Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods in the whole entire universe!!!
Yes, I realize that sentence sounds like a dramatic 5-year-old professing her/his love for their very favorite something or other, but for as long as I can remember I have LOVED tomatoes. In fact, I love them so much that when I was growing up rather than give me flowers after an importance performance my mother would hunt down THE BEST tomatoes she could find and give those to me instead. The great part was, I didn’t have to share them. The best part was, I always shared them with my mom. I have wonderful memories of slicing up tomatoes and eating them at the kitchen counter with my mom as we chatted away. Knowing that while I appreciated flowers, tomatoes were always preferred, she even joked once that maybe I should carry a tomato plant instead of a flower bouquet at my wedding.
Tomatoes continue to be one of my favorite foods, and every week in my shopping bag multiple varieties of tomatoes make their way home with me. I’m surprised my husband has never asked why I deem such large quantities of tomatoes necessary, but I appreciate that he’s never questioned my obvious weakness for them (or how much I spend on them).
My love of tomatoes, however, goes much deeper than just loving the taste of them. They represent a connection to where I came from.
Most people know that I’m adopted; both my brother and I are adopted. It’s not a subject I’ve ever shied away from, or my parents shied away from either. There’s not a time in my life I don’t remember knowing that I was adopted, and my parents did such a wonderful job openly talking about it, and talking about the fact that families come in different shapes and sizes and come together in different ways, that I never felt different, less loved, or somehow not theirs because I was adopted. And when it came to talking about our birth mothers, my parents were always their biggest cheerleaders. From day one, they told us that our birth mothers had made the most difficult and selfless decisions possible in placing us for adoption. I grew up with nothing but love and respect for the woman who gave birth to me.
So what does being adopted have to do with tomatoes?
After my mom’s passing, knowing I had her support and encouragement to do so, I made the decision to find my birth mother. Adoption in the 70’s looked a lot different than adoption does today. Closed adoptions meant little information was passed on to families who adopted, and no information was passed on to birth parents. While privacy is the driving force behind closed adoptions, it can make finding birth parents, difficult. Although my adoption had been a closed one, there were some differences to it, and those differences afforded me information about my birth mother I wouldn’t have gotten (and probably shouldn’t have gotten) had it gone through the normal adoption process. I was prepared for the search to take years, but was stunned that it took me roughly a week.
Finding a birth parent is like solving a puzzle. I had some important pieces to the puzzle that were leading me in the right direction, but the more connections I could make, matching new-to-me information to the information I already had, the clearer the picture came. The final piece of information, the piece that made me stop and say “This is the right person” was an obituary. A beautiful remembrance written about my biological grandfather, it was the last piece in the puzzle. All arrows firmly pointed in one direction and I bounced around with excitement and nervously talked to my husband about how to reach out. Once a calm had washed over me, I sat down and quietly reread the obituary and that’s when I realized what I had missed. As exciting as it was to see names match up earlier in the evening, the piece of information that brought me to tears was an endearing sentence about my biological grandfather’s passion to grow and love of a good tomato.
That was the moment I knew I had found where I came from.