For many years I had certain expectations of my family. However, as I grew up I realized how evasive my mother was about her past. Both parents kept secrets from us kids. Maybe they thought they were right in doing so. But, when our expectations are pulled out from under us, a part of our world falls apart. My sister was in her forties when she obtained her birth certificate only to find her father was not our Dad. The issue that bothered her the most was rejection. The man she knew all her life as her father, never adopted her. In that instant of discovery, she perceived a change in her world and her future. My sister’s drama wasn’t the only play in town. I have researched our ancestry online and I have found records which suggest there are more secrets and more lies.
Unfortunately, I’m on my own researching the family tree which is beginning to look less like an elegantly shaped tree and more like invasive shrubs. My parents are both gone as well as their siblings. Luckily I asked questions as a kid, so I’m relying on my childhood memories. I was going to give up on tracking my ancestry– apparently almost all my ancestors lived off the grid or every City Hall in New York burned down in the early 20th century– when I ran across this photo online. It was serendipity actually. I was searching for photos of gardens and this photo popped up, clearly out of context. I recognized her immediately.
What’s so special about this image? She’s me. Okay, she’s the spitting image of me at that age– around 18-20 years old. All right– I have green eyes and she “appears” to have brown eyes. Otherwise, we’re identical. Only, that picture was taken over 100 years ago. That would put her in the right time frame to be my maternal grandmother. Strangely enough, my mother never had any pictures of her; never talked about her except to say she died when my mother was eleven. And as far as vital records are concerned, there’s nothing of my grandmother. I had a difficult time just finding out my grandmother’s name! There are so many secrets regarding my mother’s family. My mother was the first American born child in her family, both parents coming from Russia in the early 1900’s. Or, was she? There are secrets there as well.
Currently, I am researching the identity of the young woman in the picture. We all have certain expectations (assumptions, presumptions, anticipations, hopes for, etc.) about our parents, and our family. These expectations are directly tied to our identity. For one thing, I believed my mother– I never thought she would lie, particularly about from whom and where she came. How naïve of me. At the very least, I have expectations that I will find out what happened to my grandmother and I will discover whether the woman in the photo is my grandmother or, another relation, or a doppelgänger. I’m still wracking my brain for a memory of posing for a photo dressed like this woman, with my hair done up and wearing brown contacts ( I did have brown contacts). Nonetheless, if my expectations are not met, I’ll drive myself crazy with unending speculation about my Russian ancestors. Did I happen to mention that I have obsessive-compulsive disorder?
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