page out of her book on this one.

Finally, although you are many things, you are a Jew. You were raised as a Jew with Jewish values. Your dad was raised as a Catholic but chose to be a Jew because he believed in the values and principles of Judaism, he believed in Judaism as a way of life. And he chose it with no input from me. The Jewish heritage is a rich and vital one. It is a heritage of learning, knowledge, charity, spirituality, community service and kindness. The rituals are beautiful and many of them revolve around the home, rather than the house of worship, making them even more special; the candles, the seder, havdallah, chanukkiah (menorah).

It is important to respect that at least on two counts, your ancestors would have experienced terrible discrimination and physical violence merely for being who they were. If for this reason alone, you should be proud to be who you are, a Jewish man with Native American roots (among other things). You should wear your star proudly and never be ashamed of it. The Jews historically fought for civil rights in this country, side by side with African Americans seeking equal rights because they knew what discrimination was. You should always stand up not only for yourself but for those who are treated as lesser.

Whatever you think of religion ultimately, light the candles in your home; light a chanukkiah; conduct a seder with your children and re-tell the story of our liberation from slavery. It will make you feel proud and good; it will make you feel closer to your ancestors.

have a seder with your children you will feel closer to those who are gone.

Things I Want My Son To Know #4 ~ Remember Your Birth Story

Remember the story of your birth. (This is the short version). Your story is unique and beautiful, it began with acts of open hearted generosity, immense courage and great faith. You have always known you were adopted. At various times of your life til now you have had greater and lesser curiousity about it. You used to speak to your birth mother on the phone. When your father and I were barely new in our relationship, we agreed to foster parent a young teenaged girl who needed a break from her mother. She came to live with us, supposedly for a short time, maybe a week or less. Things came out during that time that made it obvious she would not be returning to her mother’s home and she lived with us for about a year. During that time she became a young woman, she learned how to apply makeup, fix her hair, clean her clothes. She had her first fancy dress and attended her first school dance. Eventually. for various reasons, she moved on to a group home for teenaged girls. We had made a decision that we were done with medical intervention and that we would adopt if we could. We kept in touch with our teenager and one day she appeared, pregnant. She told us we had been her parents and she wanted us to be her baby’s parents. We were all there the day you were born. It was a scary time for all of us but we stuck with it and your courageous and loving birth mother allowed us to take you home when you were five days old. The day you were born you had four parents, that’s a lot of love. Because we were willing to open our hearts and homes to a teen in need of love, your birth mom came into our lives, changing us forever. Because she had the courage and love to do what she thought was best for you no matter the cost to herself, you came into our lives, changing us forever. I hope you cherish this story and that these values ~ compassion, mercy, faith and courage ~ that informed the beginning of your life, inform all your life.