Friday, March 18, 2016

Who’s in your family?

I am truly one of those truly fortunate people who thank G-d every day for my amazing family. I get to live with my favorite people in the world and that is pretty cool. To the outside world who does not know us so well, we look like a close nuclear family – a dad and a mom, four children, two of whom are married and three cute little girls whom I call my daughter’s daughters, while my husband refers to them as grandchildren. (I do not use the G word!) We talk to each other all of the time, continue to make amazing family vacations happen, are so close to each other and genuinely love as well as like the people we each are. This is truly a blessing.

So how did this family come together? I will preface this part by sharing one of my very familiar quotes – “I think I am a really together person and how my life turned into a soap opera is so NOT my fault.” Those of you who kow me well have heard that one many times – I know. Here goes! Yoella, my eldest daughter is from my first marriage to her father. Our middle daughters, Rachie and Talie are identical twins and were the product of my second marriage to their father. They also have another sister and brother who are the children of their father from a previous marriage. Then, there is Ora, another parent figure in the family who is now the third ex-wife of their father and we have all kept her as part of our own family constellation. Ken and I married twenty-two years ago (our anniversary is actually in three days!) and Brian is our adopted son, brother to Yoella and Rachie and Talie. This was so confusing and head spinning to people, that Rachie, being the kind person she is, prepared a lovely flow chart explaining our family to everyone who needed to reference it on her dorm door in Israel. Eight and a half years ago, Yoella married her high school boyfriend, Jeremy, who has his own family tree to explain and now they have Neli, Neima and Adel. Rachie, our second married child, is with the love of her life, Liz. As we always tell Jeremy, he is definitely my favorite son-in-law; he now informs me that he does not feel there will be much competition.

This all resonates in a particularly humorous manner when we are out and about and people say, oh, you all look alike. Rachie and Brian look like Ken and Talie and Yoella look like me. Little do they know that this would not be due to genetics, not where Ken is concerned and certainly not where Brian is concerned. So we got it!!!!! This is our amazing, interconnected to other people, family!

Then the last week happened. Brian, who was adopted from Karelia, supposedly a type of territory of the FSR, though no one can quite pin down what the relationship is, was brought into our family close to nineteen years ago. At that time, we were told that there were no relatives who had been looking for him and we were given information regarding his birth mother’s name and the name of a brother and sister, who were aged 12 and 11 respectively. We knew that his brother and sister were actually raised by the grandmother and that the mother was out of the picture. That was it! He had no connections where he lived in The Childrens’ Home in Petrosovodsz and we would be his first family when he was 2 ½ years of age. Further, we were informed that we should never try to find out about his birth family because there was no way to get the information and that the members of that family would never be able to locate him.

Fast forward three months shy of nineteen years and what has changed remarkably in our world? SOCIAL MEDIA!!!! Lo and behold, Brian listed his identifying information on an adoption web site and within a few days a wonderful young lady from Spain named Caroline contacted him and asked if he wanted her help. We were just a bit skeptical given the many scams and dishonest things that do happen in the reality in which we live, but we took a leap of faith and Brian responded. We are truly grateful to Caroline, who we hope will forgive us for any hesitation in just accepting this lovely gift she was about to bestow upon us! Within another 36 hours, we had so much information about Brian’s birth family. Brian was nervous and overwhelmed; I was just really excited. Between finding out that Brian did in fact have a birth family that had been searching for him, specifically his birth sister, Zina on Saturday night and Tuesday night of this week, Brian and Zina became Facebook friends, chatted extensively on that medium, and Brian had pictures of Zina, her daughter, and his brother Dmitry. Zina had just joined Facebook about two months ago incidentally, so talk about timing! On Tuesday night, Brian and Zina skyped for over an hour with the help of Zina’s wonderful husband who was the only one who could speak and understand both Russian and English and could serve as translator. Brian introduced Zina to me, to Ken, to Yoella and Jeremy and the three girls and we also told her about Rachie and Talie. She was rather impressed (overwhelmed!) by our large family! It turns out that Zina did see Brian when he was four days old (and named originally Victor Alexandrovitch Chingin) and did try to find him on numerous occasions – but apparently regulations and protocol took over and she was not allowed to be in contact. And now here we were -- It was an amazing experience. Zina confirmed what I could see in the picture – Brian and his birth brother Dmitry look alike. Zina asked if Brian likes to draw. Why, because while Zina did not know that much about their birth mother, she knew she drew well. Brian draws beautifully, by the way. He appears to have real talent. It turns out that his birth family includes an uncle as well as the maternal grandmother that raised his birth siblings. And then there is this funny coincidence that no one could make up.

Zina’s birth date is September 11, 1987, the very same date of birth as Rachie and Talie! Funny enough, apparently, Rachie and Talie used to joke with people that they had a third sister (triplet) in the attic… Who knew? So, we have not even begun with the cousins and aunts and uncles in our family…. But I imagine, Rachie, it might be a really good idea to go and update that Family Tree Flow Chart some time soon!

I am often asked why I maintain and encourage maintaining all of the family connections we have. After all, don’t I have enough people to be concerned about and keep track of…. So, here is my answer. I know that Ora ADORES Rachie and Talie and I adore her for doing so. Yoella benefits from the love of her dad’s family and I love how everyone keeps in contact with all sides of each of these nuclear units. All of those aunts and uncles and cousins that are part of my children’s lives … I think it is wonderful to have so many people in your life who love you and whom you love. This is truly a gift that enriches the lives of all who benefit from it. And now, my dear Brian, you too, have a whole other family to include in your life. We hope you will share them with all of us and that one day we can move past Skype and actually meet your sister Zina, brother Dmitry and other family members. More blessings have just appeared in our lives! I am again so very grateful!

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