By: Malena Esposito
I don’t remember every time I’ve told someone I was adopted from Russia because that’s a lot of times, but I do remember every reaction I’ve gotten because they’re all the same.
“Do you remember your birth parents?”
“Can you speak Russian?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Are you going to go back one day?”
“How long have you known?”
To answer those typical questions: no, no, no, and I don’t know. Seriously, for as long as I can remember, it’s been pretty apparent to me that I was adopted, particularly from another country. My first memory of me explaining this to someone was in kindergarten or first grade. The class had to make paper hats telling the meaning of each other’s names. My name, Malena, meant “raspberry” in Russian. Everyone thought it was super cool to be from another country, and I guess I thought it was too because I didn’t really know what else to think at such a young age. I can even remember how lacking shared genes with my parents made it difficult for doctors to predict outcomes for me whenever it came to my yearly checkups.
Fast forward to my middle school years, and I suddenly wanted to keep my adoption a secret. Only my long-time friends knew, and I did not want them to tell a soul. If anyone asked me, I would shut it down immediately. “Who told you that? I was born in New York!” I’d insist. My reasoning for the secrecy, you ask? I was ashamed. I was ashamed of being different. Look at a picture of most families, and you see how similar they look. Look at my family picture, and all I saw was four people who looked nothing alike.
And then came freshman year.
Although I was no longer so adamant about hiding the fact that I was adopted, I still wanted to steer clear of any mention of the topic. It made me very uncomfortable to talk about and I would go nearly mute if it came up in conversation. However, a friend and my cousin knew about this and tried to make me understand how great it was to be adopted. They told me how being different than everyone else wasn’t a bad thing — how I could’ve ended up in a much worse home or even no home at all. This also happened to be the time when I started to have questions, but I felt like no one could answer them.
“Did I have any siblings?”
“Why was I given up?”
“Was I even born in a hospital?”
“What would my life be like if I still lived in Russia?”
“Do I look like my biological parents?”
These were only a few of the thoughts running through my head. I knew this was a conversation I should have with my parents, but I was too embarrassed to even bring up such a subject, leaving me alone with all of my uncertainty
But eventually, everything changed. I guess that, like many things, you have to figure it out for yourself. I figured out how lucky I really am; how lucky everyone told me I was.
Within the past year, I have grown immensely close to my parents, and with that came an appreciation for them that I never had before.
I’ve grown to realize that not only getting adopted was the biggest blessing I could ever receive, but more importantly, I was adopted by the only two people that could possibly fit the position.
I no longer see my family picture as being four people that just so happened to be put together, but a group of people who were chosen to come together as one.
That’s one of the coolest things about being adopted: I was chosen. I wasn’t a mistake, I wasn’t an accident — I mean, maybe I was for my biological parents, but now I have two incredible people that did everything they could to take me home and raise me. And man, did they do it right.
Sometimes, I think about the questions I used to have, but I have found almost all of their answers. I probably didn’t have any siblings; I probably wasn’t born in a hospital, considering I lived in a beat-up orphanage for the first ten months of my life, and I definitely have so many more opportunities here than I could’ve possibly had in Russia. To be honest, I don’t even care who my biological parents are — it doesn’t matter. Nothing they did has had any impact on who I am. They gave me up for a reason, and although I don’t know what that reason is, I don’t need to know. They made the right call.
It’s even funny to me how much I’m like my mom and dad, despite lacking any genetical connection. My dad and I are both left-handed, we both need a visual plan in front of us, we share an artistic eye, we like the same music and TV genres, and it takes the slightest tap to get us scared out of our wits. As for my mom, she really has rubbed off on me in more ways than one. She taught me to always dress to impress, complete with hair, makeup, and a manicure; and to never buy the first thing I see on the shelf, making sure I consider all of my options before I buy something because I’ll either change my mind or find it cheaper elsewhere. We also share a diligent work ethic with a burning desire to get things right the first time. It’s also funny how ever since I was little, I’ve been compared to two of my older cousins in terms of my taste and appearance, and that’s an apple that couldn’t be farther from the tree.
All in all, I love being adopted. I love my parents. I love waking up feeling loved and cared for by two people that did not have to do what they did. They didn’t have to fly nine hours across the world, go through a lengthy adoption process, and take me back to America and treat me like I’m their own. Not only once, either, but twice, for my younger brother. But, in reality, we are their own. Blood and DNA? That’s just science. We all have a bond stronger than phosphate bases and deoxyribose and nitrogenous bases, and it’s a bond I wouldn’t change for the world.