Family vacations are to summer, what Christmas is to winter - a time to gather family that should be relaxing, beautiful and idyllic but too often is stressful and disappointing.
Two years ago, Kate asked me to join in on a family vacation. She and Steve were playing at a festival in Hood River in July, so she invited me and my birth-sister to bring our kiddos along and join them for the weekend.
In an email, Kate described it as:
"... a wonderful, family-friendly lavender festival on the farm of friends...the best place to get lavender for your garden, essential lavender oil - eat a bunch of good food, see crafts and hear a little music amidst field of purple fragrance - lovely.
It's a beautiful area in the Rowena Wilds on the Mosier Ridge and there are lots of wild turkeys, eagles, deer, an occasional cougar and high desert air.
If you would like to take this chance to get together, we'd love to have you come out, whether it's for the day, the weekend or a few days. It'd be nice to get the little cousins together."
Reading it again now, I can see that Kate was a little too convincing, putting a much harder sell on the idea than there needed to be. I only realize now that it must have been hard to ask me, the relinquished daughter, and my sister, displaced from Kate's life by divorce, to come on a "family" vacation.
Thing is, on a day to day basis, my relationship with Kate feels really quite normal. We're family. Not a simple mother-daughter family, but our reconstructed version of family that's come together as adults. An invitation to a weekend didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary for us. It sounded ... lovely.
Unfortunately, I had just started a new job and had a work conflict the weekend she would be there. My parents were also going to be with me for the summer, and I hated leaving them to do things without them. It wasn't going to work. I hate to disappoint, and avoided telling her that I couldn't go.
My lack of communication led to an response from Kate where she'd surmised I wasn't getting back to her because my parents were in town, which she hadn't known about, which distressed her that she didn't know what was going on in my life.
We've not yet figured out a way to have a family vacation together. Kate has fond memories of her husband's parents gathering their grown-children and families together every summer either on the beach at the Hamptons or, later, at their summer home in Woodstock. Her own family of seven siblings will have the occasional reunion at her sister's farm. I imagine Kate would like to create that for her next generation.
A year or so following my initial reunion with my birthfather, I joined him for his annual family vacation with his immediate family and friends at a music festival in the woods of Mendocino, California. It was four days of music, camping, dancing, and celebration.
Every year since, I've wanted to go back. Once I had kids of my own, I have desperately wanted to bring them there, so that could experience the magic of that experience that I hadn't had myself until I was an adult. Too late, and yet better late than never.
My adoptive parents enjoy a different kind of travel. They like to go to foreign places, enjoying the view of the culture from the safe distance of nice hotels, and fancy restaurants where they eat fine food. I went with them to Hawaii a few years back. We stayed at a beautiful resort on Maui and went to a different expensive restaurant every night. I asked at one of the fancy restaurants where to go for local food. The waitress told me I wouldn't want to, my family laughing at my desire to sample spam and seaweed. At the time, I was hurt. I didn't like getting mocked for wanting to learn about the culture, not just view it from a difference. But, now I see it's just that I like different things than what my adoptive parents like. I like the kind of things my birthparents like.
A family separated most of their lives doesn't come together easily. I have my family - the family Kate chose for me to be with. As much as I wish to be able to have a family vacation with Kate, or my birthfather, I haven't figured out a way to make it fit into my life. I was given to a different family, a family I love. As different as I am, I am theirs, and have the obligations that go along with it.
I am bringing my husband and kids to Florida to vacation with my mom on Sanibel Island later this summer. I've found out the hard way that it's easier for me to compromise what I would like to do, and settle on staying at a resort, than to try to get my mom to enjoy camping (I've tried - it didn't go well).
It's the fate of the adoptee to be in families foreign to them. The similarities and synchronicities of reunion shine a spotlight on that. In reunion, there's validation for who you are, understanding of where your likes, dislikes, and quirks come from. You get to see your lineage, but you still don't get to belong to your original families. After all, you belong to another family, one that is different from you.
Lovely ... right?
Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?