I am adopted. It is not something that I choose to focus on or talk about much. Because for most of my life, it has meant nothing to me. Bettye and James Millner are my parents—they raised me, taught me, disciplined me, protected me. Love(d) me. This is all that has ever mattered.
Still, one day recently while we were making our way to a Saturday soccer game, we were listening to the “Strawberry Letter” segment on the Steve Harvey Morning Show when a listener intimated that her husband was against adoption because he didn’t want someone else’s “throwaway.”
That word stung. And it sat with me for the rest of the day, and through the weekend, clean into Monday. In the thirty-plus years since I found my adoption papers, I’ve always thought of myself as the lucky one—the one that God saw fit to bless with a mother and father who chose me. Who wanted me. Who thought me worthy of their time and attention and love. Never once did it occur to me that there are people in this world who think of us adoptees as lesser-thans. Tainted.
I mean, I’ve heard people insist that they want to make their “own” baby—a child who bears their “own” DNA. Who carries their blood. I get that, I guess. As an adoptee, it meant something to me to carry babies in my belly and push them through my loins and suckle them at my breast and search them from the tops of their curly little heads down to their tiny toes for evidence—signs of my blood, my DNA, my legacy in the only two people on the planet I know for sure are related by blood to me.
Still, it hurt me to the core to know, for sure, that there are people in this world who insist the love that I share with my parents is somehow less “legitimate” than that which I have for my own kids because my mom, dad and I are not related by blood. And when I tell you it unhinged me, I mean, really, it unhinged me.
Until I got wind of my Mari’s poem. It is a lovely piece she penned for a grade-wide competition in her junior high. I had no idea she’d written it, this piece she titled, “The Blood.” It was at Parent’s Night that I first learned about it—that Mari’s “The Blood” not only existed but had won the competition over every other 8th grade submission at the school and that it was to be presented in front of all the parents who’d ventured out to hear about our kids’ school curriculum.
And when Mari’s teacher read her poem, I cried. Like, an ugly, snotty cry. Because while I was letting some stupid letter from a radio show make me feel bad that I do not share my parent’s blood, my 13-year-old daughter was thinking about blood and it’s beauty in a deeper, more spiritual, powerful and transcending way. Her words blew me away—made me remember that even in its distinction, blood is so much more grand than its direct lines. That it is the glue that binds us all together—as one. The human race.
For your insight, Mari, I simply give thanks.
Here, I proudly present, “The Blood.”
By MARI CHILES
The Blood that runs through my veins, my brain, my heart.
The blood, the biggest puzzle piece making me. And only me.
I cannot fathom how much blood.
The same blood that was running through my veins when I took my first breath. When I made my first appearance, my first impression on my people. On this world.
I cannot fathom how much blood.
The same blood that is just one ripple, one little wave, one teaspoon, in the sea of blood.
The gallons and gallons of heritage.
The big body of being, with everyone’s little ripples and little waves and little teaspoons coursing through it.
Until millions of different families become one.
I cannot fathom how little blood.
But my little teaspoon carries the world.
My blood flows back to Somalia and Ethiopia hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
My blood flows back to my slave ancestors.
My blood flows through everything, everyone.
People interconnect and reconnect.
Blood flows and mixes together.
And we know that we are the same.
That is how the beautiful blood works.
The blood of generations that found its way into your veins.
It is golden.
All of that blood.
It trickles down to you.
That little teaspoon
In the body of being.
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3. Wordful Wednesday: The Most Beautiful Girl In the World
4. Happy 10th Birthday, Mari! Double Digits Rock!