January 24

Chapter One

Today is a very happy anniversary of sorts for my cousin Marie and I. Marie and I had an emotional first meeting on this day a year ago in a hotel in California while I was teaching at Road to California. Marie is one of many descendants of a long relationship between my great, great uncle —  a white man — and his cook, an African-American woman with whom he had three children. I was unaware of the union until 2015 and unaware that there were other descendants who grew up 30 minutes from where I now live. The day I found out I tried to establish contact with Marie.

But we haven’t wasted a moment since we found each other. We matched up our DNA on Ancestry.com’s site. We found another cousin through the DNA test and his family from another relationship that never made it on the family tree. I spent some of 2016 on what I referred to as The Family Apology Tour. I met new family members and sincerely apologized to them for my white ancestors not including them in our lives. I have also dealt with the anger that they were kept from my life. Marie and I are in touch daily through Facebook, texts and occasional phone calls. Our daughter wore Marie’s daughter’s Homecoming dress to her dance this year. I’ve developed wonderful, loving and supportive relationships with other cousins who I’m finding I have more in common with that many of my cousins whose skin color matches my own. Meeting and getting to know these new family members has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I am a better and happier person for having this group of people in my life.

I learned in the adoption process that where there are secrets there’s shame and that airing secrets and being truthful about who we are, what we’ve done and moving forward in life is one of the hallmarks of a happy life. We were robbed of our chance to grow up together, gab on the phone about boyfriends and plan our careers. The secrets ended with us and the happy times have begun. We done good Marie.