This is my first blog and I think I should start by introducing myself to you and tell you why I have decided to write this blog.
Who I am is part of why I am writing this blog. I’m on a voyage of self discovery. I’ve been on one all my life. Most of us have a fairly good sense of self, it may go a little awry during our teenage years, but for the most part we know who we are and where we belong.
I’ve always struggled with the sense of belonging. You see, I’m adopted. I was placed with my adoptive family at birth, but the adoption was not finalized until I was a year old. At that time my original birth records were closed and sealed and “Baby Bennett” became “Kim Ruth von Aspern.”
To the best of my knowledge I am in no part of German descent. My adoptive parents, however, were. My father’s father was from Germany. My mother’s family were “Riger” and “Stahl.” So growing up I was “German.”
I always knew I was adopted. In fact I was one of a very small club; I knew who my birth mother was. She was French and that was so much more romantic than German. She was from Louisiana, a far cry from California. I had fantasies about her. She was a gypsy, she was royalty, she was a tragic figure forced to give me away.
When I was 18 I talked with her for the first time. The truth is never as great as the fantasy. She was married for the second time, had mothered 8 children, lived in Florida and was very Catholic. (My family not so much, though I did attend a Catholic all girl high school). I spoke with her again when I was getting married and she told me to, “Be careful…all my husband had to do was wink at me and I got pregnant…we’re a very fertile group.” I never met her, we talked about 5 or 6 times on the phone, but when I got the chance to be in Florida and meet her (at the age of 30) she said, “I don’t think so.”
A few years later she was dead. I was not notified. No one knew I existed. So when I called to tell her I was graduating (finally at the age of 38) from college her husband informed me that she was dead. Then he asked the question that changed everything, “Are you the baby?” He explained that he knew I existed but he did know if I was a girl or boy, what my name was or where I lived. He told me that the only argument he and my birth mother had ever had was about telling the other children about me. He was all for it but she wanted to keep me a secret. Then he told me, “But she’s dead.” After we hung up he called my oldest sister and told her about me, she in turn called all the other siblings. At age 38 I found myself with a huge family.
I had grown up with one sister, Debby. She died when I was 37. Now I found myself with three full blooded siblings, four half siblings (children of my birth mother and her second husband), an adopted sister (the child of my birth father’s second wife that he adopted), two half brothers (my birth father’s and his third wife). In addition to all these new siblings (10 if you lost count) my birth father was still living as well as his mother. Plus of course my birth mother’s husband who started it all. Not to mention all the nieces and nephews.
I had gone from being the oldest child, to an only child, and now was the middle child.
I was welcomed with open arms. My birth father’s mother, my grandmother Alice, was very excited that a genealogist was in the family. She had been trying, without success, to tell the rest of the family about our amazing ancestors. All she ever got was those glazed over stares…you know the one. One of the first things she said to me was, “You know we’re related to the Rhodes family.” Poor dear. I replied, “Grandma, I didn’t know I was related to you until 10 minutes ago.”
And so began my earnest search into who I am based on who they (the ancestors who came before me) were. This wonderful world of genealogy, which until that moment had only been a mild interest.