Friday, August 29, 2014

On Origins

We sometimes go through our whole lives maintaining a single belief.  Some is written in the Good Book, some scribed on our heart or etched in tears.

Some are tales to be told.  My daughter Brigid Jr., as she is known here, was adopted into a family with a Native Hawaiian mother, after I had her as a teen. She is quite adept at Hula (which is NOT the grass skirt number you see at the bar by the Honolulu airport - THAT, my friends, is a Tahitian dance). Hula is living history in an art form.  For Hawaiian history was oral history, It was codified in genealogies and chants, which were memorized and passed down, generation after generation. In the absence of a written language, this was the only available method of ensuring accuracy. Chants told the stories of creation, mythology, royalty, and other significant events and people.
Such were the stories of my beginning, adopted out of a bad situation.  When asked as to my background and genealogy, Mom told me what she said she had been told by the caregivers who placed us with them.  I was just like she and Dad and would look like them, predominately Irish (with maybe a tiny bit of Scot) and lots of Scandinavian, like her. The eye slant?  That was said to be a bit of Native American, not hard to believe, given where I was born, with a high Northwest Indian population.

I identified my whole life with being Irish/Scandinavian. I was proud of whatever tiny bit of Native American blood I carried, volunteering and donating time and money to help some of the elders in that community.  That was my history, that was my belief, for fifty years. My daughter and granddaughters inherited the same unique slightly slanted, almond shape eyes, some thinking the little ones holding some Polynesian blood except for their blue eyes and  blond, blond hair. We'd laugh and say "no, we think they have a little Cree or something, we're not sure."

It was what it was, and I put my origins and questions behind me. I learned to make the dishes of my grandmothers, I learned the languages and the culture, just as my daughter has learned the culture and the language of the Hawaiian Islands (hearing a 6 foot tall redhead speaking fluent Hawaiian always gets some attention).
For it was my history, as I had no history; no one had tried to find me, no family remaining of blood. I tried the various sorts of Internet adoption searches after Mom had died.  But the trail was not just cold, there was no trail; no bread crumbs strewn to find my way, no one seeking me but the taste of ash upon the tongue.

So again, I  put it behind me and just enjoyed what I had, which was a wonderful family that loved me, a Big Brother who protected me and was my best friend.   I shared their hearts, I shared their heritage. I always filled out my "what race are you?" on applications as either "human", if it was fill-in-the-blank, or "white", for all I had was smoke and myth.
Besides I've always been a firm believer in hiring someone because of their skill set, not their color or gender.  I perfected Irish soda bread and colcannon, I crafted intricate Swedish pastries at Christmas time.  I learned that about any fish is good if you dip it in beer batter, fry it and serve it with chips and Guinness.

But I went ahead recently and had some genetic DNA testing done, if anything, to tell my daughter and two tiny granddaughters a bit more about their heritage, when they are old enough to understand.  It was an extremely reputable provider of this service, and not quick or cheap.
Big Bro and I with Grandma Gullikson (I look excited, as always, to be in a dress)

I got the results today.

I don't think anyone intentionally lied. I just think the placement folks didn't know and made up what sounded good to my prospective adoptive parents.  It was that or  my Mom said what she thought would comfort me, as in the beginning of our journey as a family, having come from a place where, as an baby, I screamed if anyone tried to pick me up to hold or comfort me.  I felt very much out of place.

The tests aren't perfect, and they certainly won't tell you who you are related to, but simply compare your DNA against known samples in the database for each area, comparing your DNA against those to come up with a primary geographic affiliation (where you share the same DNA traits  with the largest number of people).

I couldn't have been more surprised at the outcome.

For I don't have Irish blood. None. There's a slight possibility of a little Norwegian blood but only slight, and some other tiny percentages of regional DNA match scores including Welsh, and the UK. But no Irish.  In actuality, the regional DNA match score was predominately, from one country of the world. Not Ireland. Close, but no cigar.
Scotland, originating most likely in the Strathclyde area but possibly also from the Glasgow or Dundee area. My biological parents had remarkably similar Allele's in the Autosomal STR profile so they were likely of the same ethnic background, just with parents or grandparents (or so on) from a different part of Scotland.

But what about  that second, and not miniscule, area?--that measurable piece of something that perhaps gave me my unique facial features, and was not Native American as was claimed by those that passed on my history to me.

It was Ashkenazi Jewish (Budapest, Hungary)

Color me surprised. 
For tonight folks, I'm just going to sit here and think upon what we believe, and how fragile it is; rolling it around on my tongue trying to  taste the sweetness of it.  I'll sit and look as the night approaches, pondering the nature of half glimpsed truths; of the mournful stillness of wanting to belong, of the little death of losing something that you never held. I'll pour a small finger of amber liquid and gaze slowly at a glowing candle, a flame never wide enough to embrace the whole world, but large enough to sum up in glowing light, this one small soul, in one small corner of it. 

Still hate Haggis though.