One of my characters in Past Ties is dealing with “origin issues.” She wants to meet her dad.

Her dad doesn’t know she exists. Finding him proves problematic, but she is determined to do so.

Writing about this search for origins is proving somewhat difficult for me. I know from whence I came. Should I ever doubt, you can put me and my brothers in a lineup and pick us out by the very obvious (nose) features we share. Of course, we share more than physiology. We share history and interests and (sick) humor. We share facial expressions and verbal expressions and non-verbal expressions. Those things aren’t nature; they’re nurture, and they would be found in any close family, even a close family with all adopted children.

This weekend, I watched a “documentary” about the problems of the closed adoption process. The camera followed five 50-60 year olds as they tried and failed to gain access to their birth certificates and simultaneously their pasts. These were folks whose adopted parents had died and wanted the chance to find their birth parents before the same thing happened to them.

The hour ended for me in confusion. These adults who, by their own admissions, were reared in loving adoptive families and had created loving families of their own, were still driven to find out who they “should have been.”

TT: The best part of the whole thing (and it isn’t saying much because I was mostly annoyed with the perspective of the piece) was that Kansas is the only State that allows adoptees open access to their birth certificates. It’s nice to be known for something positive for once.

Rather than answers, I was left with the basic question of what drives otherwise competent, successful people to seek out their origins to the point of obsession? Why can they not accept that where they are is where they were meant to be?

Since I don’t know that I’ll ever have an answer, I must work that question into my story.

What about you? Have you ever confronted origin issues? Do you think knowing your personal past would make you a better or more complete person?

About Robynn Tolbert

Born in Kansas and born again at age six, Robynn has published two novels and started her third. Robynn, aka Ranunculus Turtle, lives in Kansas with a clowder of cats, a patient dog and a garden.

13 comments on “Origins

  1. OK, first, that baby picture is beyond adorable.

    Second, my novel deals with exactly that issue. Then again, it’s fantasy and the girl is magically drawn to her past…but still. I can understand wanting to know our origins. It’s not just about biological vs. adoptive parents. I’m sure those adults who were searching for their biological parents still considered their adoptive parents to be their “real” parents. But look how many of us are into genealogy. I love delving into the family line on both my side and my husband’s side.

    I think we all have a need to know where we come from–it gives us purpose if there is a reason and order to things.

    • It is adorable. It is not me. 🙂

      I’ve been reading Finding Angel with that slant in mind, and Crazyhair Vaulter’s I Am Ocilla. This quest tor self-understanding seems universal, and the belief that knowing your personal origins could shed light on self seems just as universal.

  2. I haven’t personally, but I had an adopted cousin who sought out her birth mother. Her main reasoning was family medical history. She had gotten married and was expecting. She wanted to be able to know her full history for the health of her daughter.

    I am obsessed a bit with genealogy, but I think that stems for my love of history. 🙂

    • Medical history as a reason was discussed during the documentary, although it was not the main focus of the “children” cited.

      But it wouldn’t work as a reason for my character. She’s a robot. 😉

  3. Interesting thoughts, Robynn. I agree with Kat that with some it is more curiosity than “have to know.” It would depend on the degree of dysfunction in the family (and all have some degree–sometimes a happy dysfunction). I would change your comment “who they should have been” to “who they might have been.”
    That degree of curiosity is natural, and would not necessarily dishonor the adoptive parents. And when one’s parents are gone, there is a sense of “I’m now the ‘older’ generation,” which could be a lonely place. Finding one’s relatives might bring a connection to other family. And there are those cases where it was not a positive experience.
    I’m the grandmother of a wonderful adopted 20-year-old, and have been involved in his life from two days after his birth. At present he has no desire to discover his birth family, but his parents have assured him of their support should he ever decide to.
    The stuff of which great stories are made – I’ll be looking forward to seeing yours!

  4. The documentary seemed extremely biased to me. In fact, by the end it felt more like an hour long infomercial for why to abort your children rather than give them life. Of course, I saw it on PBS. I would expect nothing better.

    I can say the positive side of the film was the open and welcoming attitudes of the adoptees’ biological families. And an over-riding theme seemed to be how difficult the choice was to adopt the child out. Each mother had her reasons, but each mother also seemed to have a desire to reconnect with that child at some point.

    If nothing else, it made me think. And it made me think about my story. I wouldn’t have watched it otherwise.

    I am a firm believer in adoption and the real love families can have for each other outside of blood ties. Listening to Ryan Dobson, for one, has convinced me of this. And no family is perfect, whether you’re in it by biology or by law.

    Thank you for your comments! I am looking for all sides of this issue and every bit helps.
    Don’t know yet if my story is “great.” I’ll find out with the rest of you. hehe!

    • Okay, I wasn’t going for a smiley face, but a tongue-sticking out face. Apparently, wordpress doesn’t know the difference. I took it out, so this comment no longer makes sense.
      Much like other bits of my writing.

  5. I have always known where I came from and where I am going. It is the in between that confounds. Humans need the boundaries of start and finish to figure out the middle. Our minds cannot truly wrap around infinity.

  6. A friend of mine, Tim Green, who used to play for the Atlanta Falcons and has written these very taut thrillers for adults and now has a new young adult series going, was an adoptive child and was raised in what he says was a great home. He still felt the need to seek out his biological parents. He even wrote a book about it, one of two non-fiction adult books by him (another non-fiction was geared for kids). A little while back on, I think it was ABC, he was a part of a TV show involving people looking for their birth parents. It was a really good show that I hope does not remain permanently cancelled. And with his personal history, he was a really good person to help host the show. You should get his book and read it. Perhaps reading his firsthand account will help shed some light on the answers you seek.


  7. There does seem to be a need for answers, doesn’t there? I’ll check it out. Thanks, David!

  8. In 2009, I met my sister for the first time. Decades ago, my mother had given her up for adoption. She ended up in a wonderful Christian home, but she still felt the need to find my mother. I’m glad she did. I knew of her existence from when I was a child, so it was really nice to finally meet her. And a bit startling… we look a lot alike.

  9. “Of course, we share more than physiology. We share history and interests and (sick) humor. We share facial expressions and verbal expressions and non-verbal expressions. Those things aren’t nature; they’re nurture, and they would be found in any close family, even a close family with all adopted children.”

    I agree you share history…but nature plays a larger role than you would expect and in more ways than you would ever imagine. Unless you have lived it you cannot truly understand it. Something so bizarre as finding out you have identical handwriting to your mother who you never met…or you have the exact same hobbies, favorite flower…dna matters.

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