An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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Celebrating my Adoption Anniversary

June 15, 2009

My name is A.J and I was adopted from Kerala, in South India. June 15, 1980.

This year, 2009, is my 29th adoption anniversary of coming to the U.S. and my family.

I have a brother and a sister, also adopted from India, though not from Kerala (too bad for them). As I continue writing, I will reveal more of my own adoption story. Like many others, it’s a narrative mixture of beauty, sorrow, loss, passion, and hope.

Other families have named the day their kids were adoption, as their children’s “airplane day”, or “gotcha” day. In my house, it was, and has always been my “adoption anniversary.” I came to the US when I was nearly one-year-old, to a couple who then lived in Madison, Wisconsin.

Growing up, my family celebrated this day with great fanfare. My mom would usually make my favorite meal for dinner, tandoori chicken, and saffron rice.  We’d have a special prayer time, thanking God for bringing me into their lives and then cap the evening off with a slide show. The pictures consisted of my first few minutes off the plane with my social worker and the initial days in my new house and my parents.

My mom would usually make my favorite meal for dinner (usually tandoori chicken and saffron rice), we’d have a special prayer time, thanking God for bringing me into their lives and then end the evening with a slide show. The pictures were my first few minutes with my family and initial days in my new house and fresh life.

As a young kid, I didn’t grasp the day’s important significance.

I understood in a minimal way that my present mom and dad were not my birth parents because they didn’t have brown skin. But in my childhood, I did not fully realize what it meant to be adopted.

My parents always told me I was adopted. They were always completely open about my background.  But I was too young to understand what adoption meant.

The anniversary ritual was the same for both my brother and sister, eating their favorite foods, and then watching their arrival slides. When I fully understood the ramifications of my anniversary and that it represented a new life- the family wasn’t commemorating the day as often. After a while, it became something mentioned by my parents in passing.

Eventually, a day or two would go by and then I would realize it HAD been my anniversary, and someone would acknowledge the oversight.

When I fully understood the ramifications of my anniversary and that it represented a new life- the family wasn’t commemorating the day as often. After a while, it became something mentioned by my parents in passing. Eventually, a day or two would go by and then I would realize it HAD been my anniversary, and someone would acknowledge the oversight.

As time passed that special day just morphed into just another day. I fully understand that our whole family was busier. I was also in Junior High, maybe in High School, I was rarely at home. Besides I’d seen those slides seemingly hundreds of times. The sibling’s arrival slides were shown for all manners of guests that had any interest in our adoption, so I had watched them quite a bit.

Sometime during college, as I was wrestling with my adoption and all the feelings which accompany it. I started celebrating my anniversary on my own. My initial celebrations were dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, the first two years I went alone, with a book as my company. I specifically chose Indian food as a way to viscerally remember my Indian heritage, though I doubt I was eating lamb rogan josh when I was one year old. Over time I started bringing close friends to join me in my anniversary Indian meals.

My initial celebrations were dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. In the first two years, I went alone, with a book for my company. I specifically chose Indian food as a way to viscerally remember my Indian heritage. Over time I started bringing close friends to join me in my anniversary Indian meals.

Over time I started bringing close friends to join me in my anniversary Indian meals.

I’m thankful that my parents marked the special day as I was a child and up through my early teen years. I think it’s important for families to celebrate the day in their lives when their children first join their families. It creates a sense of community and really helps the child know they are in the family and a part of it. I know for me it strengthened bonds of my family and with my parents because it showed they loved me before I joined them, and even more so as their child.

Today I reflect on the day I came to my family. I marvel at where I am now and how far I’ve come. It’s a far cry from being a terrified little baby on a jumbo jet, flying halfway across the world to Wisconsin and meeting two loving parents. Now I’m an adult, living in the nation’s capital, with a life blessed beyond description.

Tonight I’ll be eating Indian food, with a friend.

As I always do on June 15th.

13 Comments
ChicagoAdoptee
June 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm

A.J., your first post was very moving and beautifully written. I will post something soon, if I can get everything to work right technically. I think what your parents did for you and your siblings in terms of honoring your arrival day was wonderful; and it shows that what our parents do (or what we do as parents) can have resonance many years later, as we make our own choices as teenagers, young adults, and even not-so-young adults. Thank you.
–Mark

Natalie
June 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I love your story AJ. Thanks for sharing it and happy anniversary:)

June 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

ADAM — This is your dad here! I’m tweeting (120 characters) your very first blog. As you well know, I had to leave for Thailand on the same day you left India to fly here (your trip delayed by 2 weeks because of passport issue, which is what created the criss-crossing of our paths at 40,000 feet). [Ooops….I just over-tweeted myself…oh, well! Pressing on:]

I still remember getting a telegram from Mom at my hotel in Pattaya (where I was attending an interntaional conference of Christian leaders from almost 200 nations). It was more thrilling for me than all the plenaries at the event, or my morning walks along the ocean bay, or my late-night conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ from many parts of the Church. In fact, it was one of the most life-changing moments of my life — reading that telegram (no email in 1980) and realizing you had just made me “officially” a Dad for the first time. And on Father’s Day, to boot!!! How I longed at that moment to scrap the conference, jump on a plane and go back to Madison. I did send a congratulations telegram to you via Mom (but the hotel never sent it, just kept the money I paid instead! Bummer!). However, I went to dinner that evening with about 12 friends from India, to celebrate my awesome new assignment from our Heaven’s throne — to father for the rest of my life my dear, precious Adam Joseph Samuel Bryant.

I could not love you more if you were the “issue of my body” (Shakespeare). For me, there are “TWO anniversaries” actually — the one we commemorated yesterday, and the one on the evening when my return flight landed 10 days later in Madison, when I walked off the plane to have you placed in my arms by Robyne, and to stand at the arrival gate just holding tight your little body close to mine. So vivid, it is almost as if it happened just an hour ago. (I still treasure every hug you and I ever give to each other — which, thankfully, is often!)

And on that first night as I rocked you to sleep, singing over you (as I did for hundreds of nights the next 3 years), before laying you in your bed I spoke over you for the first time the daily “blessing” I’ve spoken over you and to you every night throughout many of these past 29 years: “Adam, I love you and Jesus loves you. I love you because Jesus loves you. God gave His Son for us. And I give you, my son, to Him.” The “blessing” seals this special anniversary for eternity. I do love you with all my heart, AJ. your DAD

Nada
June 16, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for sharing this story, AJ! Happy anniversary!

Jerusha
June 16, 2009 at 2:40 pm

I’m very much looking forward to reading more and more of your blogs A.J. I don’t know what was more touching, reading what you wrote or your father’s reply. You are blessed indeed, my friend.

Heather
June 16, 2009 at 5:54 pm

You are such a wonderful person with such a light in your Aage. Thank you for sharing your story.

Molly
June 16, 2009 at 6:17 pm

A.J.–

What an eloquently written post. Thank you for sharing a story with such visceral influence.

Dani
June 17, 2009 at 1:47 am

AJ- Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and moving reflection on your “adoption anniversary.” For as long as I’ve known you, I’ve witnessed and benefited from your great capacity to inspire and inform people through your words, your deeds, and just in being the wonderful person you are. It’s great that you have created this vehicle for you and others to share stories and insights about the unique experience of being an international adoptee. I also appreciate the loving response from your dad. I can’t wait to meet your parents!

Jay
June 18, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Great blog AJ. I look forward to reading more!

Yoonmee
June 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm

What a wonderful start to the new blog, AJ! I’m looking forward to reading more about your thoughts on adoption, and might even write an entry of my own. =) Cheers to you!

Miriam Gaenicke
July 25, 2009 at 2:15 am

You are a very eloquent writer!

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